When Five Meats Are Not Enough

Papa John’s 6 Meat Pizza

Papa John’s 6 Meat Pizza

I Paid: $15.99 for a large (14-inch) pizza (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 1 stars

With many reviews of junk and fast food that I write for this site, the ratings do not, in fact, speak for themselves. For example, when the context is the new 6 Meat Pizza by Papa John’s, what does a one mean for marketing? How about a four for taste?

Here is what a one means for marketing: the idea of a fast-food pizza laden with not one, but six different industrial meat products. It’s enough to make even a confirmed carnivore’s stomach churn. But for many people—including, certainly, many Papa John’s customers—the idea is intriguing, and appealing, and challenging. “I bet I could handle six meats on my pizza,” these customers might think. “I’d kick that pizza’s ass.” For them, this is a killer marketing campaign, a compelling reason to order the pizza, a solid four out of five. But speaking personally, and on behalf of levelheaded consumers everywhere, the idea is straight-up chilling, if not actually nauseating.

Also worth noting: The 6 Meat Pizza is one meat better than Pizza Hut’s so-called Meat Lover’s Pizza. I guess we know who really loves meat now, don’t we?

Onward to taste. There are many, many pizza joints in America that are better than the middlebrow Papa John’s. But for an affordable mass-market pie, the quality of the six-meat experience blows admittedly low expectations out of the water. For starters, you can actually differentiate at least five of the six meats, which is about two to three more than you might expect. The mozzarella lacks the stretch and rich flavor of premium cheese, but it’s nowhere near the worst I’ve had: It still has a decent mouthfeel and some milky flavor. The meat is again not premium charcuterie, but it’s better than Domino’s. The bacon lacked any satisfying bacon texture but had a nice smoky flavor. The overall salt level was appropriate; the pizza was not a salt/grease bomb.

If you’re the type of person who might order a 6 Meat Pizza from Papa John’s, you will dig the 6 Meat Pizza. If not, well, you’ve probably got your nutritional priorities in the right place; tune in next week, when my editor will no doubt let me review something healthier and more sophisticated.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.