This Is Why Costco's Pizza Is So Delicious

There's no more welcome sight than the Costco food court after an hour or two of shopping for bulk toilet paper and cheap printer cartridges. And although there is a menu board chock-full of tantalizing options, it's the ridiculously inexpensive $1.50 hot dog and soda deal that gets all the attention. Sure, they make a mean dog, which probably explains why 135 million hot dog combos were sold in 2017, and the price of the meal, unchanged since the deal's inception in 1985, truly cannot be beat. But let's forget about the hot dogs for a moment, because Costco's pizza deserves some attention, too. 

Thanks to their 750 locations and high sales — the food court brings in $1 billion annually — Costco is frequently cited as one of the nation's biggest pizza chains. In fact, according to Business Insider, the company ranked as the 14th largest chain in 2015 — not too shabby for a warehouse store. But what is it that makes Costco's pizza so irresistible? We all know there isn't just one reason why it's so good. Let's break it down.

If you've ever ordered a slice of Costco pizza, you know that it is massive. We're talking about a slice that hangs way over the edge of a paper plate here. And that massive slice will only set you back $1.99 (or a jaw-dropping $9.95 for an 18-inch pie), whether you choose cheese, pepperoni, or combo. But while that kind of deal would make any pizza taste better, it's not just the low price that makes it so delicious.

You can thank pizza robots (and Costco employees!) for those tasty slices

A major factor in what makes Costco's pizza great is that they do not skimp on toppings, and you know that each slice you get will be fully loaded. Kaiwen Zhao, a supervisor at Costco, explained on Quora, "We never shortcut the ingredients, everything is measured to a standard, every Costco pizza you get should have the same amount of sauce, cheese, and toppings."

How do they manage to ensure that each and every pie is so perfect? Robots (with a little help from human helpers). The dough, which according to Zhao is allowed to rise for 24 to 27 hours and is key to the pizza's success, is placed onto a machine that effortlessly presses the blob into a nice even circle, guaranteeing that it's not overworked. After that, Costco food court workers only have to stretch the dough the littlest bit to make it fit the pan before rolling it with a dough docker. This spiky contraption helps ensure that the finished crust isn't fraught with huge air bubbles. Now comes the fun part — the sauce robot. The pizza pan takes a spin under a spigot that perfectly sauces every pie, dispensing just the right amount each time (and bringing to mind memories of kindergarten spin art). After that, it's back to the humans for the finishing touches, where the cheese gets weighed precisely on a scale, and the prescribed amount of pepperoni gets placed just so.

Because these pizzas are cooked in only six minutes, thanks to super-efficient conveyor belt ovens that cook from all sides, you can always expect a fresh slice waiting for you at the food court window. In fact, Zhao confirms that "any pizza slice that doesn't sell within the hour gets thrown out and replaced to maintain freshness."

Costco pizza could be crispier, but it's still a treat

If there's one knock on Costco's pizza, it's that the slices lack crispness. But really, how can you expect a pizza that's loaded with 24 ounces of cheese to stay super crisp? Yes, a cheese pizza really does contain one-and-a-half pounds of "aged, buttery cheeses (an 80 percent—20 percent blend of low-fat, part-skim-milk mozzarella and provolone) and 10-month-aged shredded Parmesan," according to The Costco Connection. A pepperoni pie boasts 60 thin slices of spicy meat, and a combo weighs in at almost four-and-a-half pounds thanks to all the sausage, pepperoni, green bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, and black olives. A slight lack of crispness in exchange for that kind of toppings extravaganza seems like a fair trade, no?

Wondering how all that cheese and meat stacks up when it comes to calorie count? Depending on which slice you choose, you're looking at 710 to 760 calories, with total fat hovering around 30 grams each, approximately half of your daily intake, and saturated fat content weighing in around 65 to 70 percent of your recommended daily value. But hey, you're also getting up to 40 grams of protein just for chowing down on an amazing slice of pizza, which is a big win. The bottom line is that Costco pizza, in all it's greasy, cheesy glory, isn't meant to be diet food — it's just meant to taste good. And it does.