A potato chip or crisp is a thin slice of potato, deep fried or baked until crisp. Potato chips serve as an appetizer, side dish, or snack. Commercial varieties are packaged for sale, usually in bags. The simplest chips of this kind are just cooked and salted, but manufacturers can add a wide variety of flavoring (mostly made using herbs, spices, cheese, artificial additives or MSG). Chips are an important part of the snack food market in English-speaking countries and many other Western nations.
There is little consistency in the English speaking world for names of fried potato cuttings. American and Canadian-English uses 'chips' for the above mentioned dish -- this term is also used in continental Europe -- and sometimes 'crisps' for the same made from batter, and 'French fries' for the hot crispy batons with a soft core. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, 'crisps' are the brittle slices eaten at room temperature and 'chips' refer to the hot dish (as in 'fish and chips'). In Australia, New Zealand and some parts of South Africa, both forms of potato product are simply known as 'chips', as are the larger "home-style" potato chips. Sometimes the distinction is made between 'hot chips' (French fried potatoes) and 'packet chips'.
Non-potato based chips also exist. Kumara (sweet potato) chips are eaten in New Zealand and Japan; parsnip, beetroot and carrot crisps are available in the United Kingdom. India is famous for a large number of localized 'chips shops', selling not only potato chips but also other varieties such as plantain chips, yam chips and even carrot chips. In Australia, a new variety of Pringles made from rice have been released and marketed as lower in fat than their potato counterparts. Recently, the Australian company Absolute Organic has also released chips made from beetroot.
Since potatoes are 75% water it takes approximately four pounds of potatoes to make one pound of potato chips.
Some believe that the original potato chip recipe was created by chef George Crum, who is from Native American and African American descent, at Moon's Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 24, 1853. Fed up with a customer who continued to send his fried potatoes back complaining that they were too thick and soggy, Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they couldn't be eaten with a fork. As they couldn't be fried normally in a pan, he decided to stir-fry the potato slices. Against Crum's expectation, the guest was ecstatic about the new chips and they soon became a regular item on the lodge's menu, under the name "Saratoga Chips." They eventually became popular throughout New York and New England. One version of this story credits John Harvey Kellogg (the brother of the Dr. Kellogg who founded the company which bears the family name) as the customer who wanted them thinner; another wrongly identifies him as Cornelius Vanderbilt.
An earlier reference to what are now known as potato chips is Alexis Soyer's recipe in "Shilling Cookery for People" (1845). Here raw potatoes, "almost shavings" are fried. Earlier still, Mary Randolph's book "The Virginia House-wife" (1824) has a part titled "To fry Sliced Potatoes" here raw potatoes are cut into slices or thin shavings and fried "till they are crisp."
In the 20th century, potato chips spread beyond chef-cooked restaurant fare and began to be mass produced for home consumption; Dayton, Ohio-based Mike-sell's Potato Chip Company, founded in 1910, calls itself the "oldest potato chip company in the United States".
Before the airtight sealed bag was developed, chips were stored in barrels or tins which allowed them to go stale and damp. Then Laura Scudder invented the potato chip bag by ironing together two pieces of waxed paper, thereby creating an airtight seal and keeping the chips fresh until opened. In 1934 Akron, Ohio, potato chip maker K.T. Salem was the first to distribute chips in glassine waxed paper bags. Today, chips are packaged in plastic bags, with nitrogen gas blown in prior to sealing in order to lengthen shelf life and provide protection against crushing.
Initially, chips went unseasoned until a twist of salt was placed inside the bag, to be added when required. This idea was originated by the Smiths Potato Crisps Company Ltd formed in 1920 . Frank Smith originally packaged them in greaseproof paper bags which were then sold around London. To give them some flavor, he would also include a twist of salt.
The potato chip remained otherwise unseasoned until an innovation by Joe "Spud" Murphy (1923 – 2001), the owner of an Irish crisp company called Tayto, who developed a technology to add seasoning during manufacture in the 1950s. Though he had a small company, consisting almost entirely of his immediate family who prepared the crisps, the owner had long proved himself an innovator. After some trial and error, he produced the world's first seasoned crisps, Cheese & Onion and Salt & Vinegar.
The innovation became an overnight sensation in the food industry, with the heads of some of the biggest potato chip companies in the United States heading to the small Tayto company to examine the product and to negotiate the rights to use the new technology. When eventually the Tayto company was sold, it made the owner and the small family group who had changed the face of potato chip manufacturing very wealthy. Companies worldwide sought to buy the rights to Tayto's technique.
The Tayto innovation changed the whole nature of the potato chip, and led to the end of Smith's twist of salt (Walkers revived the idea of 'salt in a bag', following their take over of Smith's (UK) in 1979, with their Salt 'n' Shake potato crisps). Later chip manufacturers added natural and artificial seasonings to potato chips, with varying degrees of success. A product that had had a large appeal to a limited market on the basis of one seasoning now had a degree of market penetration through vast numbers of seasonings. Various other seasonings of chips are sold in different locales, including the original "Cheese and Onion", produced by Tayto, which remains by far Ireland's biggest manufacturer of crisps.
Perhaps the most extreme version of seasoned chips were the fruit flavored chips that were (very) briefly sold in Canada in the late seventies (in orange, cherry and grape flavors). These were not a success, and they were rapidly discontinued.
Another type of potato chip, notably the Pringles and Lay's Stax brands, is made by extruding or pressing a dough made from ground potatoes into the patented potato chip shape before frying. This makes chips that are very uniform in size and shape, which allows them to be stacked and packaged in rigid tubes. In America, the official term for Pringles is "crisps", but they are rarely referred to as such. Conversely Pringles may be termed "potato chips" in Britain, to distinguish them from traditional "crisps".
In the United States, an additional variant of potato chips exists in the form of "potato sticks". These are made as extremely thin (2-3mm) versions of the popular french fry but are fried in the manner of regular salted potato chips. Popular brands of this type include Durkee Potato Stix and French's Potato Sticks, which come in small cannisters or more rarely except via vending machines, in small individual serving bags. A larger variant (approximately 1cm thick) is marketed as Andy Capp's Pub Fries, using the theme of a long term, British themed American comic strip which are baked and come in a variety of flavors.
Some companies have also marketed baked potato chips as an alternative with lower fat content. Additionally, some varieties of fat-free chips have been made using artificial, and indigestible, fat substitutes. These became well-known in the media when an ingredient many contained, Olestra, was linked in some individuals to abdominal discomfort and loose stools.
The success of crisp fried potato chips also gave birth to fried corn chips, with such brands as Fritos, CC's and Doritos dominating the market. "Swamp chips" are similarly made from a variety of root vegetables such as parsnips, rutabagas and carrots. Japanese-style variants include extruded chips, like products made from rice or cassava. In South Indian snack cuisine, there is an item called vadam which is a chip made of an extruded rice/sago base.
There are many other products which might be called "crisps" in Britain, but would not be classed as "potato chips" because they aren't made with potato and/or aren't chipped (for example, Wotsits).
Kettle-style chips are traditionally made by the "batch-style" process, where all chips are fried all at once at a low temperature profile, and continuously raked to prevent them from sticking together. There has been some development recently where Kettle-style chips are able to be produced by a "continuous-style" process (like a long conveyor belt), creating the same old-fashioned texture and flavor of a real kettle-cooked chip.
A cheap recipe is the chip sandwich made from a base of two slices of white sandwich bread generously spread with spreadings such as butter, mayonnaise or ketchup. Potato chips are heaped on one of the slices, then the second slice is placed on top and pushed down hard until all the potato chips are crushed (this is a quick snack version of the traditional "chip butty", made with sliced, buttered bread and freshly made French fries). "Crisp sandwiches" are also popular in the UK and Ireland, usually made with white bread and butter or margarine. Potato chips are also a popular addition to sandwiches with more common fillings, for example salt and vinegar complements well a tuna salad sandwich, while cheese and onion goes well with cheddar.
Not strictly a recipe, but another method of preparing crisps is to keep the crisps in the refrigerator, prior to serving. Commonly called ‘cold crisps’, they have a mixed level of acceptance, with some finding them abhorrent, and others seeing ‘cold crisps’ as the correct method of preparation. A common fault in vending machines often results in ‘cold crisps’ being issued, even if crisps at room temperature were desired.