Potato chip

Potato chip

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.

The owners of the restaurant Schweizerhaus in Wurstelprater, Vienna's largest permanent amusement park, claim that their site is where what they call Rohscheiben (raw slices) was invented.

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.


The global potato chips market generated total revenues of 16.4 billion dollars in 2005. This accounted for 35.5% of the total savory snacks market in that year (46.1 billion dollars).

Seasoned chips

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.

Examples of regional varieties

  • South Africa has one of the largest varieties of potato chip flavors in the world, including "fruit chutney," "biltong" (beef jerky), "sausage," "worcestershire sauce," and "tomato sauce" (ketchup flavor) among many others.
  • In the US, the most popular forms of seasoned potato chips include "sour cream and onion", "barbecue", "ranch", Salt & Vinegar, and cheese-seasoned chips, including nacho flavor and cheddar (usually with sour cream). In the Chesapeake Bay area, Utz distributes "crab chips", flavored with an Old Bay analogue seasoning, though Herr's has a similar "Old Bay" variety.
  • In Canada, seasonings include dill pickle, ketchup, poutine, salt and vinegar, barbecue, salt and pepper, bacon and even curry. In Toronto and Vancouver, Lay's offers wasabi chips.
  • The market in United Kingdom is dominated by Walkers which is known for its wide variety of crisps. Typical examples include ready salted, salt & vinegar, cheese & onion, prawn cocktail, worcester sauce, roast chicken, steak & onion, smoky bacon, lamb & mint, ham & mustard, barbecue, BBQ rib, tomato ketchup, sausage & ketchup, pickled onion, Branston Pickle, Marmite and more exotic seasonings such as Thai sweet chilli, roast pork & creamy mustard sauce, lime and thai spices, lamb with Moroccan spices, sea salt and cracked black pepper, turkey & bacon, caramelized onion & sweet balsamic vinegar, stilton & cranberry and mango chilli. Kettle Foods Ltd's range of thick-cut crunchy crisps include gourmet flavors: Mexican Limes with a hint of Chilli, Salsa with Mesquite, Buffalo Mozzarella Tomato and Basil, Mature Cheddar with Adnams Broadside Beer, Soulmate Cheeses and Onion, and other previously listed flavors. Most seasonings contain only vegetarian-friendly ingredients, although some recent seasonings such as lamb & mint sauce contain meat extracts. In the early 1980s, there even existed 'Hedgehog flavoured crisps', these were widely on sale and received large publicity. McCoys Crisps are also popular in the UK. In Northern Ireland Tayto (NI) Ltd. dominate the market. This company is entirely unrelated to the Tayto company in the Republic of Ireland. Tastees which are exactly the same snack as Twistees in other countries are now sale in the UK. In the north of England Seabrook Potato Crisps are also popular, but they are much less common in the south.
  • In Ireland, the common varieties of crisps are mostly the same or similar to the ones sold in the UK. However in Ireland, Tayto are synonymous with crisps after the Tayto brand. Walkers crisps were launched there several years ago, but have failed to dominate the market.Hunky Dorys and King crisps are other popular irish brands. In Irish, crisps are known as criospaí or brioscáin (phrátaí).
  • Japan also has a vast range of seasonings; they include nori & salt, consommé, wasabi, soy sauce & butter, takoyaki, kimchi, garlic, chili, scallop with butter, ume, mayonnaise, yakitori and ramen. Major manufacturers are Calbee, Koikeya and Yamayoshi.
  • In Hong Kong, the two prominent potato chips are the spicy "Ethnican" variety by Calbee, and barbecue by Jack'n Jill. Lay's are also popular in Hong Kong. (With the most popular being BBQ and sour cream and onion.)
  • In mainland China, Lay's has introduced potato chips flavored in different Chinese cuisine, world cuisine, and even unexpected flavors such as cucumber.
  • On the other hand, in Germany and many continental EU countries the vast majority of chips sold are paprika flavor.
  • In Germany, beer flavored chips are available.
  • In the Netherlands the market is dominated by Lay's; they offer a large variety of flavors, like: 'naturel' (salted), paprika, bolognese (Italian herbs and tomato), barbecued ham, cheese & onion, Mexican herbs, Heinz tomato ketchup, chilli, spareribs, Mediterranean herbs, Thai sweet chili, Oriental spices, pepper & cream, chicken & thyme and spices & lime. In spite of all the flavors the old fashioned naturel (salted) and paprika crisps are most common and most popular.
  • In Norway, most chips are flavored with salt, salt and pepper or paprika. Major brands include KiMs, Maarud and HOFF.
  • In Austria, garlic flavored potato chips are available – and the restaurant Schweizerhaus offers fresh and deep-fryer-hot potato slices.
  • In Greece, oregano flavored chips are very popular.
  • In Mexico, many flavors feature spiciness. Often, a consistent seasoning is lime mixed with another flavor.
  • In New Zealand the most popular varieties of potato chips are Ready Salted, Salt n' Vinegar and Chicken.
  • In Colombia, the five main flavors of chips are Natural (Ready Salted), BBQ, Chicken, Mayonnaise and Lemon.
  • In Spain, the most popular flavors are plain (fried with olive oil and salted), and ham flavor.
  • In the Philippines, local favorites include cheese, barbecue, and sour cream and onion.
  • In India, there are a number of flavored varieties both in locally made and multi-national brands such as Lay's. Some flavors are Tomato, Pudina (mint), Masala, Coriander, Salt and Pepper, and Red Chili powder. Most popular chip varieties are potato, tapioca, and plantain (yellow and green, each with its own distinct taste).

Similar foods

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.

In recipes

In American cuisine, a whole class of recipes exists that use crushed potato chips, often as one would use seasoned bread crumbs. Recipes include those for cookies, pies, breadings for meatloaves and hamburgers, crumb toppings for casseroles and soups, and in sauces or dips, among others. Dipping chips in a sour cream based dip is popular. Putting hot sauce on top of potato chips is popular in Mexico and parts of Texas. Putting potato chips inside of a hoagie is a popular tradition in Philadelphia. In the American South, crushed potato chips are sometimes used to bread chicken before frying.

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.

In New Zealand, potato chips are added to bread with thinly spread Marmite to make a "Marmite and Chip Sandwich". The Australian version of the sandwich uses Vegemite instead of Marmite.

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.


  • Jones, Charlotte Foltz (1991). Mistakes That Worked. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-26246-9. – Origins of potato chips

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