Potato chips often just chips, or crisps (in British English), are thin slices of potato that may have been deep fried or baked until crunchy.
They are commonly served as a snack, side dish, or appetizer.
The basic chips are cooked and salted; additional varieties are manufactured using various flavorings and ingredients including herbs, spices, cheeses, other natural flavors, artificial flavors, and additives.
The earliest known recipe for something similar to today’s potato chips is in William Kitchiner’s book The Cook’s Oracle published in 1817, which was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and the United States.
A legend associates the creation of potato chips with Saratoga Springs, New York decades later than the first recorded recipe. By the late nineteenth century, a popular version of the story attributed the dish to George Crum, a cook of African American and Indian heritage at Moon’s Lake House who was trying to appease an unhappy customer on 24 August 1853.
At Moon Lake Lodge, one dinner guest found chef Crum’s French fries too thick for his liking and rejected the order. Crum cut and fried a thinner batch, but these, too, met with disapproval. Exasperated, Crum decided to rile the guest by producing French fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan backfired. The guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and other diners requested Crum’s potato chips, which began to appear on the menu as Saratoga Chips, a house specialty.
Soon they were packaged and sold, first locally, then throughout the New England area. Crum eventually opened his own restaurant, featuring chips. At that time, potatoes were tediously peeled and sliced by hand. It was the invention of the mechanical potato peeler in the 1920s that paved the way for potato chips to soar from a small specialty item to a top-selling snack food.
The Dayton, Ohio-based Mikesell’s Potato Chip Company, founded in 1910, identifies as the “oldest potato chip company in the United States”.
New England-based Tri-Sum Potato Chips, founded in 1908 as the Leominster Potato Chip Company, in Leominster, Massachusetts, claims to be America’s first potato chip manufacturer.
An idea of seasoned chips originated by the Smiths Potato Crisps Company Ltd, formed in 1920, Frank Smith packaged a twist of salt with his chips in greaseproof paper bags, which were sold around London.
During the 1920s, an American businessman from North Carolina named Herman Lay began selling potato chips out of the trunk of his car to grocers across the south. By 1938, Lay was so successful that his Lay’s brand chips went into mass production and eventually became the first successfully marketed national brand.
In the 1950s Joe “Spud” Murphy, the owner of the Irish crisps company Tayto, produced the world’s first seasoned chips: Cheese & Onion and Salt & Vinegar. Companies worldwide sought to buy the rights to Tayto’s technique.
The first flavored chips in the United States, barbecue flavor, were being manufactured and sold by 1954.
Today, there are many different potato chips flavors – the most popular are: plain, barbecue, salt & vinegar, cream and onion, and cheese.
Some bizarre, unique, and rare potato chip flavors in the world are: octopus, crab, prawn cocktail, seaweed pringles, red caviar, salmon sushi, mushroom, cucumber, wasabi ginger, borscht, roast beef & Yorkshire pudding, buffalo wings & blue cheese, crispy duck, whisky & haggis, milky shoyu butter, honey, maple moose, cinnamon & sugar, cappuccino, white chocolate peppermint, strawberry, blueberry, kiwi, lemon tea, and pepsi.
A Swedish brewery called St. Erik’s crafted the most expensive potato chip in the world: $56 for a set of five — $11.20 a piece. The chips are made from Ammarnäs potatoes which, are hand-harvested from the hillside town bearing their name. The chips come in five flavors: Matsutsake mushrooms, truffle seaweed, crown dill, Leksand onions which are grown only in the eponymous Swedish town, and India Pale Ale.
According to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, the average American eats around four pounds of them each and every year – that added up to 1.5 billion pounds (700 million kilograms) of potato chips.
Time Money says around 11.2 million pounds (5 million kilograms) of chips are eaten on Super Bowl Sunday alone, and that’s an almost unthinkable amount of chips.
Pennsylvania leads the United States in potato chip production, and has been dubbed “the Potato Chip Capital” by several sources.
Sweet potato chips are eaten in Korea, New Zealand, and Japan; parsnip, beetroot, and carrot crisps are available in the United Kingdom.