It was a month ago already when we first started talking chips and dips. In one short article, we covered my favorite flavored chips, my favorite hipster chips and dip and even a do-it-yourself version of the caramelized onion dip. But we still have a lot left on the snack table to dig into today. So kick your feet up, knock back the pitch of that office chair and join me as we pop open a bag or two of my favorite supermarket munchies.
If potato chips had eras like classical music does, I would say we’re currently in the kettle-cooked era. Sales of these extra-crunchy dippers have skyrocketed in the past few years, and I don’t see the trend changing any time soon. What exactly demarcates a kettle-cooked chip, and why do people like them so much? In a nutshell, it’s how they’re cooked.
While classic potato chips brown up by floating through a specific length of carefully regulated oil flowing in one direction, kettle-cooked potato chips are fried in batches: A vat of oil is heated and the potatoes are dumped in, fried in-place and removed batch-by-batch. This immediate addition of potato causes a quick drop in oil temperature, which then gradually rises as the potatoes cook.
The whole ordeal gives the potato starches time to develop a beefier texture and deeply caramelized flavor, which many people find superior to the light, delicate texture and flavor of the more modern processed chip.
Favorite Kettle-Cooked Chip: Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Vinegar
You know how with a typical bag of potato chips, you feel so lucky when you find one of those folded-over, curly-cue potato chips? Well in this bag, those mega crunchers — which still aren’t too thick or at all overcooked — are the norm. There’s a splash of vinegar, which adds a complex punch and sour acidity. But the bag of chips still isn’t overly sour, like “Dirty”-brand’s disgustingly overwhelming version. They’re light in flavor, robust in texture.
And as a nutritious plus, these potatoes are fried in heart-healthy canola oil, so they actually contain very little saturated fat. (Side story: Canola oil is technically rapeseed oil! The name “canola,” which comes from the label “Canadian oil, low acid,” was fabricated when marketing firms realized “rapeseed” sounded too harsh to sell.)
Another good-quality kettle-cooked chip that you’ve probably passed right over before is Meijer’s brand. With a great crunch and the perfect amount of oil, these chips’ salt deficit is the downfall. There’s definitely not enough salt. Add it yourself, scoop up some dip to compensate or skip it all together and give your arteries a break.
And with that, we’re going to jump off the kettle-cooked bandwagon and make our last stop at my absolute favorite chips and dip.
Favorite Chips and Dip Combo: Lay’s Classic Potato Chips and Dean’s French Onion Dip
Delicacy is a wonderful thing in a potato chip, and these classic chips deliver: not too greasy, big and crunchy, light and airy. I envision the thinly sliced potatoes containing fragile pockets of starch, which become warm and slippery-smooth across my tongue as I chew them. The sunflower oil is also a delicate and light, tasty choice. And as a final seal of simplicity, these chips are preservative-free, the only ingredients being potatoes, oil and salt. Bam.
As far as the dip, do not, under any circumstances, stir upon opening like it says to. You want to dig into that thick, glossy goodness undisturbed. Slightly thinner than cream cheese and — unsurprisingly — not quite as rich, this dip is sour, tangy and wonderfully — but not overly — salty. Little minced, garlic-size bits of onion swim throughout, providing all the flavor necessary, save a couple of herbs. The concoction practically dissolves in your mouth.
The characteristic of this dip separating it from all the others is thickness. It really can’t be beat. Caution: The low-fat version of the dip looks deceptively similar to the regular, but you must never buy low-fat — go big or go home.
And when we start dipping the Lay’s chips into the cool and creamy Dean’s dip, mad flavor chaos ensues. You get crunchy chip corners colliding with each other and the insides of your teeth as silky smooth, tangy French onion dip slides in between the cracks. Your taste receptors overload as they simultaneously register each of the five tastes, and you spontaneously throw your head back and moan in sheer pleasure. It’s basically an orgasm for your mouth.
And so it’s on that note that I wrap up my picks for some tasty chips and dip. But there are still a lot of other chip-induced mouth orgasms out there for me to experience. So help me out: What are your favorite chips and dips?