The worst (Picture: Getty)
Bitter. Salty. Harsh.
No, I am not describing my last Bumble date, I am describing the vile taste of the worst flavour of crisps.
Salt and vinegar.
Whenever I buy a multi pack of glorious crisps, there is no worse feeling than opening up a nearly empty bag to see that there is only salt and vinegar ones left.
A YouGov 2014 survey found that cheese and onion is the most popular flavour in the UK, with 31% of people claiming it as their all time fave.
Ready salted sits in an unsurprisingly bland second at 28%.
The loathsome salt and vinegar sits in an unsavoury third at 23% and prawn cocktail comes last with just 11% preferring to pick up a pink packet.
And we have to admit, we are living in a world entirely different from 2014.
What are people’s preferred snack flavour in this post-Brexit world?
Has Trump changed the way we season our crunch?
Did the dreaded year of 2016 and the burning bin fire of a year that 2017 has been made us realise that we don’t have to be austere in our flavours and we can actually treat ourselves?
Rating the best British crisp flavours can be quite a controversial topic and my hatred of salt and vinegar has proved quite divisive.
I tweeted about my disdain for this green packeted abomination only to receive a barrage of abuse.
My nearest and dearest friends came in disowning me, hating me and threatening to block me.
Imagine falling in love with someone and finding out that they like salt and vinegar crisps
— Elle Rudd (@ElleRudd_) November 26, 2017
Woah woah woah, what’s wrong with salt and vinegar?? How dare you Elle.
— Mike (@Mike_Stavrou) November 26, 2017
This feels like the only suitable response… pic.twitter.com/r2creLPV56
— Adam (@AdamJohnston_94) November 26, 2017
Prawn cocktail is the issue Elle.
— Vic Hood (@hood_vic) November 26, 2017
But why can’t people accept the simple truth?
When it comes to giving in to the indulgence of this snack (no judgement, I eat crisps like I need them to live), why do we want this sharp, acidic mess?
Why do we not fall lovingly into the arms of the classic, if not a tad potent, cheese and onion?
Where is the fanfare for the 80s classic prawn cocktail? Will nobody think of the roast beef?!
In a world that offers hundreds, if not thousands, of flavours available for crisps, why do we settle for the flavour that can’t even stand alone as a meal or a snack (or a sandwich filling, if you’re going to get pedantic about cheese and onion)?
Salt and vinegar isn’t even a flavour in itself – it’s just something you put on fish and chips.
It’s the Steven Seagal of snacks – totally unnecessary yet somehow still everywhere.
It’s time we learned to love ourselves and put these awful crisps where they belong – in the bin.
- The Fix
- A Very Definitive* Ranking Of Salt & Vinegar Chips
- 20. Tropical Salsa with Mango-Infused Salt Cooked in Avocado Oil
- 19. Maple Bacon
- 18. Sriracha
- 17. Hot Jalapeño
- 16. Chili Lime with Citrus-Infused Sea Salt Cooked in Avocado Oil
- 15. Krinkle Cut Carolina BBQ
- 14. Organic Jalapeño
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A Very Definitive* Ranking Of Salt & Vinegar Chips
It was French lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who first uttered that famous line: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” And if we are to take Brillat-Savarin as an expert on this subject, and I believe we are to do exactly that, then I am about 90% salt and vinegar chips.
I am an unabashed, unrelenting chip glutton, and nowhere more so than when salty, vinegary crisps are involved. For me, they’re the perfect snack food. They’re tangy and acidic, and when done right, cut through with just enough salt to form a messy, up-all-night party in your mouth that only the best, most-fun people are invited to. They not slathered in fake flavours that all end up tasting the same: Fake chicken, fake ham, fake cheese, fake barbecue, whatever that’s supposed to be.
Salt & Vinegar is the apex of the chip kingdom, the crisp that shall inherit the earth. And though we all know Smith’s, courtesy of their permanent corner store presence and their iconic pink packaging, what about the lesser known varieties, that span the scale from affordable, home-brand options to fancier, hipster chips?
A smorgasbord of chips. Someone’s gotta do it. Photo: SuppliedSource:Whimn
And which of the varieties is the best? What’s more important when it comes to flavour, salt or vinegar? And will I have any enamel left on my teeth after eating my way through six glorious packets?
Red Rock Deli Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar
At $3.50, the Red Rock Deli chips are pitched at those with champagne tastes on beer budgets. They promise an artisanal crisp and fancy flavours with all the grease of a cheaper chip of the people. They’re also very familiar to me: These are the chips available for purchase at the pub across the road from work, and I’ve spent many a Friday evening with my colleagues munching on these. I have fond memories of these chips. I know them well. They’ve been my constant companions these past few months.
Maybe the pub is part of the appeal of eating them, because when I cracked open this packet and put one in my mouth I knew immediately something was wrong. The vinegar was strong, way too strong, to the point where I couldn’t taste anything else. The colour of them too was simply wrong. Rather than a light, burnished gold they were practically orange. “These are… not quite right,” my housemate said, with a pained look on his face.
Rating: 🍟 🍟
Red Rock Deli disappoints, while Pringles are a surprise fave. Photo: SuppliedSource:Whimn
Pringles Salt & Vinegar
These turned out to be the dark horse of the race. You go in knowing that Smith’s is going to be a tough act to follow, but nobody suspects Pringles of sneaking up from the rear and finishing with a late surge, so to speak. So I’m glad I bought them, especially when I arrrived at self-checkout and they were on sale.
Real talk: Pringles are the shit. You’ve got that lovely, buttery Pringles flavour; that iconic curved shape that’s so ergonomic and crispy; those lashings and lashings of salt. And then it’s finished off with this very mild and supremely elegant waft of vinegar that leaves the most pleasant taste in your mouth.
Rating: 🍟 🍟 🍟 🍟
Coles’ crinkle cut vs. Smith’s crinkle cut. Photo: SuppliedSource:Whimn
Coles Crinkle Cut Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips
Purely from a packaging standpoint, these chips have a lot in common with the OG Salt & Vinegar, Smith’s. (More on that offering shortly). But I bought them anyway to round my purchases up to a nice even six. And, at $2, they’re the most affordable of all the varieties.
They were fine. You could taste the potato, which was interesting, and not wholly pleasant. The vinegar is dialled way, way up, which is fine for vinegar fans, but those seeking a more subtle acidic flavour might be turned off. There was barely any salt flavour at all. Fine in a pinch and when you’re on your last pineapple before payday, but I probably wouldn’t actively seek them out for a good time.
Rating: 🍟 🍟 🍟
Smith’s Crinkle Cut Salt & Vinegar
It’s hard going into any contest as the favourite. Like Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars you’ve got the weight of expectation sitting heavily on your shoulders. But, oh boy, Smith’s came to play.
The second you crunch down on that crinkle cut you know you’ve made a good choice. Taste those trans fats! Admire that gorgeous golden colouring! Witness how they manage to be both crisp and sharp, and disintegrate in your mouth in a wonderful glob of flavour! So recognisable, like a Proustian madeleine to salty summer days and sweating vodka cruisers! And the vinegar, oh the vinegar! This is a vinegar lover’s dream, so salty and sour you want to lick your fingers afterwards. 10 out of 10, 100 out of 100, would eat again.
Rating: 🍟 🍟 🍟 🍟 🍟 +++++
Smith’s on the left, Coles on the right. Photo: SuppliedSource:Whimn
Boulder Canyon Malt Vinegar and Sea Salt
Now for the fancier portion of the taste test. Boulder Canyon is an artisanal chip company that offers gluten free and healthier alternatives to traditional crisp brands. Some of their chips are made with rice bran oil, for example. I picked up their malt vinegar version for $6.95, expecting this variety to improve on the failings of Red Rock Deli.
I was wrong. We almost stumbled at the first hurdle because I could barely get the packet open. Finally, after resorting to using a pair of scissors and hacking the thing, I tried my first chip. The actual crisp was starchy and grainy, weirdly dense and almost chewy. There was no discernible salt and the vinegar had a strange, tinny flavour, which might have been the malt. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t a fan.
Tyrells Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar
These chips are so pretty! They are very thin and delicate, coloured the most gorgeous, flaxen colour and are pleasingly curled over with authentic brown edges. Absolutely stunning. In a fat crystal bowl they’d be the perfect posh snack.
Flavour wise, they’re very subtle and sophisticated. The vinegar is almost sweet, and more generally the flavour is light and airy, with a very brisk dusting of salt. I found myself absent-mindedly munching on them and almost forgetting they were there, which is very dangerous and definitely the point of a snack from a manufacturer’s perspective.
Rating: 🍟 🍟 🍟 🍟
In short, if you’re looking to impress Tyrells is a nice option, and never rule out the Pringles, but you can’t go past a good old-fashioned packet of tangy, mouth-tingling Smith’s. Yum.
Hannah-Rose Yee is whimn’s entertainment editor which basically means she gets to binge-watch TV, road-test crazy new food hybrids, sniff out the latest travel trends and interview awesome startup founders for a living. She will write for donuts and bootleg copies of the next Donna Tartt or Daniel Silva, because she contains multitudes. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
How to make ‘chip tacos’ with hot chips
How to make ‘chip tacos’ with hot chips
I conduct and write the
monthly taste tests that appear in our Good Food section each month. Sadly, I’m not allowed to participate in the
tastings, since I have to conduct them and, most importantly, having
done the research and spoken to the company reps, I might be biased.
I don’t mind standing back and letting the volunteer tasters and rest of the food department do the judging and voting. My goal is to make sure the tests are as unbiased and as accurate as possible, even if that means not getting to put in my two cents or to discover my own personal favorite brand of whole wheat pasta or multigrain cracker. However, every once in awhile there comes a taste test that makes me downright giddy/sad to not be participating,
such as June’s taste test of healthier potato chips. I’ve written before
about what a salty snack fiend I am and the savory crunch of a good potato chip
is something I can rarely resist. So while I couldn’t officially rate all 19 samples, I happily helped myself to the leftover product.
We only tested plain or sea
salt varieties, since those are the most common “flavor” of reduced fat and low
fat chips, but along the way, I encountered a couple of noteworthy reduced fat
varieties of my hands-down favorite flavor of potato chip: salt and vinegar.
Salt and vinegar chips are
pretty polarizing. Some purists cringe at the thought, while others, like me,
have a Pavlovian response to it. Here are my favorites:
Boulder Canyon Natural Foods, Kettle Brand Foods
- Boulder Canyon Red Wine Vinegar Potato Chips
($2.49 – $3.99 for 5-oz. bag): These delightfully tangy chips have the
perfect thickness and texture. Super crunchy without being
tooth-breakingly hard, they also possess a hint of floral sweetness that
beautifully complements the vinegar. While they’re not explicitly labeled
reduced fat, this company’s entire line of potato chips contain a third
less fat than the average potato chip. Unfortunately, I’ve been known to
inhale half a bag by myself in one sitting, thereby negating the health
benefits of being reduced fat.
- Kettle Brand 40% Reduced Fat Sea Salt & Vinegar
Krinkle Cut Potato Chips ($3.49 for 8-oz. bag): New to the market this
month, these crinkle cut treats are even crunchier due to not only their
ridges, but also their thicker cut. These are the salt and vinegar chips
for the real salt and vinegar fans out there. Tongue-tinglingly tart with
just the right amount of salt, these chips pair perfectly with a chicken
salad pita. Boulder Canyon Natural Foods, Kettle Brand Foods
To learn more about how we taste test food products, come visit us in NYC and take a free tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute!
Kettle Brand Organic Sea Salt Potato Chips, $4.15 for a 5-ounce bag on Jet.com
20. Tropical Salsa with Mango-Infused Salt Cooked in Avocado Oil
Fans say: From the packaging to the flavor, these chips have a fun party vibe from the get. I want them piled high in a bowl at a pool party, with the daiquiris flowing non-stop.
Haters say: There’s too much going on, leading to “muddled flavors,” according to Rhoda Boone. And as far as Anya is concerned, these chips should have “never happened” in the first place.
Kettle Brand Tropical Salsa Potato Chips with Mango-Infused Salt Cooked in 100% Avocado Oil, $3.99 for a 6.5-ounce bag at World Market
19. Maple Bacon
Fans say: Rhoda is the only taster who pulled this sweet and salty chip out from the bottom. Her reaction: “I don’t trust it, but I love it.”
Haters say: To me, they tasted like the wafting aroma of a sub-par diner. Even Anna, our resident pourer-of-maple-syrup-on-anything, said “maple has no place on potato chips.” And while I don’t entirely agree with her, I could not be swayed to like this chip. Not at all.
Kettle Brand Maple Bacon Potato Chips, $27.44 for a pack of 12 (8.5-ounce) bags on Amazon
Fans say: Emily Johnson found these chips “hot and sour and salty and spicy,” but…
Haters say: Getting perhaps the most unexpected reaction of the lot, this chip was hardly reminiscent of the tangy heat of Sriracha. Even Emily didn’t think so. Instead, the chile spice tastes more of dried red-pepper flakes, the garlic is far too toned down, and the flavor could be a lot brighter.
Kettle Brand Hot! Sriracha Potato Chips, $3.29 for an 8.5-ounce bag on Amazon
17. Hot Jalapeño
Fans say: This chip hits the palate first with sweetness, followed quickly by fresh, green jalapeño heat. They’re so addictive that as you start to feel the burn, you go in for another chip to quell the pain, ad infinitum, until the bag is empty.
Haters say: Turned off by the sweetness, a few heat-seekers, like Erika, reacted thusly: “Hot? Not.”
Kettle Brand Hot Jalapeño Potato Chips, $2.98 for an 8.5-ounce bag on Amazon
16. Chili Lime with Citrus-Infused Sea Salt Cooked in Avocado Oil
Fans say: This chip is citrusy and herby. According to Erika, it “delivers on the promise that lime-flavored tortilla chips do not. Where’s the salsa!?”
Haters say: For the record, this was probably my least favorite of the bunch. There was an earthiness that I could only compare to chicken gristle and a lingering fake orange (not lime?!) taste that did not help.
Kettle Brand Chili Lime Potato Chips with Citrus-Infused Sea Salt Cooked in 100% Avocado Oil, $3.25 for a 6.5-ounce bag on Amazon
15. Krinkle Cut Carolina BBQ
Fans say: I have to say, I’m really surprised this one fell so far down the list. My instinct is that it sank because it tastes nothing like a standard barbecue chip. Instead, the flavor is very mustard forward, with a distinctive vinegary tang and subtle smokiness—a flavor traditionally associated with Carolina barbecue. I, for one, loved them.
Haters say: Anya found them “weirdly sweet.” Erika thought they tasted “like regular chips left out in a barbecue restaurant for too long.”
Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Carolina BBQ Chips, $3.99 for an 8.5-ounce bag on Amazon
14. Organic Jalapeño
Fans say: Adina called them “painful, but strangely compelling.” They essentially have the same flavor as the Hot Jalapeño, but since they are missing the apparent sweetness of the former, tasters perceived the organic offering as hotter.