Ever wonder why biting into a fresh bag of potato chips is so dang satisfying? To answer that question, and pay homage to perfect food texture, Alex Beggs of Bon Appetit dug into the world of mass-produced crispiness this week. The article is a) fascinating, b) full of fun factoids and cooking methods you won’t be able to replicate at home, and c) the reason I just ate my roommate’s Ruffles for breakfast. Jack, if you’re reading this, my apologies.
According to this enlightening article, texture wasn’t a factor food scientists really considered until the 1950s. General Foods researcher Alina Szczesniak created a regulated metric by which to evaluate crispiness and invented a mechanical mouth with blade-teeth called the Texturometer to standardize brittleness assessments. Szczesniak’s gender might have had something to do with her obsession with texture. According to a 2015 University of Arkansas study, the article notes, women are more likely to notice food texture (read: crisp and crunch, which are different), while men notice food color (so observant!) and taste. To sustain the crisp, Frito-Lay bags are puffed with nitrogen-infused air, keeping them fresh.
The piece takes the reader to several epicenters of crisp: a photoshoot for the Popeyes crispy chicken sandwich; the Frito-Lay headquarters in Plano, Texas; and a New York City sound mixing studio to study the distinct breeds of crunch emitted from different snack foods, from Corn Flakes to granola bars. And for good reason. Studies show sound of the crisp—that snap of biting into a piece of bacon or a Pringle—informs tasters’ assessment of how crispy and tasty the food is. It’s possible, the article says, that humans are into crisp because the texture signals “freshness and safe-to-eatness.” So don’t worry, your Cheeto cravings are totally biological.
Anyway, I could go on, but just read the dang article yourself. Even if you’re more of a sweet tooth than a chiphead like myself, consider this Bon Appetit piece for your Friday afternoon procrastination purposes.