Bon Appetit dives into the fascinating art of mass-produced crispiness

Illustration for article titled Bon Appetit dives into the fascinating art of mass-produced crispiness
Photo: andriano_cz (iStock)
Hot LinksHot LinksWe spend way too much time on the internet

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.



Fun fact: when potato chips were first massed produced and sold in Grocery Stores (or Farmhand’s Apothecaries, as they were called back then (1965)) they had specific eating instructions printed on the bags, since many people were unsure how to open the bag/consume the chips (or chorps, as they were called at the time). The instructions, which were printed on all bags of chips/chorps sold in the US until 2000 were as follows:

1: To open the chorpsatchel, ensure you have the proper tools: a ball-peen hammer, 2 clothespins, 1 silver dollar.

2: Once you have opened the bag, reach your hand inside. Do not look inside. But do feel around with your fingers.

3. Take ahold of a chorp with an abrupt and firm pinching motion. Imagine you are attempting to catch a furious wasp.

4. Quickly remove the chorp and seal the satchel immediately to prevent decay of the the remaining chorps.

5. Ensure that your seal is airtight. If the satchel is not sealed properly, decay will seep out and whither the animate and inanimate things around you.

6. Put the chorp up there in your mouth. Place it very far back on your tongue.

7. Slowly retract your tongue and close your mouth. Allow your saliva to moisten the chorp — this should take 12 to 15 minutes.

8. Once the chorp is sufficiently swollen with mouth-nectar, use your tongue to mash it against your palate. Mmmm, yeah. Mash it in there.

9. Squeeze the nutriment from chorp and then spit the spent chorpstuff back into the chorpsatchel.

10. Questions or comments? Ask the manager of your local Farmhand’s Apothecary for a “handy-J in the alley”.