Taste Test: The Classic Potato Chip Challenge

We crunched, chomped, and chowed down to find the best classic chip—and the results were surprisingly close.

Transportable, delicious, a deli sandwich’s best friend, and more addictive than illicit drugs and reality TV, potato chips come in innumerable variations from brands big and small—how to know which chip to choose? We decided a potato chip taste test was in order (March 14 is National Potato Chip Day, after all), and 18 staffers sampled 6 classic style chips (that means no ridges, no funky flavors, and no kettle-style chips, though those tastes test are planned).

The chips were rated 1 through 5 in three categories: crunch factor, saltiness, and flavor. In this test, the flavor rating was weighted as twice as valuable, so the highest score possible for a single brand was 20. Which were star spuds and which dud spuds?

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Herr’s Crisp ’N Tasty Score

Score: 13.1

While no one chip ran away from the pack, and the general consensus was that none of the chips tasted were remarkable, the Pennsylvania-based, family-owned Herr’s won out in a close contest versus Lays for being “delicious” and having “just the right saltiness.” Still, detractors claimed there was an “aftertaste” and the texture was “too soft.”

Lays Classic

Score: 13

Purchase-based PepsiCo owns this big-name brand that came in second place. Most commented on its salt factor both in the positive (“great salting,” “I love the salt on this one”) and negative (“salt is a little overwhelming,” “way too salty”).

Trader Joe’s Classic

Score: 12.4

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The mixed feelings on Trader Joe’s were represented in such comments as “average but satisfying” “great crunch but not enough salt,” and “weak potato flavor.”

Wise All Natural

Score: 12.1

Tasters were very divided on Wise’s take on the classic chip. Some felt that they had “very good flavor,” and “genuine potato taste,” while others called them “too greasy,” “too limp,” and “decidedly average.”

365 Classic (Whole Foods)

Score: 11.8

This was the overwhelming favorite for a few tasters for “real potato flavor” and “no grease,” but a majority felt there was “not enough salt” and the flavor was “bland.” Hey, you can’t please everybody.

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Utz Original

Score: 11.8

“Nothing special,” “standard,” and “oversalted” were the common complaints for the chip from the largest independent privately held snack brand in the US.

So there you have it—our take on six different classic potato chip brands. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list (we do care a little bit about our health), so if you have a favorite brand, flavor suggestion or idea for upcoming taste test, or just want to tell us how wrong we got it, leave a comment in the comment section below.

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