What Are Kettle Chips Exactly? Here’s What Makes Them So Deliciously Crunchy

updated Oct 19, 2023
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Close up view of a pile of kettle chips.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

What makes a kettle chip a “kettle chip” as opposed to any other kind of chip? This was the core of a debate that took place in our house over the weekend.

Many chips were consumed in the name of scientific research. In the end, we settled on a few sure facts! Hypotheses were formed, arguments were made, lines were drawn.

Quick Overview

What Are Kettle Chips?

Kettle chips are potato chips that are cooked in batches at varying temperatures for a slightly longer time than regular potato chips. Regular potato chips are cooked at a steady temperature all together. Kettle chips also differ from regular chips in that they’re often cut thicker, which combined with their unique cooking method, makes them extra crunchy. The term “kettle” refers to the vats (i.e. kettles) with which they’re made, as well as the food brand Kettle Foods Inc., which is a popular purveyor of kettle chips.

Kettle Chips vs. Regulate Potato Chips: How Are They Different?

The primary difference between regular chips and kettle chips is the processing method. Regular chips are continually cooked at a steady temperature all at once whereas kettle chips are cooked in batches. Kettle chips are also usually cut thicker than regular potato chips, which makes them crunchier. Additionally, kettle chips are often a different hue compared to regular chips, and commonly have a bit more golden appearance.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

How Are Kettle Chips Made?

Kettle chips are made in large vats (also known as kettles) of hot oil in batches. The temperature of the oil starts out hot, but after each batch is added, the temperature of the oil decreases, which makes the potatoes take slightly longer to cook. This gives the starch in the potatoes time to absorb moisture and dissolve before the potato finishes frying. This results in a thicker, crunchier, and sturdier chip with a caramelized flavor.

The batch method is how potato chips were made before the invention of big processing facilities. Producers and vendors had big vats of heated oil in which batch after batch of potato slices were fried.