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The Humble Potato Chip:  What’s going on?

The Humble Potato Chip: What’s going on?

March 3, 2020

In the recent past, we decided to convert our cafe and restaurant into being 100 percent organic, because in addition to the nutritional benefits of organic produce, it’s also GMO free and free from toxic chemicals. So yes it does taste different, it tastes natural! In our opinion, organic food not only helps the body to heal, it also tastes significantly better.

So, you can imagine our surprise when during the recent holiday season (2019 / 2020) the humble hot potato chip caused controversy and provoked negative reviews on social media.  Some feedback received was that the hot chips tasted different or were darker than “real” chips.  Why?  Because the hot chips didn’t look or necessarily taste like chips you are served in both fast food outlets and cafes.

We knew that the final colour and taste of the organic hand-cut chip varied depending on the type of local organic potato variety available at any given time of the year.  However, were there other factors at play? We decided to conduct our own experiment.

Materials and methods

Prior to our change to organic produce, we cooked pre-cut frozen steak fries in cottonseed oil.  Today, we cook fresh hand-cut chips (made on-site from local Tasmanian organic potatoes) in organic sunflower oil.  Given this, there are two key things to test: 1) fresh organic potato chips vs frozen steak fries; and 2) organic sunflower oil vs cottonseed oil.

Deep Fryer #1: CottonSeed Oil Deep Fryer # 2: Organic Sunflower Oil
Steak Fries Steak Fries
Organic Chip Organic Chip

Equipment and produce used:

  • pre-cut frozen steak fries (“Steak Fries”)
  • fresh hand-cut organic chips (“Organic Chips”)
  • cottonseed oil
  • organic sunflower seed oil
  • two commercial deep fryers,
  • hand-chipper
  • four frying baskets.

Fries / chip ingredients:

  • fresh hand-cut organic chips, cut from 100% local Tasmanian organic potatoes
  • pre-cut frozen steak fries as per label: 96.8% potato, 3.2% palm oil, dextrose[1], pre-fried (other ingredients present were below the threshold required for labelling).


Both commercial fryers were completely emptied.  One deep fryer was then filled with cotton seed oil, and the other deep fryer was filled with organic sunflower oil.  The oil was then heated to the same temperature (note: cottonseed oil has a smoking point of 216 degrees Celsius and sunflower oil has a smoking point of 232 degrees Celsius).

Pre-cut frozen steak fries were sourced.  Local Tasmanian organic potatoes were sourced, and hand-cut on-site to approximately the same size as the frozen steak fries.

Two frying baskets were then filled with Steak Fries and the remaining two baskets were filled with organic Chips.  One frying basket of the Steak Fries was placed in the cottonseed oil and the other placed in the organic sunflower oil.  Similarly, one frying basket of Organic Chips was placed in the cottonseed oil and the other in the organic sunflower oil.

All four frying baskets were then cooked at the same time, for the same duration.  Notice the frothing that occurs on the Steak Fries when cooking.

Deep Fryer #1
Cottonseed oil
Deep Fryer #2
Organic Sunflower Oil
Steak Fries | Organic ChipsSteak Fries | Organic Chips


The Steak Fries were the same colour regardless of which oil they were cooked in.  The Organic Chips were also the same colour regardless of which oil they were cooked in.  This finding is expected given that the cooking temperature of both oils used in this experiment were similar.

However, as can be seen in the below picture, the colour of the Steak Fries compared to the Organic Chips was different.  The Steak Fries were much whiter and typical of the hot chips that consumers are used to purchasing. This is interesting given that most foods darken to some degree when cooked.

In regard to taste, the Steak Fries had little or no taste and needed to be dowsed in salt to provide ‘flavour’.  In contrast the Organic Chips had a lot of flavour.  The taste of the Organic Chip was also cleaner. 

These results are consistent with results obtained elsewhere.  In fact, an article written by Science Daily, directly identifies that due to consumer preferences, conventional potatoes are being genetically modified and grown with an added enzyme to keep them white when they are fried.  In other words, an enzyme has been added to prevent the natural chemical reaction that leads to colour change.  Wow! Wow! And Wow Again!

Deep Fryer #1
Cottonseed oil
Deep Fryer #2
Organic Sunflower Oil
Steak Fries | Organic ChipsSteak Fries | Organic Chips

It is also worth noting that conventional mass produced potatoes are usually:

  • grown in nutrient deficient soil (due to lack of crop rotation); and
  • sprayed with so many chemical that they make the “dirty dozen” list of fruit and vegetables (released annually)

This impacts the potato because being a root vegetable the plant sucks up all of the chemicals that are in the soil, these chemicals make their way into the flesh of the potato and therefore can’t simply be washed or cut out. 

In addition to this, unless stated to be non GMO potatoes are genetically modified and where the hot potato chip is concerned, may be further altered using other ingredients to assist with taste and crisping e.g. dextrose.

Therefore, as a consumer, if you eat conventionally grown potatoes, you are probably ingesting toxic chemicals from a genetically modified species that has lower nutritional value. This is all done by producers with the aim of meeting the worlds food demands. However, whilst this mis-directed approach to food production gives you a product that “appears” more pleasant with an increased shelf life; it unfortunately may be a contributing factor to the increase in chronic degenerative disorders. Are you serious? Unfortunately, we are.

As a food business operating inside a pristine World Heritage Area, we are committed to ensuring that our customers are also provided with the cleanest and most nutritious produce we can source.

We acknowledge that may mean re-educating consumers, and potentially retraining some tastebuds, but at the end of the day our health is our wealth.

In conclusion

If you want to know what real potato tastes like, then please visit us and try our hot chips (skin on), boxty, sarladaise, mashed potato or even baked potato, all lovingly grown and developed by Mother Nature.

[1] Dextrose is a type of simple sugar which is derived from corn

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