Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

How the modern potato chip was ruined, and what you can do about it


I love a good potato chip. And good ones are hard to find.

That’s because most chips today are just salt and crunch. We want our salty snacks, but we don’t want them to be too bad for us. Most chipmakers have responded by frying in so-called “good oils” low in saturated fat and trans fat, such as corn, sunflower, and canola. It’s a shame, because what results is a dry chip with little potato flavor.

Yes, I said dry. A chip fried in saturated fats lacks no crunch, yet has a certain moisture to it. It is similar to a good pie crust, where the flaky layers melt in your mouth. Aw heck, most of you probably have no idea about that, either; who makes pie crusts anymore?

I have discovered that the fine people of Ohio are still serious about their chips. The state boasts ten companies that make them. The best known of them is probably Mikesell’s, of Dayton, which distributes its chips across much of the Midwest. Theirs were the best chips at the grocery store until they stopped frying them in pure peanut oil a few years ago.

Fortunately, Ohio has other chips up its sleeve. While I haven’t tried them all, I’m not sure I need to because I’ve tried and fallen hard for these two:

BallreichThe first is Ballreich’s, made in Tiffin, which is about an hour southeast of Toledo. Their best-known chip is wavy, or “marcelled,” in Ballreich lingo. They’re a little thicker than your everyday chip, and they actually taste like potatoes. But because they’re fried in a combination of partially hydrogenated oils, they also melt a little in your mouth. They’re a little greasy, but not overbearingly so. They are a supremely satisfying chip.

GoldnkrispThe other is Gold’n Krisp, of Massillon in northeast Ohio. Be still my beating heart, but they are fried in soybean oil and lardCan I just say that I have the deepest respect for that? When I bit into my first Gold’n Krisp chip, my knees buckled and I moaned slightly, so delicious were they. It was almost a spiritual experience. They manage to be less greasy than the Ballreich chips with no loss of great potato flavor. Unlike Ballreich, Gold’n Krisp makes only these flat chips.

You can buy fresh Ballreich chips online here. I’ve done it twice; they arrive well boxed and unbroken. Gold’n Krisp hasn’t joined the Internet age, but I gather that they take orders at (330) 832-8395. You’ll pay a good deal more for these chips than you will for that bag of Lay’s at the supermarket, especially because of shipping. And you generally have to order them several bags at a time, so perhaps it’s best to stock up for your next party or cookout. But my goodness, what chips.

In an age where we don’t want our snack foods to be too unhealthy, we’ve squeezed all the life out of them. I say eat fewer chips – but when you do eat them, eat really good ones. Ballreich’s and Gold’n Krisp should be at the top of your list.


I used to write about fried chicken here, too.
Favorites here, here, here, here, and here.

32 thoughts on “How the modern potato chip was ruined, and what you can do about it

  1. david

    Jim , I think I may order some of those local chips. However, as for the fried chicken you spotlighted, I’m tempted to warm up the road trip machine, head west and be there just in time for dinner!

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      I do miss fried chicken now that I’m gluten free. My brother found for me a gluten-free deep-fry coating mix that really rocks. And I have my own deep fryer. So I can fry chicken at home anytime I want!

  2. dmswriter

    I agree! Remember the O’Grady’s thick-cut potato chips from the mid-80s? Now that was a chip. I am tired of the little grease bombs they sell in stores nowadays, and long for a chip you can really sink your teeth into. Glad you’ve found yours, Jim!

  3. davidvanilla

    Was a big fan of Mike Sells’ until they stopped doing it right. Have tried Herr’s Kettle Cooked from Lancaster, Pa. Not bad. Too, there is this issue. Having discovered that the product had no flavor, producers started introducing all kinds of weird non-potato flavorings. ‘Nuf said.

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      Yes, true. I’m not sure I 100% agree — I mean, it’s been proven, hasn’t it, that hydrogenated oils and animal fats do clog the arteries, right? That’s why I preach moderation here!

  4. James Jacocks

    Foods that have declined over the decades might include apples, pears, bandannas and (horrors) russet potatoes. Mostly in the name of perish ability but admittedly, some from taste! The russet has had the peel engineered so that it lacks the pithiness of the spud of yore. Remember chips in cans, delivered to your door? Wonder where great chips may be had by the poor schmoes who don’t live in the Buckeye State. Any ideas for Maryland?

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      I’m juuuuust young enough to have missed chip home delivery! Charles Chips was the one everybody remembers here in Indiana. Fortunately for those of us who don’t live in Ohio, these chip companies do ship nationwide!

  5. John Smith

    In the 60s and 70s, I grew up eating Charles Chips. They came in big metal tins and they were home delivered by “The Charles Chips Man” who, along with “Mr. Softee” (soft ice cream), were our two favorite home deliveries. The ice cream man had a bell on his truck that would have us all running with our little hands full of coins.

  6. Steve Miller

    Aunt Jan still uses lard for her pie crusts, thank the Lord!

    Now, years and years ago, Aunt Chick had a radio show were she baked pies — and incidentally sold products like her patented rolling pin covers. She advocated butter for her crusts. Even lacking the rolling pin cover, I tackled two of her recipes (the former home owner had left behind Aunt Chick’s recipe book, pages translucent with butter!) and the pies came out perfectly! Haven’t made a pie since…

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      My mother used lard in her pie crusts too. It was absolutely the way to go. Did you have any experience with pie crusts before trying Aunt Chick’s recipe? Seems like there are techniques that take time to perfect in pie-crust making.

  7. John Knight

    Ever try Be-Mo potato chips? Fresh to you from Kalamazoo. They went out of business in…maybe the mid-80s? Awesome chips, they were.

  8. Christopher Smith

    My favorite ones here in the UK are Kettle Chips (sweet Chilli flavor) but the ones you describe sound yummy wonder what the international shipping cost would be.

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      Every once in a while I like a flavored chip, but I stick to the classics like BBQ or Sour Cream and Onion. But mostly, I’m a chip purist: salt only. I wonder if the Ohio chipsters even would ship internationally!

  9. Rachel Neill

    I love crisps (sorry, chips, I live in the UK so I don’t speak properly!). I just contacted Ballreich as they sound delish and ship internationally. I NEED to try these, I WANT to try these but….. for 4 x 1 pound bags plus shipping is $75 dollars! So unfair, I just can’t spend that much on chips. Will have to make do with our very poor range here in the UK and dream of visiting Tiffin one day.

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      You’ve given me a wonderful idea: the Ohio potato-chip vacation! I could drive all over the state and visit all of Ohio’s chipmakers to sample their wares fresh from the factory!

      $75 shipping! Oh my!

      1. Rachel Neill

        I think you could be the travel agent and arrange a fly drive vacation for ME to come to Ohio and visit all the chipmakers. I don’t want to read about how much fun you’re having!

  10. cozyteacup

    Yup, true about hard to find a good potato chip, the Ballreich’s Potato Chips are hard to find here in Southern California, the only place I know you can order from is Sam’s club, otherwise not found in regular supermarkets. I am raking my brain though, I have seen these sold somewhere I once visited. I will definitely try them, it is the only “sinful” food I eat really, can’t handle fried foods (well ‘tatos and chocolate really:)

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