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:


The 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.


The 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.


50 responses to “How the modern potato chip was ruined, and what you can do about it”

  1. david Avatar

    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 Avatar

      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 Avatar

    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!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t remember the O’Grady’s! How did I miss them?

      1. dmswriter Avatar

        They weren’t around for long, but if you Google them, at least you can see what the bag looks like. They were delish!

  3. Mark O'Brien Avatar

    My mouth is watering… :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Note the handy online ordering link I provided so that you can answer your craving!

  4. davidvanilla Avatar

    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 Avatar

      Never tried Herr’s. I agree: all this flavored chip garbage is about masking the fact that the chips themselves aren’t very good anymore.

  5. 62Skylark Avatar

    And some people now believe that the old fashioned natural fats are actually the best for you!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      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!

  6. James Jacocks Avatar

    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 Avatar

      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!

  7. John Smith Avatar
    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I just missed the Charles Chips era. I loved the ice-cream truck when it drove through! But ours was some independent, not Mr. Softee.

  8. Steve Miller Avatar
    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 Avatar

      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.

  9. John Knight Avatar
    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never heard of them! Surprising, because South Bend wasn’t that far away.

    2. Tom Konyndyk Avatar
      Tom Konyndyk

      I worked for Be-Mo as a stock boy in the Summer of 1968. Chips used to journey past the lunch room on conveyor belt still hot out of the cooker. Employees were welcome to grab a handful. A peak potato chip experience!

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        How cool is that!

    3. jt Avatar

      I grew up in Battle Creek, MI in the ’70s and we actually had a few brands from which to choose, the best of which was Be-Mo. We also had Jay’s from Chicago. I hear the Be-Mo plant burned down in the ’80s. Some say the recipes and stuff went up with the structure. Urban myth? Anyway, there was a grocery chain in town called Cut Rate that sold a brand of super delicious (and equally greasy) chips in a shiny green foil bag. They were very good and a reasonable substitute for Be-Mo in a pinch. We had them mainly on holidays and summer picnics. The best “dry” brand chip was New Era, especially the BBQ flavor (apologies to purists).

      When I went to school down in Ft Wayne, I discovered and enjoyed many tens of pounds of Seyferts ripple chips. The plant was situated right off I-69 on the NW side of town. While I was in FWA, the Mikesell’s brand came to town. I never acquired a taste for them, although I enjoyed the texture.

      I endured a dearth of good chips until I moved to Phoenix and discovered the kettle cooked deliciousness of Saguaro brand chips until they went away after a few years. They were similar to the Be-Mo brand except crunchier. They were retailed initially by AJ Bayless Stores and then later at what eventually became Fry’s Stores (Kroger). While in Phoenix I also encountered Clover Club brand ripple chips that seemed curiously like the Seyferts brand from Fort Wayne. The bag indicated they were a product of Borden Foods.

      My favorite modern day chip is Jay’s Kettle Cooked which I used to order online by the case. Jay’s ownership seems to have changed hands more than once, so I don’t know if they are even manufactured any more. When I visit in west Michigan, I can usually find them in small and larger bags. They are old school delicious and serious diet killers in the vein of Be-Mo.

      Last word on Be-Mo: they also made excellent popcorn and a cheese corn. These days to find product of similar quality you have to pay a premium for it at gourmet popcorn shops such as Garretts or Nuts on Clark (something like that) in Chicago.

      I’m snacky now.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        JT, oh my gosh, Saguaro chips! I ate exactly one (1) ounce of them in my lifetime and I have never had a chip like them before or since. I got them in a gift basket someone gave me about 20 years ago now, and have never forgotten them.

        As a kid, we ate Jay’s and Lay’s. Seyfert’s showed up only when they were on special deep sale, and to me they tasted only slightly better than the lousy store brand chips. But then, when Mikesell’s hit Indiana I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. So there’s that.

  10. Denny Gibson Avatar

    I simply did not realize how geographically fortunate I am. I now feel obligated to visit both Tiffin and Massillon ASAP.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Heck yeah! Good potato chips are a great reason to take a road trip!!

  11. Christopher Smith Avatar
    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 Avatar

      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!

  12. Rachel Neill Avatar
    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 Avatar

      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 Avatar
        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!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          A bold one you are!

  13. cozyteacup Avatar

    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:)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I went gluten free a couple years ago and chips are one of the few guilty pleasures left me! And ice cream.

      1. cozyteacup Avatar

        I love ice cream!. Yes it is a guilty pleasure for me as well :) I think I enjoy them the more for that, because I am not supposed to have much of it.

  14. P.J. Avatar

    Zerbe’s chips from Lancaster, PA are great! They can be ordered on amazon.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for the tip!

  15. Jonathan Avatar

    I know I’m beating a dead horse here. But i grew up in Indiana and loved mike-sell’s.
    i moved to California and longed for vacations back home for family and mike-sell’s one year they weren’t the same. I thought it was my taste till I read the label. I almost cried.
    a company Called Dirty chips at are pretty good. Worth a try i think.
    i was looking for another chip and i learned you loved mikesell’s and found the same thing i did. so i just ordered the golden crisp.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for the tip on Dirty’s! The Gold’n Krisps are fried partially in LARD …mmmm lard… so they will have a different feel than the original Mikesell’s.

  16. Scott Cathon Avatar
    Scott Cathon

    Got a bag of Gold’n Krisp yesterday and they are almost gone 0: That’s why I don’t buy them that often, they are just too damn addicting. It’s the Lard that makes them so decadent. Oink oink :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I swear, if you deep-fried the fender of a Buick in laws, I’m sure I’d find it to be delicious!

  17. Scott Cathon Avatar
    Scott Cathon

    Well I also like the fact that they (Gold’n Krisp) only have one product and it’s done well. Do I really need ruben, or truffle fries flavoured potato chips?? I don’t think so. I saw ‘Swedish fish’ flavoured Trident chewing gum the other day, what’s next- bubble gum flavoured twinkies?

    It’s already overwhelming for me at the grocery already, and just think somebody makes big bucks for these retarded ideas. Lol.

    1. Scott Cathon Avatar
      Scott Cathon

      Ha ha sorry, that was one too many alreadys in my comment, but you get the gist. I really don’t need ten different flavours of Oreos or tricuts or 50 flavours of lays. I’m a simple guy.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I swear all the wacky flavors are there just to cover up an otherwise unremarkable chip!

  18. John Herrmann Avatar
    John Herrmann

    I am from a small town in Ohio called Dover not far from Massillon I never did try Golden Crisp but would have loved to I grew up eating Corells potato chips theyare in Beach City Ohio also not far from Massillon I live in Chicago now and have tried ballreich’s from a grocery store in the southwest suburbs corells are very much like ballreich’s you should give them a try also you might want to try kitchen cooked potato chips out of Farmington Illinois they are sold in a small chain in the southwest suburbs of Chicago

  19. Andy Hilton Avatar
    Andy Hilton

    Wow, the days of regional chip fryers. Some really good names mentioned here, Seyferts, Jays and of course Be-Mo. I am from Kalamazoo, Mi and my family operated a commercial laundry across the street from Be-Mo. Two things took the company down in the late 80s, the price of potatoes sky rocketed for a few years and they had two grease fires within a 4 or 5 month span. Their building did not burn, but after the second grease fire they did not reopen. They tried to sell the company but did not have any luck. All the equipment was sold at auction, we purchased an old electric forklift. They would sell a three pound box of chips and we would trade them linen rags for a fresh box, they would fill the box while I waited. It was a sad day when we lost our neighbor.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      So many regional food-related companies are gone now. It’s a shame. There was something about the “local foods” you used to be able to find as you traveled. What a great memory you have about getting fresh chips!

  20. David Knapp Avatar
    David Knapp

    I loved BE-MO chips from Kalamazoo back in the 60s. They went out of business in 2009 according to some web searching. My current guilty pleasure are the lard fried chips from Utz, sold as Granny Utz Handcooked Potato Chips. The company is from Hanover, PA. They are cooked in just lard and are excellent. Easily available in Northern Virginia, where I live now.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ooooo, thanks for the tip about Granny Utz!

  21. Virel Duncan Avatar
    Virel Duncan

    They have ruined a great chip somehow ballriech don’t taste the same anymore noticed it about 3 years ago. What gives?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Perhaps, but I’ll still take them over Lay’s!

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