International Battle of the Weird-Ass Potato Chips: British Walkers Salt & Vinegar vs. American Utz Salt 'n Vinegar
In the left corner of the ring--Utz Salt 'n Vinegar Potato Chips! In the right corner, Walkers Salt & Vinegar Potato Crisps! [click to enlarge]
Last week, we pitted two oddly flavored British crisps against each other in a battle to the death: Worcester [sic] Sauce and Roast Chicken. I won't tell you which one won, just in case you want to go back and check, but suffice to say, we found one superior to the other in terms of what we look for in a chip, oops! I mean crisp.
For comparative purposes, Utz chip on the left, Walkers crisp on the right. As you can see, they are very similar in appearance, though subtle differences can be discerned.
We made gentle fun of English crisps, and wondered why the flavors seem so wild to Americans (Prawn Cocktail, Smoked Bacon, Mustard, Kebab, Shrimp Scampi, Lamb & Mint, Cheese & Onion, and Builder's Breakfast). The amazing thing is that so few flavors overlap between potato crisps and potato chips.
We did find one overlapping flavor, though: Salt & Vinegar. Something about the conjoinment of those two flavors resonates in both the British and the American national taste. So we combed the potato chips stores for the most perfect evocation of Salt & Vinegar chips/crisps, and came up with a package of Walkers Salt & Vinegar and Utz Salt 'n Vinegar.
Walkers is made in Leicester England, and the package has all sorts of eco-looking data on the bag, including a carbon footprint declaration that the 34.5 gram bag is responsible for 80 grams of carbon emissions. We applaud their candor. The Utz product is made in Hanover, PA, the snack food capital of America. Also on the Walkers bag, in the declaration of ingredients, is the strange news that the Salt & Vinegar crisps contain milk. Walkers is a venerable 19th century company, which is currently owned by Frito-Lay.
We also convened a panel of potato chip/crisp tasters, and vowed to abide by the democratic results.
Next: Tasting notes
The entire bag of Walkers potato crisps weighed 34.5 grams.
The entire bag of Utz potato chips weighed 21.3 grams.
The chips/crisps both came in foil-lined bags. The chips/crisps were nearly identical in size, just shy of 2 inches in diameter for the larger chips, with fragments that were smaller. The chips/crisps presented a nearly identical pale color, with the Walkers having perhaps a very minor hint of orangeness. The Walkers were slightly thicker that the Utz, and almost had a "kettle cooked" type texture.
The attack on the Utz was vinegary and immediate, while the Walkers started out a little milder, then the twin flavors of salt and vinegar built in tandem and stayed longer. The effect of the Utz was more like a lighting military strike, while the Warkers was more like a string quartet.
Both packages noted that the chips/crisps were artificially flavored, making us wonder, "How hard would it be to use natural flavorings for something called Salt & Vinegar."
Conclusions: "I like the Walkers because they taste more vinegary," said Gretchen. A few minutes later, Amy chimed in, "I like Utz better because they're more sour." After extensive conferring and hand-wringing, during which several bags of chips were consumed, the vote was for
Walkers Salt & Vinegar
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.