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We tried 13 popular potato chip brands, and our top and bottom picks might just surprise you

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In advice columnist Judith Martin’s book, “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior,” a reader asks: “What is the proper way to eat potato chips?”

Miss Manners replied:

“Gentle Reader: With a knife and fork. A fruit knife and an oyster fork, to be specific. For pity’s sake, what is this world coming to? Miss Manners doesn’t mind explaining the finer points of gracious living, but feels that anyone who doesn’t have the sense to pick up a potato chip and stuff it into his mouth probably should not be running around loose on the streets.”

We all eat chips the same way: by the fistful, often with little self-control. One turns into 25, a bowl of dip becomes dregs to be excavated for flavor with the last crumbly few shards in the bag. They’re welcome at any party. They’re worth their weight in gold at elementary school cafeterias.

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Chips can go highbrow (perfect with caviar) and lowbrow (equally great with onion dip out of the jar). I grew up eating Cape Cod potato chips dipped in cottage cheese — one of my mother’s favorite snacks from her childhood — and had no idea until middle school that it was not a normal combination of foods. (Which, honestly? Try it. It’s great.)

They’re also an easy upsell at your local sandwich place, adding crunch alongside your turkey on rye. That’s why we bought 13 popular brands and conducted a blind taste test, to see which bag is worthy of being your afternoon reward of a salty snack or a companion to your panino. The list includes some deli classics — hello, Lay’s — and several regional favorites that have found national distribution, like Louisiana’s Zapp’s and local Route 11 chips. If you’re about to email us to say that we forgot your favorite brand — yes, we know, we just couldn’t include every chip in the country. So please don’t get … salty. *Ba-dum-tsss*

Our panel of tasters rated the chips on their texture (too crumbly? too crunchy?) salt balance (too much? not enough?) and overall taste, with a maximum possible score of 20. We were very, very thirsty afterward.

13. Utz
Score: 7.2
Ohhhh, boy. This is going to cause some trouble, isn’t it? Utz is a beloved brand. But in a blind taste test, the thin and crumbly chip really fell short compared with the others. “Is this even made from potatoes? Thin as they are, they coat the mouth, unpleasantly. There’s a nice taste to the oil, though,” one taster said. “No taste. Does this chip even exist? Or was it a figment of my imagination?” another said. With its “medium salt level” and “powdery texture,” tasters had “nothing to recommend.” “Gag! I want to give this zero.” “No amount of salt balance will fix it.” “This is a potato cracker, not a potato chip.”

11. (Tie)
Score: 9.4

Both of these brands came in second-to-last, but for completely different reasons. In the case of Herr’s, it came down to texture. They were “kind of Pringley,” with “a texture almost like reconstituted beach sand. Thin and lifeless.” The thin texture contributed to more breakage than some of the other brands. “I’m staring at a bowl of chip shards,” said one taster, while another deemed it “basically like eating potato chip crumbs.” They were “slightly burnt,” “a bit too salty for my taste,” “soggy and sort of sad” and “vaguely schmaltzy.”

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Route 11
In the case of Route 11, it was more about taste. The chips “could use more salt and less oil.” “I hated it,” said one taster, who added that it “tastes fishy, probably because the oil was turned. Ew.” Tasters thought they were “lightweight in both texture and flavor” and tasted “artificial and a little stale.” “The salt balance seems off.” “Where’s the potato flavor?” “Pretty pedestrian.” “Just not exciting.”

10. Dirty
Score: 10.4
These were the first chips that tasters thought tasted like potatoes. “I appreciate when you can see potato skin on a chip,” said one, while another agreed that they “actually taste like potato and they sit well on the tongue.” The problem was the oil — specifically, that there was a lot of it. They were “a crispy oil ball” that was “very shiny, disconcertingly so.” It gave them a “kind of odd texture — some are a bit chewy? Doesn’t have that crunch sound like some of the others.” It also gave them a more pronounced color. “These are orange, which makes me think they’re extremely oil-logged.” “Weird, bitter, off-oil aftertaste.”

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9. Lay’s Classic
Score: 10.8
Another thin chip, which is an extremely divisive style. But it fared better than Utz and Herr’s because it triggered childhood memories: “Standard lunch bag fare, but not in a bad way.” “Very nostalgic, like I’ve had them a million times before.” But that didn’t mean our tasters wouldn’t have some criticism, namely on its slim size and crumbly texture. “I put it in my mouth. Where did it go? It’s disappeared, and forgotten.” “Super salty, which wouldn’t be bad if they weren’t also so thin.” “Might be nice in a sandwich, but you wouldn’t really want it with one.” Classic Lay’s are “a whisper of a crisp” — “thin, familiar, greasy” — that “immediately dissolved, but not in an unpleasant way.” “Just so-so.”

8. Miss Vickie’s
Score: 10.9
Miss Vickie, bless her heart, needs to put a little more salt on her chips, according to our tasters. “Something’s out of whack here,” one suspicious taster said. The chips “need a tad more salt to bring those flavors out.” “Is there even any salt at all? If so, I can’t taste it.” They have a “great crunch, but a slightly troubling taste, as if the oil they were cooked in had been held at too high a temperature.” One taster said the less-salty chips were “a nice relief in a [13]-chip taste test, but not ideal in my lunch.” “These taste like they were once good but got stale.”

7. Kettle
Score: 11
Munch munch, crunch crunch! This chip was “audibly crispy,” but less in an ASMR way and more in a “I’m worried about my dentist judging me” way. “My poor teeth, they are working too hard,” one taster said. “First they have to mash down this chip, and then it clings to my molars like taffy.” It was “anemic and yet somehow effortful,” with “great texture and salt, but not enough potato flavor.” The crunch was not a drawback for all: One tester “Enjoyed the texture” and found it “not too greasy.” Though the “potato flavor is secondary.”

6. Ruffles
Score: 11.8
Yes, it was a blind test, but thanks to Ruffles’s distinctive texture and taste, a few people guessed this one. It was pretty polarizing, receiving some of the lowest and highest scores of the taste test. Some of those high scores were nostalgia: “Ah, a familiar crunch from pool parties and cookouts.” “They would be okay with onion dip.” “The ridges are such a pleasant addition and somehow even out the salt consumption.” Others felt that the ridges and salt content were a concern. “It feels like my teeth are mashing into it, rather than getting quick, satisfying crunch. “I like the tactile sensation of the crunch, but after two, I can feel my body begin to puff from excess sodium.” One taster summarized: “A little off-putting on the tongue, but I find that it’s hard to stop eating them.”

4. (Tie)
Score: 12.8

Whole Foods 365
These are thick and crispy — maybe too much? As much as testers liked this chip, which was a lot, they also worried about their gums. “So crunchy, I felt like I was going to cut the roof of my mouth with an errant bite,” one said. “This is the chip that rips up the roof of your mouth on the way down,” another said. The Whole Foods house brand was “VERY salty, but not unpleasantly so,” a “solid potato chip with a decent texture” that “shatters on the tongue.” “The scorched edges makes me think this chip means business.” “I really like the little pieces of skin left on the chip.” “So crispy, very potatoey!”

Cape Cod
The chip that evokes blue-blooded beach vacations is “very satisfying — crunchy, salty but not too much, and a variety of fun structural formations.” It was the “least greasy yet,” “crispy and pleasant overall,” and “would be great with a nice pilsner.” Tasters especially liked its folded over chips, for a double layer of crunch: “Thick, irregular shapes (which I love).” “What a curious creature!” one taster exclaimed. “There’s a snow-like powdery quality to the salt and something almost adorable about their shape.”

3. Zapp’s
Score: 12.9
These Louisiana chips were greasy but not in a bad way. A “grease bomb — but that doesn’t mean they don’t taste good,” one taster proclaimed. They have a “fun crunch and strong potatoey taste at the beginning, but then your mouth fills with oil.” They’re thick, with “lots of weird shapes,” but tasters didn’t complain that they tore up their mouth. “These are big, tough lads. They have real crunch.” “The burnt pieces are the most promising.” “I like these a lot — good amount of crunch and texture.”

2. Deep River
Score: 13.6
Hailing from Deep River, Conn., these chips have a “thick and crackly body” with “excellent crunch and pretty good potato flavor” and a “better oil-to-salt balance that makes me forget the grease on my fingertips.” “I really like the complexity — the strong potato flavor, the wobbly surface, the formidable texture, the loud crunch,” one taster said. “This is the correct salt level (which means high-ish) and they’ve got a really nice crunch factor.” Deep River “tastes like a potato, more or less,” with “nice bubbles and crunch.”

1. Lay’s Kettle Cooked
Score: 14.1
The winner wasn’t a niche brand with a precious story. It was just a version of one of America’s best-selling mass-market chips, but with perfect technique. Kettle-cooked Lay’s have “a nice pop of salt” and offer a “strong potato taste game.” In fact, they’re “really salty, but it feels warranted,” and also “seriously crunchy” — to the point where it “would be very difficult to eat discreetly, if that was the goal!” They scored high in texture: “Full of air bubbles (love that),” and “awesome folded ones, extra crunch.” Thin chips, like regular Lay’s, just aren’t as interesting and not formidable enough to hold their own against your sandwich. All of the tasters were “digging the kettle style.” One summed it up: “These would not be safe in my house.”

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