Scientists share secret to Holy Grail of hot chips

Deakin taste scientists have shed light on the science behind perfecting one of the country’s favourite footy finals snacks, the hot chip.

Senior Lecturer in Deakin’s Centre of Advanced Sensory Science Dr Gie Liem said a crunchy outside and soft inside was the Holy Grail of hot chips whether you are lining up for a half-time bucket or serving up footy fare at home.

“Texture plays a very important role in why we accept or reject food,” Dr Liem said

“This can be cultural, for example, some cultures like slimy food, while in other cultures that might be a sign that the food is off. But we find that crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside is one of the texture combinations that is universally liked, and this is a key characteristic of good hot chips and another footy favourite, the meat pie.”

Dr Liem said this preference went back to evolutionary factors, ensuring humans were able to identify the right food to eat.

“A lot of fruit and vegetables are crunchy on the outside when ready for consumption. When they’re too hard to bite into it means they’re not quite ready to eat and when they’re too soft then that means they’re overripe. So in that way ‘crunchy’ can be like the Goldilocks of food textures, it tells us something is just right.”

Dr Liem said fresh fries were the way to go for the perfect crunch, and for that extra special footy finals treat he advocates celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s thrice-cooked method.

“People seem to be getting more serious about their chips. So to be the host with the most at this year’s grand final party, use fresh potatoes and take the time to cook them properly. This will certainly help you poll a few ‘best on’ votes,” he said.

“That means starting by cooking the cut potatoes in water and then thoroughly drying them out in the fridge.Then fry them first on a low temperature, let them dry out again, then fry them at a high temperature before serving immediately for that super-crunch.”

For those who are contending with the crowds at oval tuckshops, Dr Gie recommends keeping an eye out for a fresh batch before swooping in.

“It’s best to eat chips as soon as they’re out of the fryer or the moisture on the inside will start to come out and make the chips soggy,” he said.

“At sporting events the food outlets will make a lot of chips and they can sit there for a while. So if it looks soggy then it is soggy, use all your senses.”

Dr Liem said all our senses play a part in how we perceive the texture of food.

“Sight and taste all play a big part, and so does hearing the crunch. We consume food every day without thinking much about it, but there is a whole lot of science behind what we choose and why,” he said.

While crunchy chips are near universally-adored, Dr Liem said accompanying condiments engendered much more debate.

“Sauce seems to be a cultural thing. While tomato sauce is popular here and in the US, vinegar is much more popular in the UK, mayonnaise in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, while it’s curry sauce in Germany, or gravy and curds in Canada.

“While some of these seem to align with what we know about taste science – for example vinegar provides something acidic to cut through the fatty fries – they can also be counter-intuitive. Pouring on vinegar is the fastest route to a soggy chip.”

/University Public Release. View in full here.