At its heart, a potato chip is a thinly sliced piece of potato which is fried and salted. As simple as this might sound, the process to make a potato chip is actually quite complicated. There are several definite steps which every potato goes through before it ends up as a potato chip. To start, only fresh potatoes are used in potato chips (originally, people only used old potatoes as a way to make sure no potatoes went to waste). The potatoes are delivered to a factory from several different areas, depending on the season. Once the potatoes are delivered, they are tested to make sure they are of a suitable quality for production. A sample is taken from each shipment and is inspected for any blemishes or green edges. They are also weighed to make sure they fit into the preset weight allowance.
After they have been accepted, the potatoes begin their journey to become potato chips. They are first loaded onto a conveyer belt which lightly vibrates to help the potatoes avoid breakages. Then they are sent into a vertical screw conveyer. This machine allows any stones included to fall to the bottom and gets the potatoes up to the next point in their transformation. This next step is the slicing of the potatoes. They pass through a revolving slicer which cuts them into slices between .0066 and .0072 inches. This is the point where they will be shaped into either straight or ridged varieties. The slices are then placed into a vat of cold water which removes any starch which was released when the potatoes were cut.
Frying and Packaging
After the starch is released, the potatoes may be chemically treated in a pH balanced solution to improve their color. The potatoes are then passed under air jets which help to remove any water which may still be on them. They will then be carried through 40 to 75 foot troughs of hot (350 to 375 degrees) oil for frying. As they are pushed through the oil, they are lightly salted at a rate of 1.75 lb. of salt to 100 lb. of potatoes. The potatoes are then taken out of the oil and are allowed to cool off and any burnt pieces are removed. Finally, the chips are moved to the packaging area where they are weighed and scanned by a metal detector to ensure they didn't pick up any metal anywhere along the process. They are bagged and shipped to retailers.
- Photo Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuart_spivack CC BY-SA 2.0
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