Potato

A Crunchy Look at How Cape Cod Potato Chips Are Made

There’s more to it than just potatoes, salt, and oil.

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September  4, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food & Prop Styling By Alexis Anthony.

We’ve partnered with Cape Cod® Potato Chips to celebrate their 40th anniversary with a special look at how their classic potato chips are made, plus the process behind developing the varieties—from Sour Cream and Onion to the limited-edition (coming up in October!) Pink Himalayan Salt and Red Wine Vinegar—we know and love.


There are plenty of reasons why the company, Cape Cod Potato Chips, is distinctive in the snack food world: Look at its humble origin story, for starters. Plus, it’s telling that the brand’s identity remains deeply grounded in Cape Cod, where its Hyannis factory still resides, just a short drive away from the real lighthouse that inspired the brand’s iconic logo.

But nothing sets Cape Cod Potato Chips apart from the rest as clearly and strikingly as (you guessed it) the chips themselves. Thick yet crunchy, light yet satisfying, these chips walk an astonishingly fine line to deliver the taste and texture that put Cape Cod Potato Chips on the map.

So, we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at how one of our all-time favorite snacks are made—and why there’s more to it than just a recipe.

“As a brand rooted within its community since the beginning, Cape Cod Potato Chips has remained an integral part of the Cape Cod community for 40 years,” said Betsy Morreale, the brand’s VP of Salty Snacks. “Looking back over the past four decades we are proud to say our values and traditions have continued to remain at the forefront of everything we do, and that includes combining potatoes, oil, and salt into the perfectly crunchy potato chips with distinctive folds our fans know and love.”

The process begins with truckloads of potatoes coming from all over the country, with every truck carrying 50,000 pounds of potatoes. Since 2000, these shipments have also included russet potatoes, which provide the basis for the brand’s Dark Russet variety, a slightly sweeter, more buttery version of their classic chip.

Upon arrival, the potatoes go through the peeling machines before taking a trip through ultra-efficient slicers, which can breeze through 90 pounds of potatoes in 45 seconds. This step is crucial, because without cutting the potatoes to just-the-right thickness, they’d lose their trademark texture. For those seeking even more crunch, the brand’s Waffle Cut potato chips are double-sliced (making them twice as thick as regular potato chips), while the rippling grooves of their Waves chips provide even more bite than the Original classic cut.

One small batch at a time, the sliced potatoes are cooked in vegetable oil for 5 to 10 minutes in custom-made kettles. Why this method? Simply put, using small batches (as opposed to en masse) creates a crunchier result. Plus, the cooked chips emerge from the kettles oftentimes curled into unique shapes and folds, giving them a distinct appearance and delectably crinkly texture. They’re then spun to remove excess oil (with their Less Fat variety spending more time in this step) and placed on a conveyor belt for seasoning, inspection, and packaging.

Seasoning the brand's flavored varieties of potato chips is quick once on the conveyor belt, but the development of the seasonings themselves is a thoughtful process and actually the product of months—even years—of flavor research.

With the help of its Research and Development team, Cape Cod Potato Chips has developed an array of classic flavors in addition to its Original potato chip. But these other varieties, from Sea Salt and Vinegar to the limited-edition summer flavor featuring cracked black pepper and a hint of lemon, aren’t added to the product line lightly. Each flavor is formulated and perfected over the course of about two years.

The team begins by observing and extensively researching flavor trends in the U.S. (which may include excursions to restaurants and food trucks around the country). After identifying a flavor profile they’d like to emulate in chip form, the brand consults with seasoning suppliers and conducts consumer taste tests to perfect the flavor and ensure they’ve landed on the right blend of seasonings. Most importantly, perhaps, the team always checks their prototypes against the brand’s own internal flavor goals—namely, whether their new flavor holds up the hearty crunch of a Cape Cod Potato Chip. A flavor that passes the test goes through trial and sample stages, then into normal production for customers to enjoy.

In other words, whether you’re munching on their Original flavor or the new Sour Cream and Onion variety, you can trust that every bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips has undergone a rigorous process of testing and perfecting before making it to your table (or couch, or picnic blanket—wherever you’re snacking).


Get the Recipes


What’s your favorite variety of Cape Cod Potato Chips? Tell us in the comments below!

To commemorate its 40th anniversary, Cape Cod Potato Chips is donating $40,000 to the Cape and Islands United Way to support their work toward food security in the community. Want to celebrate at home? Pick up a few bags of your favorite variety and share them with your closest pals (in a safe, socially distanced manner, of course). You can also snag their custom merchandise at their new online shop.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Sara Coughlin is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Although she writes about food, health, wellness, lifestyle trends, skin-care, and astrology, she’d much rather talk to you about professional wrestling, rock climbing, and her personal favorite true crime theories. You can find her in her studio apartment doing yoga while a pan of veggies gently burns in the oven.

4 Comments

Lindsay N. September 11, 2020
I love Cape Cod chips! I live on the West Coast now and can't find them here. Their Russet chips are the best.
 
Austincook September 11, 2020
I do like CCPC. But this piece reads like an article written by the company's marketing department. Is this a paid advertisement? If so, it should be marked as such. And it reads so much like marketing material that the fact it is not makes me have less trust in the Food52 brand. Which makes me sad.
 
cindy September 11, 2020
These are the best potato chips!
 
Asaracoglu September 7, 2020
A short video of the factory would have been nice. This just comes across as an ad :-(