Ask Dr. Potato
Idaho® Potato Chips
I love my Idaho potatoes, fresh baked especially, followed closely by French fries. Why can’t I find Idaho potatoes in the chip aisle? Are they hard to make from scratch?
For some unknown reason Idaho processors never expanded into doing potato chips for consumers. Years ago, the new product development credit for chips belonged to Miles Willard, an Idaho Falls chemical engineer and food-processing specialist, who made new items from Idaho® potatoes for some of the largest potato processors and snack-food manufacturers. One of Willard’s most visible successes was a thicker style potato chip which became Keebler’s O’Boisie’s potato chips. These were very popular in the eighties, then discontinued.
A new company out of Arizona has resurrected them, but they are not made from Idaho potatoes. At one time Eagle Snacks included Idaho potatoes, but parent company Anheuser-Busch closed the project in 1996, ceding the brand to Procter & Gamble Co. as the brewer chose to focus on its core beer business. This brand has also been resurrected by a company out of Chicago. Alas, the potato chips are not sourced from Idaho.
Currently Frito Lay gets several chipping potatoes from Idaho, but they are sent out of state to be made into chips. One dehydrated potato processor sells a dried or dehydrated Idaho potato product, similar to instant mashed potatoes. Once processed, this product is loaded onto railcars and shipped out of state to be made into Pringles.
The real answer, I think, is that for many years Idaho produced primarily the Russet varieties, which grow to be long and flat and less uniform in shape and size to some of the round potato varieties favored by processors of potato chips. The round potatoes give processors a very uniform circular shape when the potato is sliced. So a market for the odd shaped Russet potatoes never really developed.
In foodservice, Simplot and others have a frozen chip product that is finish fried in the restaurant for a true old fashioned thick sliced chip. They are a great compliment to a fresh made sandwich.
Here are a couple of really excellent restaurant recipes for making fresh Idaho potato chips (pictured top to bottom):