The shocking true story of how Pringles are made
Pringles may be one of the most sci-fi foods of our time. So thin, so homogeneous, so regularly shaped that they can be stacked perfectly, these chips are truly the food of the future. But how are they made?
First, to understand what Pringles (and other stackable chips) are, you have to develop a Zen detachment from the idea of potato chips coming from actual potatoes in any recognizable way. In fact, the Pringles company once argued that their high amount of processing and low potato content actually made Pringles technically not potato chips. (For those wondering, they made this self-sabotaging argument to avoid taxes. ‘Snacks’ are recognized as necessary in the UK, and so they aren’t taxed. Potato chips, on the other hand, are luxury food, and so they are taxed.)
Instead of shaving bits off of a potato and deep frying them, the company starts with a slurry of rice, wheat, corn, and potato flakes and presses them into shape. So these potato chips aren’t really potato at all. The snack-dough is then rolled out like a sheet of ultra-thin cookie dough and cut into chip-cookies by a machine. The cut is complete enough that the chips are fully free of the extra dough, which is lifted away from the chips by a machine.
The chips move forward on a conveyor belt until they’re pressed onto molds, which give them the curve that makes them fit into one another. Those molds move through boiling oil (I would have thought rat-lard, since anything that tastes that addictive has to be terrible for you, but it’s probably just vegetable oil.), and fry for a few seconds. Then they’re blown dry, sprayed with powdered flavors, and at last, flipped onto a slower-moving conveyor belt in a way that allows them to stack. From then on, it’s into the cans (with usually a good inch of empty space at the top) and off towards the innocent mouths of the consumers.
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