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February 13, 2009

As you are all no doubt aware, this is National Chip Week and the Potato Council has been busy drumming up interest in the humble fried spud. For such a simple food it creates a lot of heated discussion. Most chefs agree that any chip worth its salt should be fried twice but some think that the perfect chip needs to be parboiled first. Famously, half chef half boffin Heston Blumenthal reckons that you need to fry a chip three times before it reaches its peak crunchiness.

Dr Graham Clayton of Leeds University has been researching what it is that makes chips so appealing and reckons that the smell is a big factor. His studies bear out the two stage frying theory. Lightly cooked or undercooked chips apparently have a bitter aroma while twice-cooked chips have an alluring whiff of cocoa, cheese, butterscotch, onions and flowers. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go so far as to investigate whether chips are best served with salt and vinegar or salt and sauce.