Life

We Blind Tasted Every Barbecue Chip We Could Find, Here Is The Winner

As a wise man once said, potato chips are like assh*les: everyone has their favorite, and they all think it tastes the best. But in a world of seemingly infinite variety, which option is the best, really?

A lot of factors influence that favorite chip, from bag design to ad copy to which chips you’ve actually had and remember. Unless you’ve made it your specific mission, I highly doubt you’ve had them all. There are so many! What we Americans may lack in universal healthcare we tend to make up for in the snack aisle, miles of bagged junk food that make me want to hum “God Bless America” while my fingertips gently caress the crinkly bags.

I digress, but my point is that we, myself very much included, are suggestible when it comes to food and beverages. If you tell me a cool story about an alcoholic beverage while I’m on vacation, there’s a 96% chance that I’ll think it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted, spend too much to smuggle some back home, and will force it on a handful of my confused friends the second I touch down back home. Certainly a chip bag isn’t the same as a cool foreign bartender, but still, the only way to account for suggestibility in testing potato chips was to taste them blind. Just chips on a plate, no words or colors or anything else clouding my mind beforehand.

Okay, so art thrives on limitations, and this test couldn’t encompass every single flavor and brand. We had to narrow it down somehow, and since it’s summer, aka barbecue season, we chose BBQ-flavored chips. Almost every brand makes one, and it’s one of the most “classic” American potato chip flavors there are. Why not? I’m probably more of a salt and vinegar kind of guy myself, but I do enjoy a good barbecue chip from time to time.

I did my best to find every brand of chips that some schmuck in the comments section will inevitably say is “the best!” This involved traveling to at least five separate supermarkets and three or four delis. But understand that certain regional brands simply do not distribute to California and can’t be bought online in non-bulk quantities or for reasonable shipping fees. I did my best to be as thorough as I could be. But at the end of the day, I’m still bound by the limitations of space and time (sorry, I’m not Steven Seagal). So if your favorite brand isn’t listed here, try to remember that it’s because I hate you.

My wife helpfully randomized the chip brands and laid them out in unmarked batches of three or so — whole chips, no fragments! I then went through and sampled them and rated them all on a thoroughly scientific scale of one to ten.

You may not realize how many factors are at play in choosing a good chip. There’s the matter of which has the best BBQ flavoring (I tended to prefer the ones that leaned sweeter/smokey, and wasn’t so into that fake wood flavor of the more mesquite and hickory-heavy ones), but that’s only one factor. There’s also the chip itself. Thickness. Size of the potato slice. Fry color. Type of oil used. So many things!

In my head, I wanted a thicker chip with a darker fry. In practice, thick is only good if still has a melt-in-your-mouth crunch — the too-thick ones can taste stale without that melt factor, not to mention ruinous to gums and mouth. This test was more subjective than most, so I included my wife’s ratings. Unlike me, she notably does not enjoy smoky things, like mezcal or baba ghanoush (hers were not blind, obviously). Our favorites were distinct, but there was a lot of overlap.

Anyway, enough preamble.

BBQ Potato Chip Test - All Potato Chips
Vince Mancini

The Lineup:

1. Jackson’s Avocado Oil Sweet Potato Chips – Carolina BBQ Flavor
2. “Dirty” Deli Style Chips – Mesquite BBQ
3. Cape Cod Sweet Mesquite BBQ
4. Pringles BBQ
5. Lay’s Barbeque
6. Hawaiian Brand Kettle Style Potato Chips – Luau BBQ
7. Kettle Brand – Backyard Barbecue
8. Market Pantry Barbecue
9. Lay’s Baked 65% Less Fat BBQ
10. Deep River Snacks Mesquite BBQ
11. Sprouts Potato Co. Kettle Style Chips BBQ Flavor
12. 365 Whole Foods Kettle Cooked Texas Style BBQ
13. Route II BBQ
14. The Good Crisp Company – Outback BBQ
15. Boulder Canyon Hickory Barbecue
16. Ruffles Flamin’ Hot BBQ
17. Full Of Chips Barbecue
18. Zapp’s Mesquite Bar-B-Que
19. Pringles Scorchin’ BBQ
20. Uglies Bar-B-Que
21. Siete Chipotle BBQ
22. Spud Love Organic Barbecue
23. Lay’s Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ
24. 365 Barbecue Flavored Potato Chips
25. Kettle Brand Bourbon BBQ
26. Miss Vickie’s Smokehouse BBQ
27. 365 Organic Barbecue

The Rankings

27. Lay’s Baked 65% Less Fat – Barbecue Flavored

Lay's Baked 65% Less Fat
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 6.25 ounces at Target.

Original Notes:

Baked Lays
Vince Mancini

These are hexagonal-shaped, for some reason. Is this some sort of Pringles situation? A non-potato? They don’t have kettle folds and they’re lighter. Must be baked.

Biting in, yep, definitely baked. Zzz. The BBQ flavoring is also super mild, just sort of bland and crackery. These are fine if you’re cutting calories or whatever, but they can’t really hold a candle to real fried potato chips.

Rating: 3.5/10

Bottom Line:

A baked chip is more of a cracker, which probably isn’t really going to compete with the fried chips. I do think more aggressive seasoning could’ve helped. There’s no fat in the seasoning, right? Don’t be shy.

Wife’s Rating: 7/10 (!!!)

26. Zapp’s Mesquite Bar-B-Que

Zapp's Mesquite
Vince Mancini

Price: $32.99 for 25 2-ounce bags on Amazon ($0.66 per ounce)

Original Notes:

Zapp's Chips
Vince Mancini

These look medium fried but heavily seasoned with bigger potato pieces.

Biting in, yeah, these chips are too thick and the seasoning is a straight-up smoke bomb. Being drenched in that overwhelming seasoning makes pretty much everything else irrelevant.

Rating: 4/10

Bottom Line:

Like I said, not a huge fan of the wood-heavy flavorings, and these, an Utz product, were too thick and overseasoned to boot.

Wife’s rating: 3/10

25. 365 Barbecue

365 Barbecue Flavored
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.29 for 10 ounces at Whole Foods

Original Notes:

365 naked
Vince Mancini

Very thin, pale, and crispy looking with bubbles. On the opposite end of the spectrum from the “kettle-style” potato chips, or the way I think of them, anyway.

Biting in, the sweet BBQ flavor is nice, but it’s very mild. Needs more. The chips melt in your mouth, but they’re too thin. They’re just not substantial enough, and not very addictive. I feel like I’m eating chip fragments rather than chips.

Rating: 4.5/10

Bottom Line:

In the course of this test, I think I discovered that I like the thick, kettle-style potato chips less than I thought I did. That being said, thin-ass nothing-burger chips like this were basically the reason kettle-style chips became popular in the first place. I have a hard time imagining opening these bad boys and not being disappointed. They feel timid in every way.

Wife’s Rating: 7/10

24. Market Pantry Barbecue

Market Pantry Barbecue
Vince Mancini

Price: $2.59 for 8 ounces at Target

Original Notes:

Market Pantry
Vince Mancini

These are flat with almost no folding/curling. They look very crispy, like the opposite end of the spectrum from kettle-style.

Biting in, the BBQ flavor is fine, but these are just too thin for me. They melt in your mouth but they’re barely there.

Rating: 4.5/10

Bottom Line:

Basically a mirror image of the previous one. Plus the bag art looks like it has a stool sample on it. Maybe rethink that?

Wife’s Rating: 3/10 (no idea why she basically agreed with me on this one but wildly disagreed on the last one)

23. 365 Organic Barbecue

365 Barbecue Flavored Potato chips
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.79 for 5 ounces at Whole Foods.

Original Notes:

365 Organic
Vince Mancini

Pale, thin, no folds, Lays-y looking, bigger pieces. The fry is light colored but also inconsistent and a little oily, like when you crowd the pan. I’m not sure what that looks like on an industrial scale, but that’s what it reminds me of.

Biting in, I kind of like the crumble and melt-in-your-mouth quality of these, but the seasoning is just really, really timid.

Rating: 5/10

Bottom Line:

Like a lot of these entries in the bottom third, these weren’t inedible or even especially terrible, but there wasn’t a lot to recommend them.

Wife’s Rating: 2/10

22. Siete Chipotle BBQ

Siete Kettle Cooked
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 5 ounces at Target

Original Notes:

Siete Chipotle
Vince Mancini

These are some of the palest of the bunch, though I’m not quite sure what that means. A light fry?

Biting in, I like the thickness on these — and they melt in your mouth — but I don’t like the seasoning at all. It’s sort of just… sour pickle with no sweetness. Pepper is there in the aftertaste. I dunno, not a fan.

Rating: 5/10

Bottom Line:

Chipotle was definitely an outlier in this ranking, as was the very light color on these. It’s hard to say how much of my dislike was based on them being bad and how much was just them being not what I was expecting. A lot of my favorites were barbecue with something extra, but chipotle did not fall into that camp. This is weird because my go-to rib sauce has chipotle in it. Go figure.

Wife’s Rating: 4/10

21. Sprouts Potato Co. Kettle Style Chips BBQ

sprouts Potato Co Kettle Style BBQ Chips
Vince Mancini

Price $2.99 for 7 ounces at Sprouts

Original Notes:

Sprouts Potato Co Kettle Style Chips
Vince Mancini

These are also thick, but not folded. They’re flatter chips with lots of bubbling and lighter fry color. Seasoning is more visible, with bigger pepper flakes.

Biting in, these are thick, maybe a little too thick, but nicely melt in your mouth. The BBQ flavor is barely there but the dominant flavor is… salt. Yep, these are definitely oversalted.

Rating: 5/10

Bottom Line:

These chips were good in almost every respect except a crucial one, seasoning. The salt level is sort of like the Price Is Right. You want to get as close to the limit as you can without going over. But once you go over, you’re sunk.

Wife’s Rating: 2/10

20. Ruffles Flamin Hot BBQ

Ruffle Flamin' hot BBZ
Vince Mancini

Price: $5.19 for 8 ounces at Smart & FinalOriginal Notes:

Ruffles Flamin Hot BBQ
Vince Mancini

These look like Flamin’ Hot Ruffles, and I don’t consider myself a genius detective for saying so. Look at them, they’re big crinkle-cut jobs with lots of red powder on the outside.

Biting in, these looked really appetizing, but the thickness is weird. They don’t really crunch hard and somehow don’t really crumble either. They taste kind of stale. The seasoning is like hot pepper + molasses. I like Flamin’ Hot stuff, but I dunno, I’m not that into these.

Rating: 5.5/10

Bottom Line:

I’m a big fan of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. And as for Ruffles, I can’t really explain this, but if there’s a ranch-based, French onion or sour cream-type dip around, Ruffles are really the only choice in my mind. I don’t really use them for anything else, but I also wouldn’t use any other chip for that exact use (and I will thoroughly disgust myself with how many potato chips and French onion dip I will put down). This is a long way of saying that this is a combination of things I enjoy that’s somehow less than the sum of its parts. With all due respect to Jayson Tatum.

Wife’s Rating: 3/10

19. Kettle Brand Backyard Barbecue

Kettle Backyard BBQ
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.19 for 8.5 ounces at Target.

Original Notes:

Kettle Backyard Barbeque
Vince Mancini

Big pieces, medium fry with medium curl, bigger flecks of black pepper on the exterior.

Biting in, texture and crunch are sort of replacement-level fine. The seasoning comes on nice and smoky sweet but seems to vanish halfway through the chew. I don’t quite know how to explain this. There’s not enough potato flavor either. There’s no finish so they’re oddly non-addicting.

Rating: 5.5/10

Bottom Line:

These are like a weird optical illusion. They look like they’d be great chips, but they taste like imitation chips. The flavors don’t linger, it’s like they give you a little tease, and then they’re gone. Very strange. Even weirder, there’s a different flavor of this brand that scored much higher.

Wife’s Rating: 5/10

18. Miss Vickie’s Smokehouse BBQ

Miss Vickie's
Vince Mancini

Price: $23.99 for 16 1.375-ounce bags at Walmart.

Original Notes:

Miss Vickie's Naked
Vince Mancini

Amber, small to medium-sized, with a darkish fry. Lots of bubbles. Kettle style.

Biting in, these are … okay. Again, the taste dissipates more than it lingers. The texture of the chips is really nice, but you don’t get the chance to enjoy it much because the actual potato pieces are so small. What is this? A potato for ANTS?!

Rating: 6/10

Bottom Line:

Who knew there were so many pitfalls for a potato chip? But add “tiny potatoes” to the list.

Wife’s Rating: 5/10

17. Full Of Chips Barbecue

Full Of Chips
Vince Mancini

Price: $39.89 for 12 2.25-ounce bags

Original Notes:

Full Of Chips
Vince Mancini

Thick, deeply fried, smaller-sized chips. Very kettle-style in appearance. I wish the pieces were a little bigger.

Biting in, these are thick and kind of hard. So in that way, the smaller-sized chunks actually help. The BBQ flavor isn’t too strong. Tastes more oily/salty though.

Rating: 6/10

Bottom Line:

These were too oily and too salty. If the barbecue flavor and seasoning had been on point, I don’t think the greasiness would’ve been as big an issue, but not getting the oil or the seasoning right is a big problem.

Wife’s Rating: 1/10

16. Deep River Snacks Mesquite BBQ

Deep River Snacks Potato Chips
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.19 for 5 ounces from BevMo

Original Notes:

Deep River Snacks Chips
Vince Mancini

Thick chips with medium fry color. The pieces are bigger, and one is folded in half. Very much a kettle-style chip.

Biting in, there’s a nice crunch but maybe a little too thicc for my taste. I’d like it to melt in my mouth a little more (…in bed). The BBQ seasoning skews sweeter than smoky, which I actually like. It’s a shame, these are average to above average in most ways, but too thick overall, which makes them more of a chore to eat than addicting.

Rating: 6/10

Bottom Line:

Crunch is good, and these are definitely that, but I’m of the opinion that crunch should be fun for my mouth and not a daunting test of endurance. Thinner slices, plz.

Wife’s Rating: 5/10

15. Hawaiian Brand Luau BBQ

Hawaiian Brand Luau BBQ
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 7.5 ounces at Target

Original Notes:

Hawaiian Naked chips
Vince Mancini

These look like smaller chip fragments, with kind of a darker fry and more bubbling. The fry looks less uniform than the others I’ve had so far.

Biting in, the crunch is hard and shattery, and the BBQ flavor is bold, spicy, sweet, and intense with a lingering pepperiness. These are big, bold flavors, and crunchy chips. But the oil has an odd taste to it, or maybe too much of it just soaked into the chips.

Rating: 6/10

Bottom Line:

These are Steve Bramucci’s favorite, so his first question was whether these were the winner. To me, these felt like what I think I want out of BBQ chips but actually don’t. The seasoning was big and bold and tasty, but maybe too much of it? They were definitely too oily regardless. I feel like I’d eat a few of these and quit before they gave me heartburn.

Wife’s Rating: 3/10

14. Uglie’s Bar-B-Que

Uglie's Bbq bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $14.99 for 4 6-ounce bags on Amazon

Original Notes:

Uglie's BBQ chips
Vince Mancini

Heavily fried, thicker, kettle-looking chips. These LOOK too thick and overseasoned, but we’ll see.

Biting in, they’re not as thick as I thought, and they kind of melt in your mouth. But they are on the oily side. Seasoning is fine. These are replacement-level chips.

Rating: 6.5

Bottom Line:

I didn’t really notice the promised imperfections in these, for whatever that’s worth. They were fine. I guess I could see buying them for being the only chips named after your mom (oh!).

Wife’s Rating: 8/10

13. Route 11 Barbeque

Route 11 Potato Chips bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $52.99 for 12 6-ounce bags on Amazon

Original Notes:

Route 11 BBQ Chips
Vince Mancini

Smaller chips, darker fry, thicker chip. A little bubbling. Not folded, but definitely skews kettle-style.

Biting in, they’re not as thick as they look, and they melt in my mouth quite nicely. What’s that flavor though? Pickle? Maybe dill or coriander or something I associate with pickles? The texture is nice, but the flavor is bizarre. Are these actually pickle-flavored chips that got mislabeled?

Rating: 6.5

Bottom Line:

This one was an interesting case in that it was a nicely sized, fried, and textured chip with easily the worst seasoning of the bunch. Nothing in the ingredients list jumps out as something weird, and yet weird they were. And they’re just labeled “barbeque.” I’m honestly confused.

Wife’s Rating: 0/10 (her least favorite)

12. 365 Whole Foods Kettle Cooked Texas Style BBQ

365 Kettle Cooked Bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 10 ounces

Original Notes:

365 Kettle Cook
Vince Mancini

Medium color fry and thicker cut, these feel like classic kettle style. Not too many folds in the potatoes. Very pungent BBQ seasoning that’s different than any of the rest.

Biting in, is that lime? No, wait, mustard? This feels like mustard BBQ sauce or something. It’s interesting, but I don’t love it, and the chips are a little too thick for my taste.

Rating: 6.5/10

Bottom Line:

According to the ingredients list, there was indeed some mustard in there, along with (deep breath) “Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, Brown Cane Sugar, Organic Corn Maltodextrin, Tomato Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Natural Flavor, Gum Arabic, Red Chili Powder, Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Mustard, Modified Cornstarch, Red Pepper Sauce Powder, Vinegar, Oleoresin of Paprika, Ground Cinnamon, Ground Black Pepper, Rosemary Extract.”

I’m not sure what makes a barbecue sauce “Texas-style,” but I’m guessing chili powder? Anyway, the kettle style was a big improvement over the regular 365 chips, but the “Texas-style” seasoning wasn’t my favorite.

Wife’s Rating: 1/10

11. Lay’s Barbecue Flavored

Lay's Barbecue Bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 7.75 ounces on Target

Original Notes:

Lay's Barbeque Chips
Vince Mancini

Most of these are folded over once and medium-sized, with either a medium fry color or a heavy dusting of BBQ seasoning powder. They look halfway between kettle and regular.

Biting in, they’re nice and crumbly and they melt in your mouth more than they shatter, which is surprisingly nice. The BBQ flavor is mildly sweet and smoky. These are good but kind of one-note.

Rating: 6.5/10

Bottom Line:

These were my wife’s favorite and I was a little surprised to see old school Lay’s do as well in my own rankings. The texture of the chip was really nice, a little thinner than your standard kettle style, which can tend towards too thick and mouth hurt-y. I think our point of departure was the lack of smoke flavor in the seasoning, which was a big plus for my wife but stood out as a lack for me. I don’t need it to taste like a campfire, but a subtle hint of smoke is nice.

Wife’s Rating: 10/10 (favorite)

10. Boulder Canyon Hickory Barbeque

Boulder Canyon Bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 6.5 ounces at Target

Original Notes:

Boulder Canyon Chip
Vince Mancini

Thick, lightly fried, medium-sized chips mostly folded over once, with visible pepper flakes and lots of bubbling.

Biting in, the BBQ flavor isn’t too strong, in fact, it’s barely there. But the chips have a nice thickness — okay, maybe just a tad too thick. These are just fine otherwise.

Rating: 6.75/10

Bottom Line:

Sometimes the chips are too thick. Chips should not hurt, this is my platform. “First of all, do no harm.” That’s the Chippocratic Oath.

Wife’s Rating: 3/10

9. Pringles Scorchin BBQ

Pringle's Scorchin BBQ
Vince Mancini

Price: $1.99 for 5.57 ounces at Target

Original Notes:

Pringles Chips
Vince Mancini

These are more Pringles. Hooray, Pringles! These look slightly lighter in color with reddish powder coating them unevenly.

Biting in, what the heck is this flavor? It’s sweet, but also spicy, and… kind of cheesy? There’s a Cheez-It quality to these. Intriguing. But in a good way? I dunno.

Rating: 7/10

Bottom Line:

It’s hard to rate a Pringle against another kind of chip, but I also do love a Pringle. They may not be the best, but they’re always a Pringle, and Pringles sometimes just hit the spot. This was my least favorite flavor of Pringle though. The cheese was weird and the spice didn’t really hit and mostly it tasted like it was trying to do too much. Relax, Pringle! Take a load off. Life doesn’t have to be so hard.

Wife’s Rating: 5/10

8. The Good Crisp Company Outback BBQ

Good Crisp Company can
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 5.6 ounces

Original Notes:

Good Crisp Company Chips
Vince Mancini

Another Pringle, and I ain’t sad about it.

Biting in, these are a little smokier than the other Pringle-type ones with that Pringle biscuitiness though, and melt-in-your-mouth addictiveness. They’re more Pringle-flavored than BBQ flavored, but hey, if you’re gonna eat a Pringle, eat a Pringle.

Rating: 7/10

Bottom Line:

First of all, how are you going to give your company a fancy-pants, mid-Atlantic name like “The Good Crisp” company and then make Pringles? Are Pringles even “crisps?” Quick, someone find a Bobby or a chimney sweep to ask. Anyway, these are basically Pringles, which are 10/10 when you want a Pringle.

Wife’s Rating: 5/10

7. Pringles BBQ

Pringles BBQ
Vince Mancini

Price: $1.99 for 5.5 ounces at Target

Original Notes:

Pringles BBQ
Vince Mancini

These are quite plainly Pringles or an imitator. Light-color fry (?) and uniform, with no folds. Listen, a Pringle is a Pringle.

Biting in, they crumble more than crunch and have that biscuity kind of flavor. The seasoning is barely there, more just a mild sweetness, an overtone, or a nuance to your standard Pringle flavor. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always found these things weirdly addicting. The bbq flavor adds to the effect. I don’t know how to rate them against standard potato chips because they’re kind of a different thing, but they’re undeniably good.

Rating: 7/10

Bottom Line:

They’re Pringles.

Wife’s Rating: 8/10

6. Jackson’s Avocado Oil Sweet Potato Chips – Carolina BBQ

Jackson's Avocado Oil Bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 5 ounces at Sprouts

Original Notes:

Jackson's Avo Oil Sweet Potato Chips
Vince Mancini

Obviously sweet potato, and weirdly the only one of these. These were also cut lengthwise, which is interesting — why don’t they ever do that with regular potatoes? They really look nice and crispy.

Biting in, the texture is nice: crispy, but not too hard. Flavorwise, there’s a hint of heat and some sweetness, but it’s hard to tell whether the sweet comes from the BBQ flavoring or the sweet potato itself. It’s pretty mild, but mostly in a good way. Definitely something different, but I’d eat these.

Rating: 7/10

Bottom Line:

It’s weird that in all the places I went to buy chips I could only find one single barbecue-flavored variety of sweet potato chips. These are pretty good. Much better than sweet potato fries, in my opinion.

Wife’s Rating: 7/10

5. Lay’s Kettle Cooked Mesquite BBQ

Lay's Kettle Cooked Bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 8 ounces at Target

Original Notes:

Lay's Kettle Cooked Mesquite
Vince Mancini

Amber, orangey-brown chip, looks thicker than a Lay’s but with big pieces — not really kettle-style looking.

Biting in, the BBQ flavor is mostly sweet without a ton of smoke or spice, but well seasoned and nice. These are pretty good, if maybe ever so slightly too thick.

Rating: 7.5

Bottom Line:

These Lay’s Kettle-Cooked have the same sweet yet not-too-smokey/peppery seasoning as regular Lay’s, but in a thicker, harder, more “kettle cooked” variety. Though Lay’s version of kettle cooked has bigger potato slices (nice) and arguably not as hard/stale feeling.

Wife’s Rating: 9/10

4. Cape Cod Sweet Mesquite BBQ

Cape Cod BBQ Chips bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $12.59 for 7.5 ounces at Walmart

Original Notes:

Cape Cod Sweet Mesquite
Vince Mancini

These are fried darker with smaller, thicker pieces and more folds in them of the kind I associate with “kettle” style chips. Fairly regular brownish seasoning dusting them.

Biting in, the seasoning is the most intense yet. It’s a nice, sweet-smoky bbq flavor, and the crunch is thicker and harder but still melts in your mouth. These are good, but maybe overseasoned? I oddly miss some of that potato flavor. Still, pretty good overall.

Rating: 7.5/10

Bottom Line:

I still don’t think that wood flavor — mesquite or hickory — is my favorite in chips, but the texture and fry on these were pretty ideal. Crunchy and substantial but still melt-in-your-mouth.

Wife’s Rating: 6/10

3. Kettle Brand Bourbon BBQ

Kettle Brand Bourbon BBQ Bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $4 for 8.5 ounces at SaveMart

Original Notes:

Kettle Bourbon BBQ chips
Vince Mancini

Big pieces, thick and dark with folds, look heavily seasoned. Like kettle-style chips with big pieces.

Biting in, this is a nice kettle-style chip, and the BBQ flavoring is strong and bold. There’s an extra flavor in there though, like bourbon or heavy smoke or molasses? It’s a lot and these are pretty thick, but they’re very good. Addictive.

Rating: 8/10

Bottom Line:

A lot of times in these blind taste tests with a lot of different variations on the same thing, the ones that are a little different end up standing out in a bad way, where the weirdness comes off unpleasant, or like someone made a mistake. In this case, the “bourbon” tweak was really successful. I liked these a lot. It’s interesting, the “bourbon BBQ” flavors were one of my favorites, but the “backyard BBQ” was one of my least favorite. Do I just hate backyards? What makes a backyard BBQ different from a bourbon?

Wife’s Rating: 7/10

2. “Dirty” Deli Style Mesquite BBQ

Dirty Deli Style Chips
Vince Mancini

Price: $36.50 for 25 2-ounce bags at Amazon

Original Notes:

Dirty Deli Style Chips
Vince Mancini

Bigger potato chips, lighter in color — more like traditional Lay’s than your darker, harder, kettle-cooked chips. Some bubbling on the exterior of the chips and seasoning flecks.

Biting in, these are thicker than Lay’s, but not as hard as the kettle kind of chips. They’re crispy, but more in a crumbly way than a shattery way. They melt in your mouth. The BBQ flavor is more sweet than peppery. Nice potato flavor. Tasty. Hard not to keep eating these.

Rating: 8/10

Bottom Line:

I didn’t identify these without the bag, but I always get excited when a sandwich shop (which is where I normally find this brand) stocks these — like my favorite sandwich joint in college, Board & Brew in Del Mar, California. It’s not surprising to find them near the top of my blind tasting. Fried in a peanut oil blend with “parts of the peel left on for flavor,” the Funky Fusion flavor of this Utz product is my favorite.

Wife’s Rating: 2/10 (My wife is even more turned off by fake mesquite than I am, turns out. I’m curious how she’d rate a different flavor of Dirty chips, but I didn’t have another on hand).

1. Spud Love Organic BBQ

Spud Love Barbecue Bag
Vince Mancini

Price: $3.99 for 5 ounces at Sprouts

Original Notes:

Spud Love Organic
Vince Mancini

Sort of a gold color, thick and foldy with bigger potato pieces. Very kettle-style.

Biting in, I expected these to be overly hard but they weren’t. They have a nice crunch and the BBQ seasoning is some of the best in the bunch, sweet, smoky, and garlicky. I like these.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Bottom Line:

I get the feeling I could do this test four times on four different days and get four slightly different results. Anyway, the texture and size of these were nice. That notably garlic-heavy barbecue seasoning was that “little something extra” that put it over the top for me today. I liked everything in the top three quite a bit and there wasn’t a huge separation between them.

Wife’s Rating: 7/10

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to find many common threads because there are so many factors at play here, but I’m going to try anyway. I think the ideal chip is made from large slices of potato. It’s thicker than a traditional Lay’s but thinner than a standard kettle-style. It’s substantial and crunchy but it melts in your mouth. It’s medium-fried and not too greasy. It’s well seasoned, but not overseasoned. The barbecue flavoring has some sweet, some smoky, maybe a little heat, and a little “somethin’ extra” (bourbon, sweet onion, garlic, whatever). Ideally, it doesn’t have that weird hickory or mesquite flavor.

There, that is my second Corinthians as applied to barbecue-flavored potato chips. Have I wasted my life? Discuss.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter.

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