Potato Showdown: French Fries vs. Potato Chips – 12 Key Insights

French fries and potato chips come from the same vegetable, but that doesn’t mean they are the same product once processed. There are some obvious differences like the shape that set them apart from each other, but what are some of the non-obvious differences?

Potato chips have almost double the calories and carbohydrates of french fries. French fries are double-fried, don’t stay fresh for very long, and don’t usually come out of a vending machine. The fat content of french fries is more than half less than that of potato chips. 

French Fries vs. Potato Chips:

Cooked when order.Already fully cooked.
Served at room temperature.Packed in nitrogen-filled bags.
Often sold at restaurants.Often sold in vending machines.
Fewer carbs: 35 grams (100 gm serving).More Carbs: 53 grams (100 gm serving).
Less fat: 16 grams (100 gm serving).More fat: 35 grams (100 gm serving).
Less protein: 3.5 grams (100 gm serving).More protein: 7 grams (100 gm serving).
Lower in calories: 297 grams (100 gm serving).Higher in calories: 533 grams (100 gm serving).
Fried (Often twice) or baked.Fried or baked.
Warm, soft, and crispy.Thin and crispy.
Short shelf life.Long shelf life.
Idaho potatoes (Russet potatoes).Russet Burbank potatoes.

Let’s dive in and discover some interesting trivia between french fries and potato chips.

1. Fries Are Cooked to Order.

When someone orders fries in a fast-food restaurant or a diner, they are made right when the order comes in. The reason is that when fries get cold, they taste like grease and get soggy, which contributes to customer disappointment. Fries are cooked to order to keep customers coming back.

2. Fries Are Best When Bought and Eaten Fresh.

Fresh fries are tastier and crispier than they are after they’ve sat for even a few minutes. When french fries are served after they’ve sat for a while, customers will most likely be disappointed with the taste. Fries become soggy and cold after just a few minutes, due to the oil cooling off. Baked fries, however, retain their freshness longer. 

3. Potato Chips Are Packed in Nitrogen Filled Bags.

Nitrogen helps keep potato chips fresh in the bag until the customer is ready to eat them. It is added to keep the chips from oxidizing and going stale before they are sold and eaten. Since it is a stable and unreactive gas, nitrogen is used in many food packages to keep food fresher longer. 

Many people assume that this is just air added, so the stores make more profits. But this assumption is false because if the nitrogen gas were not added, the chips would have a much shorter shelf life.

4. Potato Chips And Fries Come Out of Vending Machines.

When people buy potato chips out of a vending machine, or in a store, no matter how long they’ve been there, they are still fresh and crispy. This is because they are packaged with nitrogen gas, which keeps them from being stale and soggy. Although not common in the states, there are some vending machines that dispense hot French fries; however, the fries are cooked right on the spot.

5. Fries Are Lower in Carbohydrates.

French fries, per 100-gram serving, have 35 grams of carbohydrates, while the same amount of potato chips have over 50 grams of carbohydrates. With that being said, eating either option gives you more carbs than you might bargain for, especially if you are trying to follow a low-carb diet. 

6. Potato Chips Are Higher in Calories.

Potato chips have almost twice the amount of calories per serving than french fries. Per 100 grams, potato chips have over 500 calories, while the same amount of french fries clocks in at 297 calories. If you are following a low-calorie diet, both french fries and potato chips are going to be a once-in-a-while treat for you. 

7. Potato Chips and Fries Can Be Fried or Baked.

Many chip brands’ claim to fame is that they offer baked potato chips over fried while assuming that baked potato chips are somehow healthier than fried potato chips. But, potato chips still maintain their crispy mouthfeel, whether baked or fried, without losing their signature texture. 

Consumers who are looking to be healthy typically gravitate to the baked potato chips or french fries, thinking they are doing themselves a dietary favor, as they are avoiding more fat this way.

8. French Fries Are Double Fried.

French fries are usually double-fried to get that crispy shell with a soft and mushy center. While they can be oven-baked, they don’t get that same crispiness when fried in hot oil. 

Since fries are cooked to order, most fast-food restaurants buy their fries partially cooked and flash-frozen, making it necessary only to prepare them once when requested. French fries cooked this way only take a few minutes for the second cooking.

9. Potato Chips Are Thin and Crispy.

Unless the bag is open and has been for a while, potato chips stay crispy indefinitely for a long time. Since they are dry when packaged and sealed, they have an advantage over french fries, because they maintain this until they are consumed.

While the processing from potato to chips or fries are somewhat similar, the end packaging results are different. Fries are cooked once, then frozen and packaged to send to stores and restaurants. Chips are cooked all the way, de-oiled, then packaged for sale to consumers. 

10. French Fries Have a Warm Soft Center.

When hot out of the fryer, French fries have a crisp shell and a warm, soft center that creates just the right balance for pairing with a juicy burger. The soft center comes from the double fry process. When fries are parboiled in the first fry, they are cooked to the center, but the outer shell doesn’t form just yet. The crispy crust comes from the second fry time.

Food manufacturers add extra ingredients to frozen fries, so they fry up just right or keep them from turning brown in the freezer. Other added ingredients are there to keep the oil from bubbling up when the frozen fries are added to the hot oil.

11. Fries Usually Have a Very Short Shelf Life.

Restaurant fries stay fresh and hot for about five minutes before they begin to get cold and soggy, so they often throw out any unsold fries on a schedule and make more throughout the day. While this may seem like a waste, it is necessary to keep customers happy. Plus, there is no way to reheat them to bring them back to their original crispy state.

While preservatives are added to keep the fries fresh while stored in the freezer, there is nothing added to keep the fries fresh once they are cooked the second time. 

12. Potato Chips and French Fries Are Mass-Produced.

Potato chips are mass-produced in a factory and then shipped to grocery stores, convenience stores, and machine vendors worldwide. While French Fries are usually shipped frozen to restaurants and grocery stores. 

Producers look for round potatoes, as they are the perfect shape. When making french fries, producers look for long, rectangular potatoes to get those long fries.

A rather funny story on how potato chips came to be is that a restaurant cook, in 1853, got angry about a customer’s request to have very thin fries. After not being able to please the customer, he sliced the potato to an almost paper-thin consistency and fried them. The customer loved them, and that is how potato chips became popular.

Last Word

French fries and potato chips have several things in common, such as coming from potatoes, but they also have many differences. 

Keep in mind that most fried foods, whether they are french fries or potato chips, have an increased amount of acrylamide, which is a neurotoxin. The toxin has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer. But acrylamide only occurs when temperatures are over 365℉ (185℃). Baked fries or potato chips may contain less of this toxin.

Both foods, regardless of their differences, have a place in the American diet and will keep their place for many years to come.

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.