British chips smell of ironing boards, study finds 

26th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Chips should perhaps be treated like wine is in France or Italy, where connoisseurs appreciate its complexities, scientist says.

London -- Scientists in Britain have isolated the smells of chips, finding that their aroma includes the smells of butterscotch, onion and ironing boards.

In a study released earlier this month, researchers at Leeds University used a process known as gas chromatography mass spectrometry to isolate some 46 different compounds -- and then asked real people to describe what they smell like.

"Ironing board was one that came up," along with butterscotch, cocoa, onion, flowers and cheese, said David Gough, commenting on the study to highlight National Chip Week.

Dr. Graham Clayton suggested that chips, or French fries, should perhaps be treated like wine is in France or Italy, where connoisseurs appreciate its complexities. Britain is famous for its fish and chip shops.

"The humble chip doesn't smell of just chips -- the aroma is much more complex," he said. "Perhaps these findings will see chips treated like wine in the future -- with chip fans turning into buffs as they impress their friends with eloquent descriptions of their favourite fries."

The way the chips are cooked can be crucial.

"The research showed that the relationship between the potatoes, the oil, the temperature and cooking, as well as adding condiments or foods, affects the aroma profile of the chips," Clayton said. "Like a fine perfume, chips can be made up of different aroma combinations, so there is always something for everyone and every occasion.”

Clayton also said the length that chips are cooked affects their smell. "Lightly cooked or undercooked chips were found to contain three simple aromas including bitter cocoa,” he said. “A little extra cooking was shown to produce a more complex aroma profile, with up to nine different aromatic notes."


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