The perfect crunch? Frito-Lay files patent on toast-free tortilla chip production

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Kichigin
© Getty Images / Kichigin
Frito-Lay has developed a method to manufacture tortilla chips without oven toasting or fresh corn processing, providing a cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional production.

Writing in its international patent,​ the global snack major and PepsiCo subsidiary said it had developed a dough blend using starches and corn masa flour that enabled the chips to be cooked directly, without losing the desired crunch or surface blistering.

Frito-Lay said its method could be used to make traditional two-dimensional, triangular tortilla chips or three-dimensional, shaped chips that could stack or be used with dips, like its Fritos and Tostitos Scoops brands.

“There is a need in the art to provide a method of manufacturing snack food chips, in particular tortilla chips, that can provide a product of highly acceptable appearance and morphology to the consumer, in particular with a controlled level of blistering, and which can be produced in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” ​it wrote in its patent filing.

Traditionally, blistering was achieved with an oven toasting step to harden the outer surface of the raw dough ahead of frying but it said it could skip this step thanks to a carefully formulated starch-based dough mix. It could also avoid the corn soaking and processing step because its mix used corn masa flour rather than raw corn masa.

“The absence of an oven or toasting unit and the absence of a corn soaking unit in the tortilla chip manufacturing line reduces the capital costs and running costs of the manufacturing line. Also, the absence of a corn soaking unit simplifies the tortilla chip manufacturing process,” ​it wrote.

Starch-based blend

Frito-Lay said its dough was made using a blend of three starch components: a cold water swelling starch, like a pre-gelatinized cereal flour, including corn, wheat, barley, rice or spelt at an inclusion rate of 5-30 wt%; a substantially ungelatinized starch, like tapioca or corn starch at 10-40 wt%; and a starch blended with fine and coarse corn masa flour at an inclusion of 35-75 wt%.

“Without being bound by any theory, it is believed by the present inventors that the specific dough composition forms a continuous starch network from the initial cold water swelling starch, which has particles of corn masa distributed in the matrix. After cooking, the tapioca starch expands and blisters are formed. Such a dough is cohesive and readily sheetable, and in turn permits the formation of a uniform and regular distribution of blisters during the frying process, and the absence of cracks or through-holes in the resultant tortilla chips​.”

A uniform blistered surface without holes gave consumers the “particular visual characteristics” ​they were looking for, it said, providing a “more natural hand-fried appearance as compared to a uniformly flat surface”​.

Whilst it was possible to add fresh corn masa or raw corn flour into the mix, Frito-Lay said this was unnecessary because corn masa flour gave good taste, desired material properties and meant the provision of fresh corn could be avoided in the production line.

“In the most preferred embodiments of the present invention, the dough does not comprise a fresh corn masa ingredient.”

Mixing method

To make the dough, Frito-Lay said the three starch components were mixed together dry and then water added and mixing continued for no more than 60 seconds, until the cold water swelling starch formed a gel matrix in the dough. During mixing, a liquid emulsifier was added to bind to the free starch and therefore control blister formation during cooking, ideally a monoglyceride component.

“The monoglyceride component is provided in a concentration which is sufficiently high to control blister formation but not so high that so much free starch has been complexed that there is insufficient free starch remaining in the dough for expansion of the second starch-containing component, for example tapioca starch, to cause expansion of the starch matrix during frying.”

The dough, formed at a temperature of between 5 and 20°C, was then sheeted to a thickness of 0.5 – 1.5mm, cut into the desired shapes – 2D or 3D – and fried at around 180°C for 15-30 seconds, baked or microwaved.

Source: WIPO International Patent No. WO2018065573
Published: April 12, 2018. Filed: October 16, 2017
Title: “Manufacture of snack food chips”
Authors: Frito-Lay Trading Company GMBH