It’s a debate that has rocked households, hot counters, and social media forums for years, and now Sarson’s has polled the nation, along with some influential fish and chip experts, in search of a definitive answer to the question, when it comes to the perfect chip shop chip, is it salt or vinegar first?
The results are in and 56% of Britons* say they opt for vinegar first, while 44% choose to reach for the salt. Fifty-three per cent of fish and chip lovers in the south of the UK add vinegar before salt, rising to 63% in the north and Scotland. Things become more closely tied when examining the habits of those in the midlands and Wales, where 51% add salt first, compared with 49% opting for vinegar.
Sarson’s took the findings to some influential fish and chip shop owners for their opinions. Andrew Crook, President of the National Federation of Fish Friers and owner of Skippers of Euxton in Chorley, Lancashire, had this to say: “I was always taught to add vinegar first then salt, as if you add them the other way round you can wash the salt off with the vinegar!”
John Molnar of the Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham added: “Vinegar should always be applied first to your fish and chips. This allows the salt to stick evenly to the product creating that iconic taste of hot fish and chips with lashings of Sarson’s and salt!”
However, both James Ritchie of Cheltenham’s Simpson’s Fish and Chips and Calum Richardson of The Bay in Stonehaven, offered up the alternative method of ‘salt-vinegar-salt’ – a practice with the potential to blow apart the entire debate.
James explained his logic: “We feel we have some authority on this, and my official line would be as follows: salt, then vinegar, then salt again. If you only ‘vinegar’ first, the salt sticks to that and doesn’t reach the bottom chips, but if you then add vinegar, it can wash away the first salt, hence re-salting. It is also necessary to shake the box of chips after the first salt. This is a very scientific process not to be messed with!”
Calum also shared concerns that the bottom chips could be missing out with the simple vinegar-then-salt method, advocating a best of both approach with lashings of Sarson’s: “Salt, vinegar then salt again gives you a real hit of magic and Sarson’s does the job every time.”
Michelle Constantinou, Head of Marketing for Sarson’s said: “This is a polarising issue, one which many liken to the great ‘cream or jam first’ debate. What’s obvious is that much like the ideal scone, the perfect chip is also a very personal choice for customers – indeed, our research has also uncovered that 73% of fish and chip lovers prefer to add their own salt and vinegar rather than have it added for them at the counter*. It’s great to also hear the views of some of Britain’s best operators. What’s abundantly clear is that this is a debate set to roll for some time yet. But whichever side of the debate you sit on, the important thing is to ensure you use quality vinegar. That’s why Sarson’s malt vinegar is matured for seven times longer for a rich and round taste, using quality British ingredients and the same technique for the past 200 years.”
This National Fish and Chip Day (May 27th), Sarson’s is taking the ‘salt or vinegar first?’ debate to social media and calling on chippies to cast their votes, posting their preferences, tagging Sarson’s on Facebook @sarsonsforchippies and using the hashtag #SarsonsBigDebate.
Sarson’s is also reprising its full-size 20ltr sampling campaign along with a free POS kit including a new ‘Did you know?’ poster, full of fun facts to keep customers entertained while they wait. Perfect for chippies thinking about making the switch to the UK’s number one malt vinegar brand+ or simply those who want to show their customers they are proud to serve Sarson’s+. Visit: www.switchtosarsons.co.uk for more details.
* Independent consumer insight Toluna May 2022, sample 300 consumers.
+Nielsen data 52 w/e 28th June 2019