There are a many elements that define the perfect tortilla chip. A freshly fried version, made from quartered corn tortillas, is the pinnacle of the genre, but not everyone is willing to withstand the splattering oil burns that come along with making them at home. Proper salting is also key—you want your chips to have that once-you-pop-you-can't-stop quality, without being so salty that they overpower your dips.
Beyond flavor and freshness, one of the most crucial qualities to consider when buying store-bought chips is structural integrity. Of course, you want your chip to be able to stand up to all manner of dips—salsa, guac, seven-layer—without buckling under the strain. But it's a balancing act: if it's too robust, a chip becomes obstinate and wooden; too fragile, and you're left with the dreaded bag full of tortilla shrapnel.
To determine which brands are the most dippable, we developed a highly scientific stress test and put five popular store-brought varieties through the ringer, finding what percentage of chips are likely to break in the course of a standard guac dip.
Use this information as you see fit. If you're dipping alone, maybe you're willing to concede a bit of weakness to the chip's greater qualities (if that's the case, we recommend the brittle but delicious Xochitl brand). But if you're hosting a party and you don't want a bunch of grubby fingers bathing in your salsa or infesting your bean dip, it's important to know which varieties are least likely to crack under duress.
Here are the results of the tortilla chip stress test, from most to least likely to break.