Photo: Tim Morris
The word doritos is supposedly pidgin Spanish for “little bits of gold.” The main ingredient in these bits of gold is heated and steeped in an alkaline solution, usually lye or lime. This frees up the corn’s niacin and balances some of its amino acids, leading to better protein quality.
Each chip is nearly 29 percent fat by weight, and almost all of that is corn oil, sunflower oil, or soybean oil. That’s good, because fat activates the brain’s natural mu-opioid receptors, provoking what scientists call a hedonic response.
Simple pasteurized cow milk, used as the basis for the two cheeses.
Cheddar cheese cultures
Usually Lactococcus lactis cremoris bacteria. They’re injected into the milk during the cheese-making process, and their enzymes break down milk proteins into various smelly/tasty compounds.
Some people swear they can taste ketchup on these chips, even though tomatoes aren’t on the ingredient list. Since the principal component of a tomato’s flavor is glutamic acid, it is possible (Frito-Lay isn’t talking) that the addition of MSG and a few spices is responsible for the taste sensation.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists seven criteria, any three of which makes a substance addictive. Salt has four of them: withdrawal symptoms, the development of tolerance, inability to control level of usage, and difficulty quitting or restricting (even with full knowledge of health hazards).
The last piece of the unholy trinity: fat, salt, sugar. Lab rats given sugar show an increase in their brain’s D1 (excitatory) receptors and a decrease in D2 (inhibitory) receptors. Just like lab rats given cocaine! Over time, they need more and more—blow or sugar—to get high.
Natural beef flavor
If you pressure-cook clarified beef stock and then distill away the water, you’re left with chemicals like 4-hydroxy-5-methyl-3(2H)-furanone, 2-methyl-3-furanthiol, and Bis(2-methyl-3-furyl) disulfide. All the flavor of a hamburger with none of the nutrition.
Swiss cheese cultures
Those bubble holes in Swiss cheese? The acne sores on your face? They’re both the result of gas and acids given off by members of the propionibacterium family, which have been distilled into these chips.
Different kinds of maltodextrin can be used as a fat substitute or fiber supplement, but here its absorptive qualities and lack of taste are put to use as a medium for delivering the beef and cheese flavors to your mouth.
Onions complete the cheeseburger—their sulfurous goodness strengthens the savory flavor of the meaty compounds.
Mustard seed powder
What’s a cheeseburger without mustard? But the most common complaint about this snack is that Frito-Lay went too heavy on the stuff. It’s so hard to fake things just right.