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Beware the Imi-Taters

Before 1954, the irregular potato shavings left over from french fry production were fed to livestock or simply discarded.

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Frustrated with the waste, brothers F. Nephi and Golden Grigg decided to do something about it.

And so, the Tater Tot was born.

Now, Tater Tots are found in both school lunchrooms and in fancy restaurants across the U.S., transcending the “cheap” connotations behind frozen food. They've become an easy side dish to many classic American meals, from cheeseburgers to fried chicken.

Ore-Ida, the Grigg brothers' company, trademarked the name Tater Tot ages ago, but as the beloved favorites have become a household name over the past 60 years, the company has run into freeloaders with imitating products trying to ride the Tater Tot wave for their own benefit.

Enter the Imi-Taters. 

Like Kleenex and Band-Aid, Tater Tot has the complex problem of being so popular that people call anything resembling a Tater Tot a "Tater Tot," regardless of whether they're from the original company. Because of this problem, Ore-Ida created a fantastic campaign a couple years ago that reminds consumers that potato jewels and potato bites are not Tater Tots. 

 

A tater tot isn’t like a frozen corndog or hot pocket — it’s a complicated masterpiece and a pain in the butt to make from scratch. Ore-Ida wants credit for creating its six-step process of mashing and molding the potato scraps into a deliciously seasoned, bite-sized snack. But beyond marketing campaigns, there doesn't seem to be a way to edge out the offbrand. 

Regardless of whether people go for the original or the Walmart brand, one thing many can agree on is that making a Tator Tot or an imitation isn't an easy undertaking.

F—- making them. I always buy them frozen. There is no benefit from making them unless you are a sadist.
— Dale Talde, chef

Dale Talde, head chef and founder of the casual Asian-American restaurant Talde in South Brooklyn, put it best when he told Eater earlier this year: “F--- making them. I always buy them frozen. There is no benefit from making them unless you are a sadist.”

If you're interested in being a Tater Tot sadist, try out this fancy recipe that takes 12 HOURS to make for 24 TOTS:
Ingredients

  • 2 qt. duck fat, clarified butter, canola oil, or a mixture
  • 2 lb. Idaho Potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped thyme
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Instructions
1. Line an 8” x 8” square baking dish with parchment paper and set aside. Fill a 6-qt. Dutch oven with fat; add potatoes and cook until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 220°, and potatoes are translucent and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Strain, saving fat; season potatoes with thyme and salt. Press potatoes into prepared sheet tray and refrigerate overnight.

2. Heat reserved fat in a 6-qt. Dutch oven until a deep-fry thermometer reads 360°. Slice potatoes into 2 1⁄2" x 1" rectangles; working in batches, fry potatoes until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a wire rack; season with salt and serve immediately.

Because I don't know my culinary limits, I'll be making my own tots from scratch next week. Stay tuned.

And, for the heck of it, here is another one of the Imi-Taters ad campaign videos for your enjoyment:

Kyra Haas