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Why Are Doritos So Good at Getting Campfires Started?

Doritos have a surprising talent beyond satisfying snack cravings—they're excellent fire starters! Their secret lies in the corn-based chips' oils and hydrocarbons, which ignite easily, making them perfect kindling for a roaring campfire. Intrigued by how a snack can turn into a survival tool? Discover the science behind this fiery phenomenon and what other snacks might just save your next camping trip.

Since the invention of Doritos in 1966, people have taken delight in eating these tasty corn chips in an ever-increasing number of flavors. In addition to satisfying the need to snack, however, Doritos can serve another purpose: like all dried corn snacks, Doritos are highly flammable and can serve as tinder to start a campfire. So if you're ever in a pinch and need to get your fire started quickly, just open a bag of Doritos (or Fritos, Cheetos, etc.)

Doritos are made with approximately 30 ingredients, but there are three primary ones that make them so flammable. Doritos burn easily because they’re made with cornstarch, which contains a significant amount of energy in the form of carbohydrates and can be used as fuel. Doritos are also coated in vegetable oil, which is highly flammable. This ingredient helps sustain a flame for a substantial period of time. In fact, a single chip can hold a decent flame for 30-60 seconds. Lastly, the salt in Doritos keeps the chips crispy and dry, making them easier to burn.

Doritos and other dried corn snacks are highly flammable and can take the place of a fire-starter or kindling.
Doritos and other dried corn snacks are highly flammable and can take the place of a fire-starter or kindling.

Even the shape of Doritos is beneficial for their use as a fire starter. They’re curved and thin, which provides for gaps in stacking. This helps enable the oxygen needed for a fire to burn. The flavor of Doritos does not affect their use as a fire starter, but it's worth noting that stale chips do not burn as well as fresh ones. Interestingly, however, crushed Doritos burn just as well as whole ones.

Flamin' hot:

  • In 1966, the first "toasted corn" Doritos were released. They were followed by the “Taco” flavor and then the ever-popular “Nacho Cheese.” New flavors of Doritos have been added regularly since the 1980s.

  • The name “Doritos” comes from the Spanish word “doradito,” or “small, fried, golden thing.” The first Doritos were created in a restaurant called “Casa De Fritos” as a way to make use of spare tortillas.

  • In 2019, a man in Spokane, Washington used Doritos to light a convenience store on fire. This led to a standoff with police, and eventually, an arrest was made.

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    • Doritos and other dried corn snacks are highly flammable and can take the place of a fire-starter or kindling.
      Doritos and other dried corn snacks are highly flammable and can take the place of a fire-starter or kindling.