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Oct 24, 2006 06:24 PM

Ranch Dressing, what is up with that?

At this point in our development as a civilization, ranch dressing has become one of the most popular condiments in the U.S.


I don't understand dipping french fries in it. Dipping pizza in it. Dipping hamburgers in it....all these things people do. I don't get it.

Anyone know the history of Ranch and how it came to be so popular?

Just curious.

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  1. Perhaps this article can shed some light on the issue, and offer you a few laughs at the same time.

    I definitely feel like Ranch is a West Coast thing, since it was born here and until recently the only people I knew who dipped everything in it were Californians.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pei

      Definitely not a West Coast thing. I have one nephew who will only eat a carrot or a cucumber if it is dipped in ranch dressing. And another relative who dips fries, vegatables and chicken tenders in ranch dressing. On a recent vacation with extended family from Boston, Virginia and the Mid WEst, we prepared a crudite plate each night for the kids before dinner, and i'll bet we used gallons and gallons of the stuff. I presonally don'tunderstand it, as I don't really care for it- but it seems to be popular with the children.

      1. re: macca

        The original recipe was developed at the Hidden Valley Guest Ranch in California. The commercial product named after it was developed in the labs at Clorox, which is headquartered in Oakland, California, but I believe the brand was introduced nationally. Just plain "ranch" is now a generic name for any buttermilk dressing. Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker came up with a slightly different version of the story than that in the Slate article referenced above:

        "The couple who owned Hidden Valley Ranch, near Santa Barbara, had come up with a seasoning blend of salt, pepper, onion, garlic, and parsley flakes that was mixed with equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk to make what was, by all accounts, an extraordinary dressing. Clorox tried to bottle it, but found that the buttermilk could not coexist, over any period of time, with the mayonnaise. The way to fix the problem, and preserve the texture, was to make the combination more acidic. But when you increased the acidity you ruined the flavor. Clorox's food engineers worked on Hidden Valley Ranch dressing for close to a decade. They tried different kinds of processing and stability control and endless cycles of consumer testing before they gave up and simply came out with a high-acid Hidden Valley Ranch dressing — which promptly became a runaway best-seller. Why? Because consumers had never tasted real Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, and as a result had no way of knowing that what they were eating was inferior to the original. For those in the food business, the lesson was unforgettable: if something was new, it didn't have to be perfect."

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          That's very telling. I hate all ranch dressings I recall having been exposed to except the one at CPK that they make. It is phenomenal.

          What claims to be the recipe is here:

      2. re: Pei

        I was just to about to say... what Ranch Dressing craze... in California I rarely see it on anything menus except as an option with Green Salads.

        Anyway... my guess is that it has to do with the American cooking paradox.... with everyday that passes more Americans are into Gourmet foods & cooking... but with everyday that passes Home Cooking... particularly from scratch... becomes a lost art in this country. (Generation Y'ers stastically can barely boil water). I guess Ranch Dressing is an easy way to change things up for people that don't know how to cook from scratch.

      3. There was a decent article in Slate called America's Love Affair With Ranch Dressing. It talks about the history of Ranch Dressing and how it has grown in popularity. It was invented at Hidden Valley Ranch.

        1. Just from a personal note, I really love ranch dressing with fries - not so much with pizza or burgers.

          It's a great comfort food, esp. when you have a hangover.

          I also like ranch dressing with the following:

          *McD Egg McMuffin
          *Hot dogs
          *Baked potato

          Curious, have you ever tried ranch dressing as a dipping sauce?

          I think the appeal is that it is sweet, salty and tangy all at once.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Salad yes
            Veggies yes
            Buffalo wings yes (I'm not a huge blue cheese fan)
            Chicken fingers ok
            Baked potato, it is ok
            Fries, not really but I can

            Not much else. However it is a great way to get kids to eat some items. It is a easy dressing for kids to eat, not very acidic and creamy and if it works to get kids to eat certain foods, why not.

          2. A local hamburger joint serves it with the spicy curly fries my son loves. It goes into the garbage. (Not that the fries are exactly healthy!)

            1. I used to despise the stuff and I really don't grok the mentality that's accepted it as a ubiquitous side(the taste is so idiosyncratic...comparatively...ketchup is a wallflower).

              So...I've learned to occasionally enjoy Ranch...but...urgh...I can't stand the move to replace bleu cheese dip with the concoction esp. as per Buffalo wings/strips...fie on you Ranch!