Food & Drink

An ode to those giant barrels of Utz Cheese Balls

utz cheese balls
All Photos by Liz Childers

They grace the snack table at almost every party. They’re always present whenever drunchies necessitate a trip to a convenience store. They’re the unsung heroes of every food-fueled social gathering, and there are more than 1,100 of them in any given barrel. I’m talking, of course, about Utz Cheese Balls -- specifically, the giant barrels of them you can find at Walmart or Target or Sam’s Club (pretty much wherever giant barrels of things are sold). It’s time they got their just desserts (or appetizers, or whatever).

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day? I probably shan’t, mostly because comparing a snack food to a time period is a kinda awkward analogy.

But you’ve gotta admit: both a Summer’s day and a giant barrel of Utz Cheese Balls are sure to satisfy anyone’s fix for something bright and airy.

utz cheese balls

My love affair with Utz’s Cheese Ball barrels began, as most people’s did, back when they were introduced in 1999 (spurred on by a suggestion from Sam’s Club, that most noble and exclusive of retailers), and I first sighted those magnificent plastic-encased orbs from across an elementary school classmate’s birthday party. The attraction was instantaneous and undeniable -- I had to have them. And I did. And I got orange dust all over my extremities, and when my mom picked me up she was really pissed that I got it all over the car.

What began that day as a dalliance soon blossomed into a lifelong commitment. Whenever I had a gathering with friends in high school, the giant barrel of Utz Cheese Balls was there. Whenever I had a party in college, and I realized that I totally forgot to eat something earlier that day, the giant barrel of Utz Cheese Balls was there. Mind you, it wasn’t the same giant barrel of Utz Cheese Balls, because that would be gross -- alas, a human being and a large container of dairy-based snacks have vastly different lifespans. Can you blame me?

utz cheese balls

Anyone who’s also partaken of a bag of Utz Cheese Balls can attest to the fact that they’re one of the most delicious cheesy snacks on the market. They’ve got an unmistakable, sharp cheddar tanginess because they’re made with real cheese, and they practically melt in your mouth. But having one bag of them is never enough, which is why you always need to get the giant 35oz barrel. Also, your friend Jeff usually finds out that you’ve got some, and you’ve got to account for the fact that he’ll eat at least half.

O, how can one malign your suggested retail price of $7.99? One cannot, because that’s a value that can’t be beat.

Data says that there’s usually around 1,100 cheese balls per barrel, which means you’re getting each individual cheese ball for less than a cent apiece. There is no cheaper date in all the universe. Not even a cupcake on Tinder.

utz cheese balls

I’m not saying there is no better snack out there than Utz Cheese Balls -- but they are definitely up there, and they were one of the first snack companies to experiment with serving vessels larger than those little, weird, greasy tins and your garden-variety bag. For that, I salute them.

Maybe there are better uses of my tender words. But giant barrels of Utz Cheese Balls have saved so many events from fading into obscurity by virtue of their day-glow orange hue, endless availability, and eminent edibility. A group of people can take a barrel of these suckers down faster than they can demolish a barrel of almost anything else, and I'm including cracker barrels.

The bottom line? Utz made it a whole lot more economical to fill up a bathtub with cheese balls. And if that isn’t worth lauding, what is?

Adam Lapetina is a staff writer for Thrillist, and his keyboard is forever stained orange. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.