This easy homemade dish beats your local diner’s version
We love breakfast potatoes. And we can eat them any style. But given our druthers, we’ll go for hash browns every time.
We particularly crave the kind of hash browns you can find at any diner. It’s hard to beat those thin, crispy cakes of shredded potatoes. Especially when they’re cooked until both sides are crusty brown.
So serve up these hash browns on Thanksgiving morning (or the day after). And bask in the happy smiles of your guests.
Recipe: Crispy Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes
There are just a few secrets for making crispy hash browns. First, choose mature potatoes, preferably russets. Second, immediately after shredding the potatoes, soak them briefly in cold water, then rinse. Third, squeeze-dry them (we use a towel). Finally, cook the shredded spuds in lots of fat (bacon grease and butter are our favorites) until crisp and brown.
You can make hash browns without soaking them (see Notes). But they do turn out better if you soak.
In the recipe below, we suggest measurements for ingredients. But it’s almost impossible to specify exact quantities. After you cook a batch of hash browns or two, you’ll figure out what ingredient quantities suit your needs.
Our recipe yields 2 to 3 servings, but it’s easy to scale up for a crowd. So feel free to double, triple, or whatever.
BTW, if you’re serving a lot of guests, we suggest cooking the hash browns on a griddle or in a large electric skillet (so the cooking surface will provide generous real estate). Because our recipe is for a smaller batch, we use a stovetop skillet. But in the Notes, we provide instructions for using an electric griddle.
Prep time for this recipe is about 10 minutes. Cooking time adds another 10 minutes or so (for each batch).
- ~1 pound russet potatoes (1 or 2, depending on size; exact quantity not critical)
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt for us; half that amount if using regular table salt—see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (5 or 6 grinds for us)
- cayenne pepper to taste (2 or 3 big pinches for us; very optional and not traditional)
- fat as needed (bacon grease, butter, or olive/vegetable oil; use a tablespoon or two—see Notes for more info)
- chopped parsley, green onions, or chives as garnish (very optional)
- Wash the potatoes and peel them (or leave them unpeeled if you wish; see Notes). Shred the potatoes using the shredding disc of a food processor (by far the easiest way) or the largest opening on a food grater. Immediately after shredding the potatoes, immerse them in a large bowl of cold water.
- Soak the shredded potatoes for a few minutes, stirring them until the water becomes cloudy. Drain the potatoes into a colander or strainer, then rinse them with cold water.
- Move the rinsed potatoes onto a large tea towel or kitchen towel (if you're doubling the recipe you want to do this in stages). Fold the towel over the potatoes and squeeze hard to remove as much liquid as possible. We often move the potatoes onto a second clean towel at this point, then squeeze again to extract even more liquid.
- Toss the shredded potatoes with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using).
- Place a medium-sized skillet (one with a diameter of about 10 inches) on medium stovetop heat. We like to use a nonstick skillet, but cast iron works quite well too. When the surface is hot (about 2 minutes), add enough fat to the skillet so that it covers the cooking surface with a thick film—every part of the griddle that the potatoes will touch should be wet. Heat the fat until hot (it’ll start to shimmer).
- Add the shredded potatoes to the skillet. Then, using a flat spatula, firmly flatten the potatoes into a thin cake (about ¼ inch or so). Push down hard with the spatula to form the potatoes into a solid cake. (You can make hash browns in thicker cakes, but the thinner ones cook faster. They are also more crispy.)
- Cook the shredded-potato cake until the first side is crispy and brown—about 5 or 6 minutes. If the cake is cooking too quickly, reduce the heat somewhat. When the first side is cooked, use a spatula to flip the cake and cook the second side. (Or if you’re feeling lucky, just flip it in the pan.)
- Cook the second side until it’s brown—usually 2 or 3 minutes. Then, using the flat spatula, divide the hash brown cake into serving sizes, and transfer the pieces onto serving plates.
- Add a garnish of chopped parsley, green onions, or chives (if you wish). Serve.
- Why soak the shredded potatoes? Because cold water helps prevent oxidation—which can turn freshly cut potatoes an unappetizing brown. Soaking also removes some starch from the potatoes, which makes for crisper hash browns.
- And why squeeze the shredded potatoes to remove moisture? Because wet potatoes don’t brown well. Remember that all potatoes (even unsoaked ones) naturally contain lots of moisture.
- BTW, russet (mealy) potatoes have lower moisture content than red/boiling (waxy) potatoes. So they’re the potato you want to use in this dish.
- We suggest squeezing the potatoes in a towel. But some cooks do the job with a potato ricer. Use whatever works for you.
- If you’re cooking for a crowd, you may need to squeeze the potatoes in batches.
- Even if you elect not to soak the potatoes, we still suggest squeezing the moisture out of them. You’ll get crisper hash browns that way.
- We usually peel potatoes when making hash browns, but you needn’t bother if you don’t want to. They’ll be just as good with the skins (maybe even better).
- We sometimes cook individual servings of hash browns in 6-inch nonstick skillets. (That’s what you see in the pictures accompanying this post.)
- If using an electric griddle or skillet, heat it to 350 degrees F. When hot, add enough fat to cover as much of the surface of the griddle as the potatoes will occupy. Add the shredded potatoes to the griddle or skillet, then flatten them into a large cake of ¼ inch or so. Cook the shredded-potato cake until the first side is crispy brown (5 or 6 minutes), then turn the cake over. You can flip the cake in one piece using 1 or 2 flat spatulas (though this can be difficult with a large quantity of potatoes). If the shredded-potato cake is too large to turn in one piece, use a flat spatula to divide it into smaller cakes, then flip them over individually. Cook the second side(s) until brown, then serve.
- If you’re making a very large quantity of hash browns and need to do several batches, you can stash the first batches in a warm oven while you cook the rest: Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. As each batch of hash browns is done, just place them on a paper towel-covered baking tray and move them to the oven. The hash browns may lose a bit of crispness if they wait too long, but they’ll still taste good.
- So how much fat to use in cooking the potatoes? The more fat you use, the browner and crisper the potatoes will be (particularly the first side, which—when flipped—is the side the diner sees). You should add a generous coating of fat to the cooking surface—no part of the surface that the potatoes touch should be without fat. If you don’t use enough fat, the hash browns won’t get as brown or crisp.
- Remember that the potato cake will absorb some of the cooking fat—so use fat that tastes good. Butter is superb (but make sure you don’t burn it; or use clarified butter, which prevents that from happening). Bacon fat or lard is also wonderful. Otherwise, use a mild-tasting olive oil, or a neutral-tasting oil. We sometimes use half butter and half oil.
- If you use flavorful fat, the hash browns will taste better than those that most restaurants serve. Why? Because restaurants use commercial liquid shortening (often called something like “griddle fry”) to cook hash browns. This commercial-grade cooking oil is cheaper than what you’ll be using—and it generally doesn’t have much flavor. Need we say more?
- How much salt and black pepper should you use? Really, whatever tastes good to you. Becoming a good cook means learning how to season food to your taste. If you’re unsure at first, start by adding less salt than you think you’ll need (you can always add more at table). We find that we end up using less salt if we season as we cook.
- We always use kosher salt for cooking. Kosher salt has big flakes, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly” as regular table salt. Hence, it’s usually less salty by volume. So if you’re using regular table salt rather than kosher salt, use only about half as much.
- Some people like to cook hash browns with onion. These taste good, but onions and potatoes don’t cook at the same speed. So we prefer to brown the onions separately, then pile them on top of the hash browns when serving.
- You can find frozen hash browns at the grocery store. They’re not bad—and the companies that sell them do the soaking and squeezing for you. But your own hash browns will taste better.
- What to serve with hash browns? The classic accompaniments are bacon and eggs (as shown in the photos accompanying this post). But really, the possibilities here are limited only by your imagination.
Hashing it Up
“Love me some spuds,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, forking her hash browns.
“I made a hash of these,” I said.
“That pun went out of bounds,” said Mrs K R. “I’m moving it back to the hash mark.”
“Sorry,” I said. “Don’t want to brown you off.”
“Nevermind, these hash browns are delicious,” said Mrs K R. “You’re a real hash-slinger.”
“I actually worked at a hash-house years ago,” I said. “I can cook some mean short-order.”
“We should think of a hashtag for this post,” said Mrs K R.
"We’ll need to hash out that idea,” I said.
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