How To Make the Best Hash Browns

The Princess loves hash browns. In fact, for breakfast today I ended up shredding 4 medium-sized russet potatoes in my Cuisinart and somehow they all disappeared between the bellies of myself and the Princess. (Let me tell you, I was pacing myself so that I would have one bite to every three that she had, so my 50-pound, 6-year-old must have eaten three potatoes.)

She’s a chip off the ol’ block. According to family folklore, my first favorite American food was the potato chip. I consider hash browns a close relative.

How would I define the “best” hash browns? They are crispy and tender, not mushy or greasy. Ideally they should be able to stand on their own—ketchup optional.

Although in theory they should be simple to make, the only thing easy about them is making them mushy/greasy. In the spirit of America’s Test Kitchen, I decided to experiment.

Here’s what I’ve tried:

  • Test 1: after shredding, lightly toss in oil and partially bake in oven and then pan fry (to see if dry oven heat would help)
  • Test 2: rinse shredded potatoes (to remove starch) and briefly soak in ice bath (using ice to perk up the potatoes), and then fry
  • Test 3: dry potatoes with towel after shredding (to remove moisture/excess starch in order to make potatoes crispy); add to non-stick pan of hot oil (not too much—just enough to make sure the potatoes don’t stick to pan) and lower heat slightly after a few minutes to avoid burning while giving potatoes some time to cook.

Of these methods, I’ve found that Test 3 worked best. The trick is to make sure the oil is hot (but not too hot), and also to let the potato shreds set instead of keeping on flipping them. (Goal is to not flip them more than once…or, ok, twice.) You’ll know when to flip when you see the bottom slightly browning. Be careful when flipping—you don’t want to burn yourself.

Depending on my mood, sometimes I like to add a little bit of shredded onion as the first side is browning. Some people prefer to season their hash browns with a bit of garlic salt. The Princess prefers to eat her hash browns with her fingers and to dip each bite with ketchup. (Talk about finger-lickin’ good.)

Bon appetit!

_____

Note: Another way to remove excess moisture from potato shreds is by using a salad spinner. The downside is that you have another contraption to clean, but at least you’re not throwing away tons of paper. Also, it’s easier to clean than a kitchen towel, which I found I had to soak in Oxy-clean for a day or so to remove the brownish/gray stain that came from the potato starch.

Use organic potatoes for better taste. Today (7/3/09) I tried some, and they were divine!

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