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The Secrets of Good Homefries

Ask Metafilter doesn't often cover cooking, but when it does, it's usually insightful, as it's an intense, distilled community of smart people without a lot of chatter and inanity (sort of like Chowhound!).

They have a very active and interesting thread going on about making great homefries:

If anyone has comments on the topic in general or the metafilter suggestions, specifically, I'd love to hear them. I'm hoping to one day devise a relatively healthy home fry recipe that still tastes good.


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  1. I haven't yet checked out metafilter but I think the first step is to start with a baked or otherwise cooked 'tater and saute onions and garlic and diced green/red bell pepper and either slices or clumps of the 'taters with butter or a good substitute (olive oil or Earthbalance) and garlic in the highest heat the fat will stand before smoking/burning the food...and Tabasco of course!

    14 Replies
    1. re: jbyoga

      The problem I always have starting with cooked potatoes is they fall apart so easily.

      As for the green/red bell pepper, I can try to forgive you.

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Maybe you could try cooking the potatoes a little less before making the hashbrowns - so that they are still a little firm/crunchy, letting the heat from making the hashbrowns cook complete the cooking process.

        1. re: MMRuth

          That's what I do, and it works great.

          Besides that, onions are a must, and I like to season with salt and cumin.

          1. re: piccola

            quick note, I know many of my fellow forumites are penzeys-crazies, but their powdered cumin is really REALLY better than the norm. Amazing diff. Might want to try it. http://penzeys.com/

            1. re: Jim Leff

              Does Penzey's roast the cumin before grinding it? They don't mention it. A tremendous improvement in flavor.

              Make your own by toasting raw cumin seeds for about 45-60 second in a hot, heavy pot or skillet. Remove to a spice grinder and, well....grind. Heaven.

              1. re: toodie jane

                You're the third person this week to insist that it's better to roast and grind from seed. But if you get a chance, just smell Penzey's powdered cumin. I can't believe that life (let alone powdered spice) could get much better than that.

                I like Penzey's very much (though I wish they'd broaden their spice line rather than move increasingly into blends for newbies). But nothing transcends McCormick's like their powdered cumin...

        2. re: Jim Leff

          To prevent the potatoes from falling apart, use waxy (not russet) spuds and cook them in a non-stick skillet.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            do you get a good crunchy crust in nonstick?

            1. re: Jim Leff

              > do you get a good crunchy crust in nonstick?

              Yes, but you need a decent amount of oil and/or butter, and the temperature has to be right - too low and they don't crust up. too high and they cook unevenly and can scorch. Use a big enough pan that they're not too crowded, and turn them often and carefully - my wife says I obsess when doing this, but my son says my home fries are way better than hers! ;-)

            2. re: alanbarnes

              The red bliss or white new potatoes are what I use. I cube then cook them in the microwave for about 7 minutes first. Then you get the pan very hot, put in a little canola oil and fry the potatoes until golden and crispy. I always add onion. Delish!!!

              1. re: Neta

                ah! that's a good one! the nuker!

            3. re: Jim Leff

              A trick I learned from Sara Moulton is that if you cook the potatoes the night before and refrigerate overnight, they become firm.

              1. re: Marge

                I do it that way. I put the potatoes (red) whole into a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for just a minute or two. Then i let them sit in the hot water until I have time to deal with them..usually 10 minutes or so. I run them under cold water until they are cool, drain and chill whole. Then I cube or slice, toss with seasoning & olive oil, and peppers, onions or whatever and cook in the morning. Yummy!

              2. re: Jim Leff

                place chopped potatoes in cold water, than removing when water begins to boil, works for myself, soft on the outside yet firm in the middle

            4. Red potatos or Yukon Golds, parboiled first. (The refrigerating sounds good...)

              Paprika towards the end adds great color and flavor -- hot, sweet, smoked -- whatever you like. No bell peppers of any color unless you're serving Chalula on the side.

              1. I use yukons, about 1" cubes, with a chopped sweet onion and a little salt in a generous amount of olive oil. The potatoes aren't parboiled, and are cooked covered on medium heat until they soften, turning them over and adding more olive oil and a little salt if needed near the end. It takes quite a bit of oil to help them brown and to keep the potatoes from seeming dry.

                The onions get carmelized, and it's a pretty tasty side.

                    1. re: BobB

                      I used goose fat to cook up some cracked potatoes (baby yukons from my local farmer's market) for Christmas and they were AMAZING. My husband just loved him and he is -- to put it kindly -- a less than adventurous eater. He's always refused to try my Christmas goose -- I have to make him a standing rib roast. But he keeps going on and on about how the cracked potatoes were the best ever and I just sit here smirking. I'll never tell.

                      1. re: Fuser

                        It's the miracle ingredient! My wife is Russian and she'll cook just about anything in goose fat.

                  1. Cook's Illustrated had a recipe, which included par-boiling the potatoes for seven minutes (I think), then frying them in a single layer - which works really well for me.

                    1. My method is to cube the spuds, soak & rinse them well to offload (sticky) starch, put them in a pan with a knob of goose fat, almost cover with water, turn to high to boil off water (which cooks them just enough) stirring/shaking just often enough to keep 'em mobile, lower heat and saute, adding onion toward the end so it doesn't get bitter. S & P. The limitation is that more than a healthy layer can mean too much water, so too much cooking, so mush.

                      1. My mom always made fried potatoes from leftover boiled ones, making sure to boil plenty in the first place. These were cooked slowly with some onion in bacon grease, and came out crusty, slightly gooey, and drop-dead good. I mostly do mine from leftover small roasted ones, usually White Rose or creamers (making sure to roast plenty in the first place, yes), and I cook them more quickly, in olive oil with maybe a splash of bacon grease. I like to add chopped onion and chopped poblano or Hungarian wax peppers, and after the potatoes are browned I let everything sort of steam together under a lid before giving them a final flip or two over high heat. Yessir, and I'll have two over easy with those - just lay'em on top, there.

                        1. To me, home fries and hash browns are two very different animals (okay, vegetables...)

                          I deep fry home fries in my (roughly) 10wX4d cast iron pan in 1/2" to 3/4" fat of choice, then finish with whatever pre-cooked enhancements I want.

                          chop onion, peppers, garlic, whatever you want, and start on a low sautee. Get CI pan /fat heating on high, scrub RAW potatoes, peeled or not to your taste (I don't peel) and cut into 'bout 1/2" cubes, then toss into hot CI. When potatoes are very well browned, add to sautee'd stuff, toss well and heat together for a few minutes.Salt and serve.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: OldDog

                            Ok, I got this from a gal at my local Farmers' Market. My rendition is this: First, I cut (whatever variety you want and in whatever shape) potatoes and put in a large bowl (large enough to comfortably toss the potatoes in). Then in olive oil and depending on my mood, maybe some butter, I saute onion but do not let it brown. I add peppers shortly there after as they don't need to cook as long and lastly I add roughly chopped (leaving some large pieces) garlic. Once the garlic is added, I only saute BRIEFLY. Oh yes, add whatever spices you want to the saute as it helps bring out the flavor not forgetting salt. I then pour my sauted veggies over the potatoes and toss. I bake the whole thing in a clear glass pyrex pan in a 375 - 400 degree oven (depending on how well you will be watching it). Once and a while you should take a spatula to lift and toss so as to try not to break up the potatoes to get as much of the surface crunchy. The veggies will get nicely carmelized and you can fight over who is going to pick the left over crunchy stuff out of the pan.

                          2. Here's a few specific things I do:

                            Precooking the potatoes to about 90% done helps a lot, and is best done the night before. I cook them already cut, a quick boil (meaning "for a short time" and not "rapidly boiling") to soften them. To my mind, cooking them already cubed is a lot easier than cutting them after they are almost done.

                            After pre-cooking the potatoes, while still warm, I spread them out to dry on a plate, cookie sheet, towel, in a colander, or whatever will hold the potatoes in a single layer and allow water to evaporate. When dry, you can store overnight, taking care to make sure they do not get to soggy. This also works fine the morning of if you start enough in advance, the trick is to make sure there is time for them to evaporate dry and cool to room temp.

                            I start my cooking with hot oil - never butter, which smokes and burns to easily.

                            Add potatoes (sometimes good mixed with sweet potatoes, or rutabega, or..) FIRST! This lets them brown well, if the onions are already in the pan, the potatoes just steam in their juices. I add potatoes to hot oil, and a little salt. Do not add to much, you want a single layer of potatoes in the pan. Do not play with them or stir to much, let them sit a while to brown, then shake the pan a little to toss them.

                            After the potatoes start to turn golden, add onions, garlic, spices and whatever else you want - jalepeno is ok, green chile is ok, I would not do bell pepper but to each their own, and if you are to do it, now is the time. I like either fresh rosemary or sage or cumin or paprika - usually not more than one of them at a time, with salt and fresh ground pepper. Usually I don't add much more than onions and garlic, salt and pepper, and one spice or herb.

                            Once the onions are in you can stir a little more regularly to prevent sticking, but still make sure to let things sit still long enough to brown and caramelize. When the onions get brown and the whole thing starts to look like home fries, and smell like home fries, it probably tastes like home fries too.

                            Great topped with a little sriracha and grated cheddar, or tossed with a little harissa, or just with an egg over easy on top or on the side.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: andytee

                              Great thread. Couldn't agree more per cooking the potatoes already cubed/cut/etc. To this end, I've had great success with nuking said cubes in the microwave. A little experimentation will go a long way here in terms of doneness (and how else are you gonna cook potatoes in just a few minutes?).

                            2. Cold leftover baked potatoes. Peel with your hands, not a peeler. Old fashioned large holed grater. LOTS OF BUTTER. Lots of salt and pepper. Some grated onion never hurt anyone either. DON'T STIR. Slide out onto a dinner plate. Flip back into pan and cook other side. Maybe this is actually hash browns. I don't know, just eat it.

                              1. Soo... how would the aforementioned methods for making good homefries translate into good Corned beef Hash? I would imagine they would be similar, only at the end of cooking the potatoes you toss in some cooked corned beef.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mateo21

                                  That's so funny, I just made some corned beef hash and was wondering if there was any good advice on the topic on Chowhound. Thought I would re-read this thread before searching and it seems you were thinking the same thing.

                                  The biggest difference for me is that with corned beef hash, I am using leftover potatoes that were boiled with the corned beef. They are a little more soft and moist than is ideal.

                                  Anyhow, what I did was to chop and brown the potatoes in oil, add diced onion, and then add shredded and chopped corned beef at the end. Several recipes on the web suggested adding a little milk or cream at the end, I poured in about an ounce of half and half and let it cook off. It seemed to help bind everything together and give the meat a nice browning on the edges.

                                  It was fine but not perfect, which is why I am on here looking for advice.

                                2. Ok I am only learning how to cook so this might be a stupid question. But what is the big difference between homefries and hashbrowns and oven fries? Are potato pancakes more of a hashbrown as they are grated? Is a latkke (sp?) the same thing as a potatoe pancake and a hashbrown? Because I cut up potatoes and brush them with olive oil or salad dressing and throw them under the broiler on a cookie pan and they come out pretty much the same. My friend called them hashbrowns when I did it and I felt insecure about my potato knowlegge. Am I making oven fries? Does the potato have to be baked before its fried in a frying pan for it to be a homefry or is it more to do with whether or not you eat it for breakfast? If you put it under the broiler at some point does it cease to be a homefry and suddenly become an oven fry? Yeah sometimes I go out for breakfast and the server says homefries and I get big thick potato wedges with or without seasoning or steak cut french fries (are these homefries) or is it really all just a potato and a matter of creative licensing?

                                  1. For us good home fries starts with potato: We use yukon gold or red potatos.
                                    I first boil them in salted water. I over boil them to get the startch to leach out. It does make the potato less solid but it does produce a more crispy homefries.

                                    I then cook them on a skillet and add blk pepper at the end.

                                    If I am make them for me and not the kids, I ad onion and pepper and what every else I got in the fridge. Great fridge magnet.


                                    1. I cube them up, put them in salted water until it just bubbles, drain them, and pan fry them in a ton of butter. I also fry up some onions, throw in some garlic, and sometimes peppers, and save them for tossing in near the end. perfect home fries take a looong time, which is why we can't get them in restaurants, I guess. The main secret is to use way more butter than you think is right, because at the end, you're going to drain most of it off. We like our home fries nice and brown, and crunchy. They go great alongside a mess of soft-scrambled eggs.

                                      1. My husband makes a killer version. He parboils russets that have just half their peels on.
                                        Drain of water and pat dry well. Dice into large cubes.
                                        In a dry skillet brown up 3 slices of bacon. Remove when cooked thru and retain grease in pan. Add thinly sliced spanish onion; saute in the bacon grease. Remove onions.
                                        Wipe the pan clean and get the pan good and hot. Add 1 Tb. olive oil and add the diced potatoes. Don't stir or flip the potatoes until they have a good deep crust on the bottom.
                                        Then add onions back into the pan. Then begin to flip your potatoes around to create an even browning. Once 90% browned, chop up the bacon and add that in. S&P to taste. One last toss for good meausre. Serve. The potatoes stay whole, soft center with a crusty exterior and the bacon/onion just adds excellent flavor.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          bacon fat is great, i always brown my fries in it with a little butter, when camping out, minced garlic, red peppers, and some herb for color is also a option

                                        2. I would like to offer a contrarian approach. I slice them about 1/8 inch or thinner and cook them slowly in peanut oil. I know they take longer to cook through, but this way they spend more time developing crust. I use a large steel skillet. About ten minutes before they are done I add diced onions.