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Corned beef hash -- what am I doing wrong?

When I make corned beef hash (well, actually, roast beef hash) it never comes out the way I like -- a browned bottom, and crlspy edges. What am I doing wrong? I dice up some potatoes, and parboil them for five minutes or so; I dice up an equal amount (or less) of roast beef....1/4 inch dice. I fry up some diced unions - about a third as much onions as beef. I cook the onions till golden, then mix with the beef and potatoes, a little paprika, salt and pepper, and pack it into a frying pan about an inch thick, and cook it over medium flame, about ten minutes; then I mix it up, pack it down, and fry it another ten minutes. It comes out OK, some crust on the bottom (burned bits, mainly) but it's really just a mass of stuff. Not bad, but not what I want. So, what am I doing wrong? Should I not use a non-stick pan? Add some broth to the mix? Or what? Help, please.

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  1. Don't try too many changes at once, or you won't be able to easily figure out what exactly is working or not. As a start, I would definitely recommend trying a castiron skillet or similar big, heavy not nonstick pan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nosh

      I agree, entirely. But if you don't have a cast iron pan, try a pan that is not "non-stick". It's difficult to get a non-stick pan hot enough to make a decent corn beef hash.
      Once you finished "trick number one" with the pan, see if removing your ingredients (once heated through) from the pan momentarily and sheeting the pan bottom with about a tablespoon of oil will do for you. Get the oil good and hot before putting the hash ingredients back into the pan. Keep the heat high enough to brown but not high enough to burn (I'd had to use medium/low on my stove) and check periodically without disturbing the entire mix.
      Next (is this trick three?) pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees and prepare your hash as usual on the stove top, then pop it into the oven to brown in a lightly but fully oiled cast iron skillet or dutch oven..
      Next (4?) try cutting your pieces a bit smaller (1/4 inch dice is larger than I use) and stick with the added oil process.
      Next - heck, if it tastes good just enjoy.

    2. The Maine author Kenneth Roberts, who was most famous for his novels about the American Revolution, was also a serious Downeast food aficionado. In one of his nonfiction books was his method of making hash (the corned beef part was simply understood!), which called for chopping the ingredients very finely BY HAND, and then beating in enough heavy cream to bind the mixture. This was then spread in a layer in a large hot skillet, and allowed to sit on the back of the stove (obviously a coal or wood range) for about 45 minutes, whereupon a fine crust would have formed*. The hash was then folded over itself, like you'd do with a puffy omelet, and served, of course with (proper homemade) catsup on the side.

      This is also found in a compendium of excerpts, fictional and non, called "The Kenneth Roberts Reader", which I have found repeatedly in antique malls and used book stores. When I find my copy, I think still in a box somewhere, I'll write out the recipe in full. Probably after I've made some myself...

      *When I do this, I put my preheated skillet on a cast-iron "flame tamer" and set the flame almost as low as it'll go.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        Say, Will, perhaps it's because I cook on an electric range but I had never considered a flame tamer. Thanks for the idea. I have a friend who might find a "flame tamer" helpful for her kitchen.

        1. re: todao

          Only thing I like about electric cooktops is how well they manage low temperatures. Some gas ones do, too, but they tend to be hideously expensive. Mine was only sort of expensive, and makes up for it by being only sort of competent ;-)

          1. re: Will Owen

            The grass is greener.....my 30-yr old electric cooktop range never could muster enough heat for a good sear unless I do VERY small amounts at a time, and forget deep-frying (just as well!). When you turn the heat down, say from boil to simmer, it takes too long for the heat to drop. I'd switch to gas, but would have to go the outdoor tank route, which seems undesirable.

      2. I use plenty of butter in my pan. I use both non-stick and cast iron depending on my mood. Saute red pepper and onions and add to completely cooked potatoes and meat and add to bubbling butter. Med. heat for 10-15 minutes forms a great crust. I serve with salsa.

        1. Try using a bechamel after you've cooked your beef, spuds, onions. It binds everything together and would probably make for a good crusty bottom. My hash comes out better in a non-stick skillet...Adam

          1 Reply
          1. re: adamshoe

            I believe cream is superior to both bechamel and butter; it adds no starch, and binds as well, and adds less fat than butter but lubricates as well and binds better. Just my 2 cents...

          2. Wow...., some really odd variations on corned beef hash, and none like I have eaten growing up in a South Side of Chicago Irish home(where corned beef, and then hash was an almost weekly dish), or any of the diners I have eaten corned beef hash at in my life.

            I use the cubed parboiled potatoes, and diced onions like you, but I grind my chunk of corned beef in an old fashioned, hand crank meat grinder, you can use a food processor to accomplish a smiliar feat in a pinch.

            Melt butter in a preheated cast iron skillet, add the onions, saute, then add the potatoes, and ground croned beef, pack down, and cook over medium high heat for maybe ten mins, then much like hashbrowns flip the browned side up, and cook 10 mins. Turns out perfect every time