In search of perfect home-made hash browns
I love, love, love a nice plate of truck-stop hash browns, perfectly crispy and golden brown. And since I have no demonstrable need to eat more hashbrowns, I have kept them in the eating-out realm of my life. Never made them at home. Never wanted to. (I loathe grating things...)
The Hub has some other ideas, especially with loads of potatoes in the basement for winter. There have been hash browns of varying success rates in our home of late! I'm curious to hear from expert hash browners on the tips and tricks to make our hash browns great.
Pre-boil, or not? What type of potato? Butter, oil (what kind) or a combo of the two? Soak and squeeze out some starch, or leave it be? What pan? We've tried various things, but still aren't quite there.
What do you do?
I've been doing some serious research and have discovered some interesting facts.
According to two results of definitons of hash browns at Dictionary.com, they are 1. "crisp-fried potatoes made by dicing, chopping, or mashing boiled potatoes and browning them in hot fat or oil." (Random House Dictionary, 2009)
2."chopped cooked potatoes, fried until brown. Also called hash brown potatoes." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a4th Edition, copyright 2009 by Houghton Mifflin)
Food Lovers Companion describes them as "finely chopped or shredded, cooked potatoes that are fried (often in bacon fat) until well browned. The mixture is usuallyl pressed down into a flat cake in the pan and browned on one side, then turned and browned on the other. It's sometimes only browned on one side. Other flavorings such as chopped onion and green pepper are often added."
Wiklipedia says that "hash brown or hashed browns or tater tots are a simple potato preparation in which potato pieces are pan-fried after being shredded, julienned, diced, or riced."
Wikipedia continues to talk about different cultures using specific preparations. "In parts of the UK, hash browns can mean fried left over mashed potato." Hash browns are a breakfast food at diners in North America and in some parts of the U.S. , 'hash browns' strictly refer to shredded or riced, pan-fried potatoes.
Also according to Wikipedia, originally, the full name was ' hashed brown potatoes or 'hashed browned potatoes.' (1945, H.L. Mencken). If something like egg is added as a binding agent, it is referred to as a potato pancake. If chopped meat, leftovers, or other vegetables are added it is simply referred to as "hash."
In putting all of this information together, there is no agreement on the preparation of true homemade hash browns.
I have decided to make my own judgements, as many others have on this cite. I prefer to use raw shredded potatoes to distinquish between home fries or country fries. I do not use eggs in the preparation, but often add other flavors such as fresh pressed garlic, finely chopped onion, salt and pepper. I sometimes top my potatoes with bacon, veggies, cheese, and other herbs and spices that fit my mood (basil, dill, thyme, oregano, etc.)
A few helpful hints in the preparation of the shredded potatoes will prevent disappointment in the basic finished product. Place raw peeled potatoes as well as shredded ones in lemon water to prevent discoloration until ready to cook. (it is natural to see the water turn a brownish color due to a chemical reaction when the potato is exposed to air. A ricer works well to squeeze out the water (not to rice the raw potatoes). Work quickly to combine any other ingredients with the drained potatoes (again to prevent discoloration). I use olive oil or canola oil to brown the potatoes and this can be done by pressing the mixture into any skillet or on a shallow baking pan in the oven. I prever to brown both sides. Serve immediately , however, leftovers (if any) can be refrigerated and used for potato pancakes or added to other things such as quiches, omelettes, breakfast casseroles, vegetable and/or meat casseroles, etc.
Every time the subject is hash browns-- or bratwurst for that matter -- we get into a semantic muddle over just what the heck are we talking about.
I'll leave bratwurst for the next sausage go-round.
Here on the West Coast, all I've ever had that were called "hash browns" consisted of peeled pre-cooked shredded potatoes. These are then pan-fried or griddle-fried to an exterior crispness.
I'm blessed because my local IHOP and the nearby Denny's do a fine job (usually) of cooking classic hash browns. Swiss rosti are the art-form ultimate version of hash browns.
If you are going to use raw potatoes, or leave the skin on, or cut them into any shape other than shreds, then find another name for them.
I demand the real crispy texture, so I add about 2 tsp of cornstarch to the shredded potato mixture after rinsing (in hot water) and wringing out in a kitchen towel. Sometimes I toss thinly sliced onions and/or jalepenos, as well. Then I put about 3-4 Tbs butter in my hot cast iron pan and fry 'em up, much as the other posters describe. The biggest tip would be not to touch or flip the potatoes too frequently.
I use russets, grated or shredded in the Cuisinart (depends on quantity), and always always always squeeze out all of the extra moisture. I put the shredded potatoes in a dish towel or paper towel and wring them over the sink like my great grandmother wrung out laundry! Then I fluff them up and fry them in light olive oil or peanut oil in a cast iron skillet. I use a lid while browning the first side, then invert the pan over the sink and slide it unbrowned side down back into the pan and brown the second side without a lid. It browns faster than the first side. I do use the lid to transfer them from the pan to a serving plate and salt them while they're still very hot. Think of it as jumbled up Pommes Anna. '-)
I grate potatoes using the grating blade on my food processor all the time. I toss the shredded potatoes (I don't drain or squeeze or rinse anything) with chopped scallions, minced jalapeno, salt, pepper and some cayenne pepper. Heat up some olive oil (not too much, not too little... a scant coating that covers the bottom of the pan) in a cast iron skillet and fry in a shallow layer... I let them sit for quite some time before I think about stirring/tossing them to let them get some nice color. If it looks like I need more oil, I add more oil, but sometimes I don't.
As a variation I've used sweet potatoes in exactly the same way. Mmmmm.
Yah wan low fat not fried but nice an crispy? Here's what I do these days. Grate the clean skin-on potatoes, squeeze the s&*t out of them (the liquid actually), toss in some salt and just a bit of oil and mix by hand, sprinkle into an oven tin, and bake / broil. No fuss, no muss, perfect. You cacn make patties or just sprinkle evenly, and if you do that you can add some beaten eggs on top!!!
re: Sam Fujisaka
I don't give two s&*ts and a holler about fat content with hash browns! Isn't that what hash brown are about? :-)
This oven method really intigues me, since I am a neophyte with has brown making ( v. eating). You say in your post to "bake/broil" but those methods are quite different. Can you elaborate on differences?
Another way to make low-fat hashbrowns I learned on chowhound: use a waffle iron. If yours had reversible plates, then use the flat side, but you can also use the waffle-y side (not a deep Belgian waffle, though). And isn't a panini press about the same thing? The nice thing is that's faster because you can brown both sides at once.
Otherwise, I've learned that the most important element of making hashbrowns with a crisp brown crust is to cook over a moderate heat and be v-e-r-y patient. If it doesn't slide easily when you tip the pan, it's not ready to turn yet.
re: Sam Fujisaka
HEY! I just discovered this method a couple of weeks ago! Dammit , i should have applied for a patent. Only dif, I put a bit of olive oil on a 1/2 sheet, get it really hot in a 400 degree oven while I'm shreding the potatoes. Then I just sprinkle them on and get that lovely sssss sound when they hit the pan...helps them start to brown and not stick. Let them brown (don't rush it) , turn w/ a spatula, let it get *almost* too brown, salt the heck out of it an eat.
I wasn't actually trying to make low-fat hash browns, i was just bored and experimenting. It was only after my husband went berserk over them that I realized I had created low-fat hash browns.
He liked them so much, he tried to make them himself. I forgot to tell him to squeeze the s&*t out of them, and it made a significant difference in crispiness.
First of all, I'd recommend the Russet because it is low in moisture and high in starch.
Next, I'd never try hash browns without shredding the potato. Other methods of cutting the potato into pieces just doesn't make the grade, IMHO. Country fries, home fries, and cubed fries, while good and certainly welcome at most breakfast tables, are not has browns.
I don't par boil my Russets for hash browns
I shred them, put them in a vegetable spinner to spin out excess moisture (there's usually very little) and then compress them slightly into patties measuring about six inches across and less than half an inch thick..
I drop these into about half an inch of oil at about 350 degrees in my cast iron skillet and cook until lightly browned and crisp on one side, then turn them to finish the other side.
I remove them to a folded paper bag on the counter to drain and add S&P while they're still nice and hot on the drain paper.
I've been doing it this way lately and they have been coming out great. I'm not sure if you are saying you don't want to grate, but I won't go back to anything else now. I'm not expert either, they are just fantastic tho.
-russet potatoes (because I always have these on hand)
-grated (regular cheese grater)
-soak for about 5 mins (really its more like rinsing rice, they get a little soak tho)
-Swish with a little lemon juice to keep the white color (just a tad)
-wrap in paper towel, squeezing extra water out
-place in fridge, still wrapped in paper towel, for approx 10-20 mins
-use a cast iron pan, with bacon fat, and a touch of butter, salt & pepper
-turn only once
And they come out nice and fluffy on the inside and crispy (but not too crispy, if you know what I mean) on outside. I think I get this from Alton Brown, but not sure. It seems to work every time.
I have it!!!! Take a couple of lbs red potatoes band slice, with the skin on, into bite size segments. Boil in salted water until almost done, but not falling apart when touched with a fork.
In a large skillet add about 3 of TBS vegetable oil with at least half a stick of butter and allow the butter to get carmelized. Add the potatoes and do not turn until crisp and brown on each side. Salt and pepper liberally. You can add additional butter as you cook to increase the buttery flavor.
These are amazing. They're not low fat so I only make them a few times a year. The potatoes absorb the butter and make for a lovely flavor.
Thanks FoodChic, and that sounds terrific! However, in my parlance these are not hash browns. :-) We always called them fried potatoes! (Which...duh, I guess they all are! LOL) May be a regional linguistic quirk. I'll be specific, as I should have been earlier, about the cut of potato: shreds.
Any insights there? I do like the butter:oil ratio...mmmmm.