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Cooking hash browns: a side-by-side method comparison

RealMenJulienne Apr 6, 2011 04:44 AM

The hash brown is my favorite food, yet I had never cooked a great one. I fancy myself a decent home cook, so it was a source of mild consternation to me that I had never produced what I would consider to be a truly great hash brown. In fact, the best hash browns I have ever cooked came from a ORE-IDA freezer bag. I mean come on, how come I have to resort to a processed product to make this dish, which is essentially just potatoes and hot fat? Surely I could do better with raw ingredients. Today I corrected this glaring deficiency with five side-by-side preparation methods to further my understanding of cooking the perfect hash browns.

Each batch consisted of 1 1/2 cups grated russet potato, 1/2 cup diced onion, 1 1/2 tbsp salt, 1/2 tbsp black pepper, cooked in 2 tbsp of corn oil. Of course bacon grease or butter tastes better than corn oil but for this test I wanted a fat which is more consistent and less likely to burn. All batches were cooked over low heat in a steel pan until they formed a golden-brown crust on one side, then flipped as one cohesive mass to form the same crust on the other side. Here are the five methods, with their results:

These were the worst of the lot. I simply could not get enough moisture out of them by wringing, so they spent too much time steaming in the pan before the browning began. The raw potato interior took so long to cook that the onions burned black before the potatoes were done, even on the lowest heat setting. The final crust was hard rather than crispy, and the interior seemed to soak up the most oil of all the batches. GRADE: D

The baking dried out the potato too much, making it crumbly and hard to grate. The shreds were short and pasty, and I had to stop multiple times to clean gluey paste out of the grater. The result had a decent crust but little of the stringy hash brown internal texture. It resembled a fried mashed potato croquette more than anything else. It avoided the common hash brown pitfall of being too greasy, but overcompensated by being a bit too dry. GRADE: B-

This one was kind of a mess. The hot grated potatoes became very sticky very quickly, sort of like what happens when you overwork mashed potatoes. It formed a glutinous patty in the pan which was not promising, but surprisingly the crust was well-crisped and not half bad. The patty interior however, was gluey and sticky, and resisted picking apart with a fork. GRADE: C-

Probably the average standard of my homemade hash browns. Decent crust, okay interior (but still not quite fluffy enough). Nothing was particularly good or bad about these but they were still missing something indefinable. GRADE: B

The runaway winner! The semi frozen potato grated very well and produced long, firm, shreds which did not stick together excessively. The cooking time was not really any longer than the others, despite the cold temperature, and the results were a perfectly crackly crust with a fluffy, greaseless, perfectly cooked interior. The downside was that the onions were a shade underdone here, maybe because the cold potatoes slowed their cooking process. GRADE: A-

Why were the boiled and frozen potatoes so much better than the rest? The semi-frozen strands were long and distinct, which made for an airy, spaghetti-like internal structure. They also resisted sticking to each other, which meant that the interior did not turn into mashed potatoes when I pressed on the patty with a spatula. The freezing may also have changed the internal chemistry of the potato itself, but I'm no scientist so I'll leave that speculation to others. It's no coincidence that these were the only batch to beat the ORE-IDA hash browns, which also seem to be parboiled before freezing, possibly with some anti-clumping agents thrown in.

Well my whole apartment corridor now smells like a Waffle House, my roommate won't stop bitching about the oil-spattered countertop, and I've eaten about a week's allowance of grease and starch, but it was worth it. I finally cooked the homemade hash browns of my dreams!

  1. a
    AlexRast Mar 16, 2014 05:56 PM

    Have you tried shredding raw potato, baking the shreds (relatively briefly), cooling, then frying? You'll have to put the shreds on a sheet of parchment and disperse them well or they're likely to stick while baking. I emphasise here I've not tried this either but thinking about it, it occurred to me as a possible method to try. If nothing else it might improve the onion-underdone aspect.

    I can definitely see how the freezer method would work - freezing partially dehydrates, so you'll get a drier result and you're starting with precooked potato so the heat doesn't need to reach the middle in order to cook the potato itself.

    1. g
      gfr1111 Mar 16, 2014 02:27 PM

      This is a great thread, RealMenJulienne. You went to a lot of work and its shows. Thanks for all the information and the cute monicker.

      1. d
        drtommd Mar 15, 2014 10:10 AM

        If the main issue is that the outside of the potato browns before the inside cooks, then cook them first in a way that makes sense. Parboiling them only cooks the outside and freezing them makes cooked potato easier to grate. Why bother with all this when there is an easier way?

        The easiest way to cook the potatoes before browning is to prepare them as usual: Grate a raw potato, wash the starch away in cold water and then compress the water out in a colander with a smaller bowl as the compressor.

        Following that, after grating in a little onion and adding a little flour, along with salt and pepper, spread them out on paper towels and cook them in a microwave for 3-4 minutes (depending as always on the power of the microwave). Or, you can but then into a more rounded and smaller container (to mimic a potato) and use the potato cook button. This last step may not be necessary with the potato setting.

        It is then a simple matter to brown them without burning; I use a cast iron skillet (more uniform heat on the bottom for an electric range) and mix the potatoes as they brown. It is essentially equivalent to what the cook at the restaurant at Denver did (message below this) cooking them to 80% and then making them cold so that they are easy to handle. But if you do as above, there is no need to handle the potatoes with other than a spatula, because they will be hot coming out of the microwave.

        3 Replies
        1. re: drtommd
          RealMenJulienne Mar 16, 2014 12:54 PM

          Hi dortmund, if you look two posts above, you'll see that I tried the shred-then-microwave method with good results.

          1. re: RealMenJulienne
            drtommd Mar 16, 2014 01:33 PM

            You are right. What I found in the meantime is that using the Potato microwave setting does not work; they get too cooked so then you get to make potato pancakes. That brings me back to the 3 to 4 minute standard setting using an 1100 watt microwave. 3 minutes seems to work best because they are not overcooked.

            As such, 5 minutes is too much for me (when I used it as an experiment) because the result is similar to the Potato setting. I think that the cook at the airport is right, they cannot be completely cooked. So, get good results with the modifications above except that I now know about to use Ghee, which makes a lot of sense to me. By the way, I am impressed with the use of the scientific method in this group. I am an MD, and I have never before seen a "control" group composed of potatoes!!!!

            Thanks for the additional input; being somewhat (make that severely) compulsive, I like to get it exactly right!!!

            1. re: drtommd
              RealMenJulienne Mar 17, 2014 07:31 AM

              Yes, I don't use a potato setting to do this. Actually, I don't think I even have one. I just microwave on full power in 2-minute bursts, tossing and spreading around the potato shreds in between. They're ready for frying when they're sort of al dente.

        2. RealMenJulienne Dec 9, 2013 01:16 PM


          I was running behind preparing breakfast for guests this weekend, so I decided to try out a last minute shortcut. Instead of par boiling, chilling and shredding, I shredded first, rinsed off the starch, and spread them on a platter to steam for 5 minutes in the microwave. After a short cooldown/drying-off period at room temperature, they went into the pan to crisp up. This method produced a very respectable hash brown. The inside was creamy and the outer crust was superb. Compared to the airy, fluffy insides of the champion parboil/freeze method, the microwave method produced a denser inside which kept it out of the #1 spot. BUT, the microwave method is much faster and still very tasty.

          On a side note, I've found that the best fat for cooking hash browns is ghee or Indian clarified butter. The higher smoke point of ghee develops a crispier, darker crust. It also has a nutty parmesan-like flavor that regular clarified butter doesn't have.

          1 Reply
          1. re: RealMenJulienne
            pine time Feb 14, 2014 08:23 AM

            Not many folks probably request hash browns for Valentine's dinner, but Mr Pine did (along with his well done steak--I just sigh about that one; too many decades together to change his mind on that). So, after years of just "meh" hash brown results, I'm going with your shred/rinse/nuke/pan-fry method. Thanks so much for all the testing. Maybe I'll finally produce yum-worthy hashers! Oh, and I have ghee, too, which sounds perfect.

          2. c
            christy319 Jul 19, 2012 10:43 AM

            This thread is interesting to me in that so many people seem to have so much trouble with hash browns, but I never have. Raw grated potato, squeezed out in my hands, in a good heavy non stick pan, with some oil and plenty of salt. I do not like hash browns from pre cooked potatoes. I wonder if the issue here is, I LIKE some crunch to the middle of my hash browns--I don't want that as cooked as, say, a baked potato is. But I wonder if all you guys really want a very cooked interior, and that's why it's been such as issue for you (I can see how the crust would burn if you wanted the interior very cooked).

            1 Reply
            1. re: christy319
              sandylc Jul 19, 2012 11:02 AM

              I find that a much lower temperature than is usually recommended yields a cooked interior and a uniformly browned exterior; many recipes tell you to cook them on high, which is silly on every stove I've ever had.

              Alton Brown is famous with me for prescribing high heat for all sorts of things that would be ruined by such heat - popcorn is one.

            2. m
              MarkPerr Jul 18, 2012 07:12 AM

              I have several questions. After you parboil the potatoes, they obviously are no long dry. How do you remove moisture, or do you, before freezing? Also, are the potatoes whole when you parboil them? At what point do you grate them? What kind of potatoes did you finally settle on? Did you end up using a hand grater to get long strands? Sorry for so many questions but I want them to turn out as well as yours did.

              1. c
                Cady Feb 4, 2012 07:44 PM

                Interesting thread. When I was very small, pre-elementary school, my mom would make "shredded potatoes" for lunch, because there wasn't a lot of money in our house.

                But I remember hanging out at a restaurant when I was 16 (36-37 years ago, thereabouts?) where they had hashbrowns on the menu (NOT called "hashed" browns) and they were made from shredded potatoes. And at this little cafe, they were the best in town.

                So, while for a lot of people, only diced potatoes are hash browns, the first time I ever had them in a restaurant, more than 30 years ago, they were shredded. *shrug*. Must be a regional thing.

                1. iL Divo Feb 4, 2012 07:40 PM

                  ok, so I'm a cook and the husband's been under the weather ever since the heart scare of last year and the recent read ending he endured, so, breakfast was in the works for this morning as I'm home and not working..........it's time to make my man a really good rib sticking breakfast.

                  today was a day for hash browns since I have yukon golds, baby new reds, regular reds and russets. here's what I did.

                  1.scrubbed and nuked 2 large russets
                  2.made the man 2 pieces of bacon in nonstick pan
                  3.took bacon out and save small amount of grease
                  4.added 1 ample tsp of olive oil to nonstick
                  5.took potatoes out of nuker, let cool 2 minutes so I could handle
                  6.didn't peel but got out my box grater and grated them leaving peel behind on cutting board
                  7.heated up skillet to medium hot and dumped taters in there
                  8.salt and peppered the top and let her rip on 1/2 high fire for 15 minutes, yep
                  9.turned them out onto a flat plate, then returned them so uncooked side was on bottom&could crisp up
                  10. 10 minutes on that side and slid out onto his plate
                  Masterpiece............who'd a thunk it?

                  1. n
                    NotJuliaChild Feb 4, 2012 06:45 PM

                    This is the best original post I've ever read on Chowhound.

                    I spent an hour this morning torturing potatoes, my Microplane, and my cast iron skillet trying to produce hash browns, only to end up with something so vile even an animal wouldn't touch it.

                    I only wish I had found this earlier.

                    Thanks again!

                    1. RealMenJulienne Jan 5, 2012 11:09 PM

                      Guys, this is way after the fact but I have to make a correction to the original post. It turns out I have a weak-ass freezer so the original recommended freezing time of 6 hours after parboiling will be way too long for most people. One to two hours will produce a firm, grateable potato which is only slightly frozen.


                      1. paulj Jan 4, 2012 04:36 PM

                        has some early quotes containing 'hashed browned potatoes'

                        1. t
                          travelerjjm Jan 4, 2012 12:49 PM

                          This is good research. Has anyone tried it with traditional hashed potatoes instead of shredded ones? When I was a boy my father was in the restaurant business. We loved hashed brown potatoes: small cubes of potato that (I later learned) had been blanched, possibly frozen, then cooked in hot oil (sometimes "bacon oil" as Emeril calls it) often on a griddle. I make and love these today. When we'd go to a restaurant and have breakfast, my father often sent back shredded potatoes that were billed as "hashed".

                          I looked a lot around the web for definitions of "hashed" and all involved the word "chopped". Not to be a stickler or contrarian, but I *love* the little cubes. I make them smaller than brabant potatoes -- maybe a quarter inch square.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: travelerjjm
                            sandylc Jan 4, 2012 03:29 PM

                            Interesting. For my entire life, hashed browns have been shredded - chopped fried potatoes have been called fried potatoes, or some have called them home fries (not me). Restaurants we visited served shredded potatoes as hashed browns perhaps 95% of the time; the 5% that were cubed were viewed by us in puzzlement.

                            travelerjjm, I make my fried potatoes with raw 1/4" cubes - you're right, they are yum - but no one I know in my part of the country would call them hashed browns!!!
                            I did a brief internet search as well, and you are correct. Most websites do define them as "cubed" or "finely chopped". One said "cut into strips". Cooks' Illustrated went for shredded, however:


                            I have to wonder if this a regional thing. Cubed potatoes are more like the hash that is made from leftover meat; shredded ones are more like rosti potatoes. These things tell me that hashed brown preferences might reflect heritage.

                            Another note, CI indicates that the preference is for raw, shredded potatoes as opposed to precooked potatoes, shredded. I have to agree. I have done potatoes both ways many times, and the inside texture of the potatoes is much better when raw potatoes are used.

                            1. re: sandylc
                              paulj Jan 4, 2012 04:07 PM

                              The dictionary traces 'hash' to a French word meaning 'to chop up', and that in turn to a Germanic word for ax. Hachis Parmentier is the French name for shepherd's pie - chopped meat with a (mashed) potato topping (Parmentier promoted the use of potatoes 200 years ago).

                              1. re: paulj
                                sandylc Jan 4, 2012 04:12 PM

                                In the wider sense, can shredding be considered chopping?????

                                1. re: sandylc
                                  paulj Jan 4, 2012 04:21 PM

                                  why not?

                                  There is a French derived name for cutting into match stick pieces, julienned.
                                  But then cutting into cubes is called dicing.

                          2. iL Divo Jan 4, 2012 12:04 PM

                            tonights dinner will be pork chops with really rich gravy from last nights dinner but let's talk about the hash browns I'll attempt.
                            on my way to market to get potatoes.
                            I'm gonna follow the idea my girlfriend gave me from her husband who worked at a chain around here for years, as they were known for their hash browns.
                            thought I'd posted it here but guess I just dreamed that *+)
                            I'll post how the turnout was and if it's just not right, it's on to plan B
                            so glad I have a plethera of butter

                            1. g
                              gregsamsa Dec 18, 2011 12:17 PM

                              You rule. That's all there is to it. You've done a valuable public service and a mitzvah with your labor-intensive testing. Thank you so much.

                              In college, I had a roomie who made a home-made version of Arby's triangular hash browns. Being a major pot-head, he often craved fast food well past business hours. I was no foodie at the time, so I didn't pay attention to his technique but the results were impressive. He shaped the uncooked shredded potatoes first, then microwaved them on a plate. Then they went into the oil. I do not remember how long they were zapped, if they were rinsed or wringed, but I plan on doing some experimentation on my own.

                              Thanks again for your efforts.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: gregsamsa
                                pdxgastro Dec 30, 2011 08:48 PM

                                Oh I did that for my potato pizza too! I would slice the potatoes thinly and nuke them on a plate before putting them on the crust. Otherwise the oven time was not enough to cook them.

                              2. blue room Jun 20, 2011 09:44 AM

                                Is #5 the method that restaurants (with good hash browns) use?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: blue room
                                  RealMenJulienne Jun 20, 2011 01:47 PM

                                  blue room, this is just a guess but I would be willing to bet that most restaurants making good hash browns are using some kind of frozen preshredded product, more for time and labor savings than anything else.

                                  1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                    mamachef Aug 28, 2011 02:37 PM

                                    More likely reconstituted dried potato shreds preserved w/ citric acid and salt. You "add water up to the line" and let them sit overnight. So sad.

                                    1. re: mamachef
                                      paulj Jan 5, 2012 11:38 PM

                                      Out of curiosity I tried a pint carton of those dehydrated shredded potatoes. It's add hot tap water to the line and let site 12 minutes. Frying them took longer than that. I was happy with the results. For something that I only make once in a while, I don't see a need for more elaborate efforts. I also don't normally have large russets on hand, preferring small to very small Yukons for other potato preparations.

                                2. THewat Jun 20, 2011 08:48 AM

                                  Just weighing in to say that one can over-freeze the potato, leading to much waiting for a grate-able consistency. I froze the onions with the parboiled potato, used about half a teaspoon of coarse salt & a bunch of grinds of pepper & cooked in a cast iron skillet over low-ish heat in about a tablespoon of butter. Both the onions & the potato were nicely done. Made me want eggs. :-)

                                  1. s
                                    sushigirlie Jun 18, 2011 09:10 PM

                                    Interesting -- I'll try the parboiling and freezing method. Some of this is personal taste. I prefer hash browns with a dry browned exterior and a chewy interior, rather than a crispy exterior and an airy interior. And some of this just doesn't seem right. If you blacken the onions on the lowest possible heat setting, there's something wrong with, or at least unique about, your stove.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sushigirlie
                                      RealMenJulienne Jun 20, 2011 01:52 PM

                                      If you like a dry exterior and a chewy interior, then I would go with raw potato, rinsed and wrung out, cooked very low and slow in a covered pan, as 2intune describes above. It seems to make a more 'al dente' interior which I personally don't like but which you might prefer.

                                    2. Antilope Jun 13, 2011 08:15 PM

                                      "For the crispiest hash browns, try using a panini press"

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Antilope
                                        grayelf Aug 9, 2012 10:20 AM

                                        Haven't checked in to this thread for a while -- thanks for this link, antilope!

                                        1. re: grayelf
                                          iL Divo Aug 12, 2012 07:50 AM

                                          antilope's 'duh bom' for great links.................................................(((antilope)))

                                      2. greygarious May 27, 2011 09:26 PM

                                        Freeze your raw grated/chopped onion right along with the potatoes in method 5. Because of the cell wall breakage during freezing, onions also cook faster from frozen than freshly-prepped ones do.

                                        1. c
                                          coakes Apr 17, 2011 10:21 PM

                                          Interesting, thanks for the report. I've never tried the parboil method for browns but I use it for fries and for hash so it makes sense. I found the flavors I enjoy most but had nothing but problems with the shredded version unless I kept the patty thin and the pan hot. I switched to the mandolin/julienne method and that works so much better, plus the increased surface area leaves more to crunch up! I start with a med hot cast iron skillet first then add the canola oil and once it shimmers in go the sweet onions. When they're translucent the crushed garlic and a sprig of thyme go in to play, then the washed and rinsed raw spuds. The key I found was not to over crowd the pan so when I'm cooking for more than just me out comes the two-handed cast iron. Anyway the julienne cut lends itself to better browning so I don't do the patty method either, I stir em up so get more crispy sides. Besides the patty method doesn't leave much room for creative plating (but then again, it's breakfast!). When the outside is what I want, into the oven they go to finish cooking while I do the rest of the meal.
                                          I will do your parboil and cool because it sounds great. Thanks again.

                                          1. JeffW Apr 15, 2011 09:54 AM

                                            I do hope the 1 1/2 "TABLESPOONS" salt is a typo.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: JeffW
                                              RealMenJulienne Apr 17, 2011 10:03 PM

                                              Whoops, it should be 1 1/2 teaspoons, thanks for catching it. I usually just measure by pinches anyway.

                                            2. n
                                              NeverLift Apr 15, 2011 07:23 AM

                                              Well, I grew up eating real hash browns as a child, 60 years ago. Hash browns, when you grow up poor, are not made directly from potatoes not previously prepared; they were -- and need to be -- made from leftover mashed potatoes. "Waste not, want not"; the leftovers were placed in the ice box and, even if covered (before Saran), would dry overnight. That part is essential. The cooking method, then, is to fry the large patty -- destined to be divided and served to the family, not one per person -- until a nice heavy brown (but not burnt) crust formed, then chop the patty with the spatula, turn the crust inward, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat . . . the more brown crust was imbedded in the result, the better. Start by chopping some onion and frying -- excuse me, "sauteeing" -- that before mixing it in with the initial tater patty, make sure that patty was already salted to taste so both salt and onion would be spread throughout and within when done . . . now that's hash browns.

                                              I think I'll go make some mashed now, put it (them?) in the fridge uncovered, have real hash browns tomorrow.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: NeverLift
                                                paulj Apr 15, 2011 09:58 AM

                                                this won't work if the mashed are made expressly for the purpose. They won't be leftovers!

                                                1. re: NeverLift
                                                  Sharuf Apr 15, 2011 11:36 AM

                                                  Sounds good but I wouldn't label them "hash browns".

                                                  1. re: Sharuf
                                                    pdxgastro Jun 13, 2011 11:48 PM

                                                    +1. Yeah, those are more croquettes.

                                                2. v
                                                  vencogirl Apr 15, 2011 12:21 AM

                                                  You are my new food hero. I am totally going to make these...and think fondly of you and your research. I owe you a beer for doing the research for all of us.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: vencogirl
                                                    RealMenJulienne Apr 17, 2011 10:01 PM

                                                    You are very welcome. Please let us know how they turn out, and especially let us know if you discover a better method.

                                                  2. paulj Apr 10, 2011 10:17 AM

                                                    I haven't sorted out the details, but food science books (e.g. Corriher CookWise, or The Science of Good Food, Joachim and Schloss) talk about various factors:
                                                    - the type of starch in potatoes
                                                    - the quantity of starch (baking v boiling potatoes)
                                                    - the moisture level in the potatoes (early harvest are wetter)
                                                    - the change of starch to sugar when potatoes are chilled.

                                                    1. mamachef Apr 10, 2011 09:58 AM

                                                      My Mr. was so fascinated by all the variants here that he actually undertook a similar test, culminating in him getting up at 3 am to put the (parboiled and then-refrigerated) potatoes in the freezer so they'd be ready to go when I got home. And I've got this to say:
                                                      He used a mixture of veg. oil, bacon grease, and butter to fry the shreds in. They "mounded" beautifully on the (cast-iron) griddle, and even flattened a bit (but not packed) there was enough airspace created by the ice crystals for them to make a patty of
                                                      THE BEST HASHBROWNS THAT HAVE EVER BEEN MADE IN THIS HOUSE BY HIM OR ME OR ANYBODY ELSE.
                                                      Crusty golden brown on both sides; not real thick but a great crunchy component. Somehow the insides were creamy AND fluffy and the shreds retained their individuality. These were what even the very best diner hashbrowns cooked by the most talented line cook only aspire to be.
                                                      Again, grateful thanks for your time-consuming but oh-so-worthwhile field research. : )

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: mamachef
                                                        RealMenJulienne Apr 10, 2011 10:52 PM

                                                        mamachef, you are welcome. It's my honor to advance the state of current knowledge in the noble field of hash brown cookery. And for me, eating plate after plate of hash browns is not exactly a burden.

                                                        1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                          mamachef Apr 11, 2011 04:02 AM

                                                          Me either. Burp. : )

                                                      2. a
                                                        Atochabsh Apr 8, 2011 01:02 PM

                                                        WOW reading your efforts and all the replies seems a bit over whelming for me. I too am "hash brown" disabled. I have a hard time even using the frozen variety. I've tried fresh but they always oxodize before I can get them into the pan.

                                                        1. r
                                                          rjbh20 Apr 8, 2011 09:43 AM

                                                          If I read this correctly, the one variant you didn't try is the one i ultimately found to work best, namely blanching the grated raw potatoes for a minute or so, then drying (don't wring in cloth or you have mush) and frying. Also, I use a fine julienne on mandoline, not a box grater.

                                                          Duck fat, preferably from the confit crock, is the preferred fry medium.

                                                          1. a
                                                            Altarbo Apr 8, 2011 01:51 AM

                                                            Wow, this is really interesting.

                                                            I've had similar problems. My first several attempts at hash browns came out like glue. Over time, I improved a little bit. Once I discovered potato pancakes (latke) I quit the whole hash brown thing.

                                                            I experimented with some recipes from the Great Depression era, then some German translated ones, and finally discovered this:

                                                            I've been more pleased with them, than I have with any hash browns I've ever had. I never did try freezing the potatoes. It makes me curious about whether I could freeze the potato shreds for pancakes or if they'd come out raw in the middle. It also makes me curious about the batter and the freezing can both improve the texture. The ice crystal theory makes a lot of sense, but I'm not sure small amounts of batter could damage the cell structure of the potatoes? Perhaps there's something similar to the gluten in wheat flour that would bind together if it wasn't frozen? Perhaps the texture improvements are unrelated chemically? I dunno. Experiments await . . .

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Altarbo
                                                              Altarbo Jul 25, 2011 06:49 PM

                                                              If everyone forgot about this thread, then no one will ever have to know of the catastrophe I made this afternoon.

                                                              3 red potatoes (2 oz ea)
                                                              3 baking potatoes (3 oz ea)

                                                              Batter: 1/4 cup flour, 1 egg, raw minced onion, salt, parika, black pepper, msg, parsley

                                                              I made potato pancakes (latke / kartoffelpuffer) three ways

                                                              For the first way, I grated a red and a white potato into separate bowls, pressed them dry in a ricer, and mixed them with the spicy batter; this is how usually make potato pancakes. I fried them in shallow bacon fat. They fried up into golden brown nests of savory goodness. The pancakes were crisp like a potato chip on the outside and fluffy like waffle house hash browns on the inside.

                                                              Next I did a control group. I grated one one of each. Without straining them, I mixed in the batter. Water from the potato strands, thinned the batter considerably. I fried the pancakes golden brown. They didn't get as crispy on the outside and the baking potato one was noticeably gummier on the inside.

                                                              Finally, I parboiled, froze, and grated one red and one baking potato. I was hopeful, that the water -being frozen- would help the texture compared to the control group. They were so hard though, that grating them made potato powder. I mixed the powder with the batter, but the strands were so thin, that they formed dense balls of mush, rather than a loose snowball texture. I was concerned, but I continued on for knowledge.

                                                              Trying to fry them was infinitely worse. The first one was so cold that it briefly chilled the shallow fat. The pancake dropped to the bottom of the pan. It's fine nature gave it plenty of uniform surface area to bond to the bottom of the pan. After the bottom burned black, and the top soaked up warm oil, I tossed it to the dog. She looked at me like I betrayed her. She gave me the look she gives me when I leave for work (she thinks probably thinks I'm going to the park or the vet.)

                                                              I strained the oil and got it exceedingly hot for the baking potato pancake. I used a fork to prop up the pancake so it could stick to nothing. The end result was very smooth inside, and had nice crust to it. The crust wasn't interesting, crunchy, and crispy though. It was more akin to Arby's potato bites: mildly crunchy. I might in the future try mixing in some more herbs and cheese and deep fry them, but as a latke, kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancake it was complete disaster.

                                                              T T

                                                            2. s
                                                              Sharuf Apr 8, 2011 01:40 AM

                                                              You can do the Swiss kartoffel rosti thing.

                                                              * start with all-purpose spuds, NOT the russet baking potatoes.

                                                              * boil them, unpeeled, until about 3/4 done, then let them sit in the fridge overnight

                                                              * peel, shred and fry

                                                              Don't use onions. Just plain potatoes are enough.

                                                              1. b
                                                                baseballfan Apr 7, 2011 06:15 PM

                                                                Thanks for taking one for the team. i have never met a potato I didn't like and hash browns have always been my nemesis. I have mastered every other conceivable preparation except these. I had given up and was also resorting to Ore Ida which made me mad every time I bought them.

                                                                Whenever I have tried using fresh potatoes, they would soak up entirely too much oil even if I preheated the oil before adding the potatoes. Lately I have been making cottage fries instead but I am inspired to give true hash browns another go.

                                                                1. Caroline1 Apr 7, 2011 05:58 PM

                                                                  I get good results with both frozen and fresh potatoes, but... In both cases, I toss the shredded potatoes with a tablespoon of flour before frying. It promotes browning and helps them hold together. When I use fresh onions, I grate them as opposed to dicing or slicing thin, but most of the time I use onion powder added at the same time as the flour, then tossed. I'm happy with the flavor, and the powder mixed in with the potatoes doesn't brown darker than the potatoes. Oh, and when I use frozen shredded potatoes, I put them in a colandar and run cold water over them, then press them dry in paper towels. I also use peanut oil, but once in a while I go with light olive oil. For what it's worth.

                                                                  Excellent research on your part. Thanks! '-)

                                                                  1. ipsedixit Apr 7, 2011 05:09 PM

                                                                    Thanks for taking the laboring oar on this.

                                                                    Did you ever consider just freezing the potatoes and grating, without parboiling?

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      RealMenJulienne Apr 7, 2011 11:57 PM

                                                                      ipsedixit, I am doing this today. The comparison will not be truly scientific (ha ha) because the tests are now a few days apart, but I will report my results.

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                        RealMenJulienne Apr 8, 2011 03:41 AM

                                                                        RAW POTATO FROZEN BEFORE GRATING, THEN RINSED AND WRUNG OUT
                                                                        First of all, the potato was impossible to grate in its frozen state, so I had to let it semi-thaw before grating. The potato shreds leaked water all over the cutting board, and ended up so dry that they would not form a cohesive patty in the pan. The crust came out hard, oily and crunchy, while the inside had a chewy texture like a raisin. If they served these at a Waffle House at 3:00AM the clientele would probably start immediately shooting up the place. This was the only batch I could not finish eating. GRADE: F-

                                                                        1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                          ipsedixit Apr 8, 2011 10:49 AM

                                                                          Sorry about that.

                                                                          1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                            biondanonima Apr 8, 2011 11:24 AM

                                                                            I wonder if this would work if you grated the potato while raw, DID NOT RINSE but dried the shreds on paper towels, then froze them. You'd still get the cellular breakdown described in ESNY's post, but you'd have an opportunity to get rid of moisture before freezing and make your life easier by not having to grate a frozen raw potato.

                                                                            1. re: biondanonima
                                                                              RealMenJulienne Apr 10, 2011 09:25 AM

                                                                              biondanonima, this is intriguing, and I will try this in a couple days when I am not so sick of hash browns!

                                                                              1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                biondanonima Aug 28, 2011 02:10 PM

                                                                                I'm trying this tonight - I grated a few potatoes earlier, wrung them dry and spread them out on a baking sheet in the freezer. I'm going to make some simultaneously with raw potatoes as well. Will post the results later!

                                                                                1. re: biondanonima
                                                                                  biondanonima Aug 28, 2011 07:29 PM

                                                                                  Okay, testing over. I grated two russet potatoes, squeezed them dry, added a little salt and onion powder, fluffed them out and froze them. When cooking time came, I oiled my cast iron skillet with vegetable oil and put the frozen shreds directly into the hot pan. I let them cook while I shredded the fresh potatoes, which took about two minutes (I figured they'd need a bit longer to cook since they were starting from a raw frozen state). The fresh ones were also wrung dry, salted, onioned and fluffed and then added directly to the pan.

                                                                                  The result? Husband and I both overwhelmingly preferred the hash browns made from raw potatoes. The frozen ones had a slightly weird, "earthy" flavor and a much heavier, gummier texture. The raw ones were crisp on the outside and lighter and more separate in the middle.

                                                                                  Anyway, I haven't tried the winning method from the original test, but my guess is that the parboiling step before the freeze changes the cellular structure of the potato in a way that helps it maintain its shape and texture after it's shredded. RealMen, I hope you see this post, because I have a question - did you wring out the shreds from the parboiled, frozen potato, or drain them in any way? Just wondering if wringing them out would mash them up too much, since they are already cooked.

                                                                        2. mamachef Apr 7, 2011 01:50 PM

                                                                          I have zero idea about why freezing the shreds is the secret, but I do want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for going to the trouble of experimenting and then posting your results. Your A effort sounds like the platonic ideal of hashed-brown potatoes, and I will certainly be trying it shortly. I'm never happy with mine.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mamachef
                                                                            ipsedixit Apr 7, 2011 05:07 PM

                                                                            I have zero idea about why freezing the shreds is the secret ...

                                                                            I think freezing the potatoes have the same effect as freezing steak before grilling.

                                                                            You get a nice char on the outside (or crunchy crust) while the insides do not overcook. With steaks, for example, you freeze so that you can achieve a good crust on the ouside and still cook the steak to medium rare on the interior.

                                                                            Same with potatoes. You can get a nice crunchy exterior without turning your potatoes into mush.

                                                                            In other words, as the OP describes: "and the results were a perfectly crackly crust with a fluffy, greaseless, perfectly cooked interior."

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                              mamachef Apr 7, 2011 05:23 PM

                                                                              Now it makes excellent sense. Thank you! : )

                                                                          2. CarrieWas218 Apr 7, 2011 12:08 PM

                                                                            Like others, I'm trying to figure out the purpose behind rinsing the raw potato. Why not just grate it and start frying it?

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: CarrieWas218
                                                                              2intune Apr 7, 2011 01:29 PM

                                                                              You are rinsing off the starch. Otherwise the results are, well, starchy. Not crisp on the outside and soft inside -- more gloppy.

                                                                              1. re: 2intune
                                                                                biondanonima Apr 8, 2011 11:21 AM

                                                                                I don't see why the starch should make things gloppy - starches like flour and cornstarch crisp things up nicely when used on the outside of things that are being fried. In fact, I know many people who toss their potatoes with flour or cornstarch before making hash browns/other fried preparations to enhance browning/crisping.

                                                                                Cook's Illustrated's recipe calls for using russets or other high-starch potatoes, then peeling, rinsing and drying them BEFORE grating them. The grated shreds are supposed to be wrung dry again, but only to remove the potato's inherent moisture - they are not rinsed again after grating. I think that was a fatal flaw in the OP's original preparation.

                                                                                1. re: biondanonima
                                                                                  paulj Apr 10, 2011 10:08 AM

                                                                                  Starches, in the presence of water, do make things gloppy, or more specifically they thicken the liquid as they gel.

                                                                                  There are 2 types of starches - amylose and amylopectin. Corn and wheat are higher in amylose than potato. The 2 types gel differently; I don't know how they react during frying.

                                                                                  Another factor - the potato starch, when chilled turns partly into sugar. Sugar caramelizes better than starch.

                                                                            2. m
                                                                              MellieMag Apr 7, 2011 01:49 AM

                                                                              I made some of the hash browns with a potato that hadn't cooled long enough the other day. Thanks for sharing the results of your experiment. I plan to try it myself and the tip on the French fries as well. I'm never happy with my fries or hash browns.

                                                                              1. 2
                                                                                2intune Apr 6, 2011 04:41 PM

                                                                                The parboil and freeze method is fine, but a little hard to plan for if you want hash browns for breakfast. I grate raw potatoes then use a salad spinner first to rinse and then extract all of the moisture. Cover the pan for the first ten minutes of cooking then uncover. The result is a nice crisp crust with nicely cooked-through strands. Helps if you use a cast-iron skillet.

                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                1. re: 2intune
                                                                                  RealMenJulienne Apr 7, 2011 01:44 AM

                                                                                  Hi, in the past every time I have started with raw potatoes, no matter how much water I press or wring out the inside soaks up too much oil and the outside turns kind of leathery. Are you using low or high heat? I have never used a salad spinner, so I will give it a try when I get a hold of one.

                                                                                  1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                    2intune Apr 7, 2011 12:05 PM

                                                                                    If your potatoes soak up too much oil, you may not have your pan and oil preheated enough before adding the potatoes. I let my cast iron skillet heat up for about 5 minutes on medium low, then add fat (I use a combination of coconut oil and butter), let that heat up til it is shimmering, then add the potatoes. On my stove I'm at med/low, but its a pretty big gas stove. Your mileage may vary on that. After the first few tries, you'll get to see where the cutoff point is between heat too high (burning the bottom before the insides cook), and heat too low (not enough brown, soak up oil). Incidentally, I don't disturb or mix the potatoes while they cook. When the bottom browns, I put a dinner plate, face down on the top of the pan and flip the whole disc onto the plate, re-oil the pan then slide the uncooked side back into the pan.

                                                                                    1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                      iL Divo Jul 19, 2012 09:52 AM

                                                                                      RealMen: raw potatoes seeming almost leathery, yep, I'd ventured down the same disappointing path to those results many a time also.

                                                                                      1. re: iL Divo
                                                                                        sandylc Jul 19, 2012 10:32 AM

                                                                                        I think that the only great/real hash browns come from raw potatoes. The leathery thing, to hazard a guess, might be not enough oil/fat?????? My are crisp, usually. I have made great ones and not so great ones; the problem lies in my not being consistent because we don't eat them that often. I forget things that I learned last time in between times. But for absolute sure, precooked potatoes have never given me the results I want.

                                                                                        1. re: sandylc
                                                                                          iL Divo Jul 30, 2012 11:39 AM

                                                                                          you know sandy, there could be a bunch of variables that have cause and effect.
                                                                                          sometimes I've found like at our daughters house it's nothing more than the pan.
                                                                                          very little fat raw potatoes cubed and mildly seasoned into the pan and don't do another thing for 10-15 minutes then check for a good browning on the underside. if it's there I go in for the kill and turn 'em all over. now that's for those country fried potatoes or what a lot of breakfast joints call cottage fries. for what I think of when I want hash browns it's the grated potatoes that then go into a hot skillet or flat top, get drizzled with melted fat butter being best in my opinion, left untouched to brown then flip to other side till brown and dish up.

                                                                                          my kitchen is overstocked with pots and pans of every weight/size/material/brand and braggability. I've used all that could/do/would pertain in the effort of making hash browns, usually until I got it down to no good outcome. now as I stated in an above post, I figured out the mystery was has eluded me forever.
                                                                                          but you know what, whatever works for you or me or anyone else, works. that's the important thing. we, lIke you, don't make them all that often. I tend to do the cubed version for breakfast most because they're 'potatoes for dummies" or breakfast potatoes 101.

                                                                                          1. re: iL Divo
                                                                                            sandylc Jul 30, 2012 08:24 PM

                                                                                            Yeah, we make good ol' fried potatoes pretty often - now, THESE I'm darned good at...

                                                                                    2. re: 2intune
                                                                                      grayelf Apr 7, 2011 11:20 PM

                                                                                      I was thinking the opposite: I'm going to parboil up some spuds, pack them up and freeze them tomorrow. If they can freeze for six hours, I bet they'll keep for longer in the freezer. Heck, the Ore Ida's do! I'm keen to try this approach as I too have fallen victim to the oversteamed, too oily hashbrown syndrome. Thanks, RMJ.

                                                                                      1. re: 2intune
                                                                                        iL Divo Feb 5, 2012 03:34 PM

                                                                                        salad spinner, good call

                                                                                      2. e
                                                                                        ESNY Apr 6, 2011 02:05 PM

                                                                                        Nice job. Good potatoes are my white whale. I can cook most anything but am atrocious at making potatoes. Whether mashed, home fries, roasted potatoes, etc., something is just always wrong about it...

                                                                                        Regarding freezing the potatoes... here is a passage from Serious Eats, where Kenji tried to make McDonald's fries at home and figured out the secret was freezing fries.

                                                                                        "The frozen fries had a distinctly fluffier interior, while the unfrozen ones were still ever-so-slightly gummy. It makes perfect sense. Freezing the potatoes causes their moisture to convert to ice, forming sharp, jagged crystals. These crystals damage the cell structure of the potato, making it easier for them to be released once they are heated and convert to steam. The best part? Because freezing actually improves them, I can do the initial blanching and frying steps in large batches, freeze them, and have a constant supply of ready-to-fry potatoes right in my freezer just like Ronald himself!"


                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: ESNY
                                                                                          RealMenJulienne Apr 7, 2011 01:41 AM

                                                                                          Thanks for the article. Very interesting, before experimenting and reading I would not have thought that freezing - a mark of a lot of bad processed foods - would actually benefit fried potatoes. I guess it is an exception to the fresher is better rule.

                                                                                          1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                            Will Owen Apr 7, 2011 05:47 PM

                                                                                            Okay, now I know how the cook out at the Way Station in Newhall (CA) turns out those great mounds of crusty hash browns with the fluffy interior: he dumps a big bag of still-frozen shreds onto his hot grill, and keeps the pile together without either stirring it or packing it down. This is a totally no-frills greasy spoon that gets everything from Sysco, but somehow produces some of the best breakfasts in LA County. Surprise! It's just a guy who knows what he's doing!

                                                                                            1. re: Will Owen
                                                                                              iL Divo Dec 30, 2011 08:13 PM

                                                                                              gonna try and get my husband to the Way Station you mentioned WO.
                                                                                              thanks for the heads up about it.
                                                                                              may find time this weekend, if not next fingers crossed.

                                                                                              hey WO have you tried going up a few more miles north to Acton to Crazy Otto's?
                                                                                              they have really good hash browns too.

                                                                                              1. re: Will Owen
                                                                                                iL Divo Feb 4, 2012 06:37 PM

                                                                                                didn't get to it last time I said I'd try but tomorrow is another day, we're both off and the superbowl starts later

                                                                                                wooooo wooooo wooooo

                                                                                                1. re: Will Owen
                                                                                                  iL Divo Feb 5, 2012 09:37 AM

                                                                                                  hi Will Owen from the Way Station in Newhall Ca
                                                                                                  watching the men as we're sitting at the bar awaiting our brekkie.
                                                                                                  they dump frozen prebagged frozen hash browns onto the grill.
                                                                                                  you're right!
                                                                                                  he got pork chops and eggs I splurged for eggs Benedictine.
                                                                                                  we'll see how good their hash browns are.

                                                                                                  sorry to report Will Owen but:
                                                                                                  -1 for Way Station
                                                                                                  asked husband how his breakfast was.
                                                                                                  he said "was it worth making the long drive up here? No.
                                                                                                  Was it worth the long drive to spend time with my beautiful wife? Yes"
                                                                                                  other than him needing a new optical apt. I agree.
                                                                                                  the hash browns turn out like crisped on both sides mashed potatoes, no lie

                                                                                                  1. re: iL Divo
                                                                                                    Will Owen Mar 16, 2012 11:48 PM

                                                                                                    So basically we disagree about what makes brilliant hash browns. I happen to be enthralled by a mass of frozen potato shreds turned into a giant crisp-sided mashed potato cake. It's the giant fluffy mashed potato cake I've always yearned for and never managed to make. I want to eat several times as much of that as I possibly can, preferably with too many eggs as well. YMMV, obviously.

                                                                                                    1. re: Will Owen
                                                                                                      iL Divo Jul 19, 2012 09:50 AM

                                                                                                      "YMMV" ?
                                                                                                      Your mileage may vary................................that's according to *cyber talk* lingo, unless they're wrong on what that means, please do enlighten me WO.

                                                                                                      And yes, it's amazing how many different opinions there are on food products, the way things are made and therefore turn out, what one expects from an ordered item on a menu, as well as highly anticipated recommendations.
                                                                                                      We recommended Bergers Burgers in Mammoth for years, only to realize waaay after the fact, they'd closed down then reopened to nothing of the original way they'd been prepared previously.

                                                                                                      I'm thankful for someone saying 'try this-here'. If it's not up to what I'm hoping for, it was fun making the jaunt and doing it with my love.

                                                                                            2. biondanonima Apr 6, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                                                              I rarely make hash browns but I'd be interested in how your winner stands up against raw potato, grated and not rinsed. I can see how the rinsing process would create too much moisture, but unrinsed potatoes shouldn't have that problem. Thanks for posting your results, though - I'll be trying your method next time!

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: biondanonima
                                                                                                greygarious May 27, 2011 09:31 PM

                                                                                                I did just that this week, biondanonima, with room temp Yukon Golds. They were quite wet so I pressed them between paper towels, but that did not remove enough moisture. Frying them still created enough steam that they didn't crisp much at all.

                                                                                                1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                  biondanonima Jun 10, 2011 01:22 PM

                                                                                                  Interesting. I love Yukon Golds for just about anything, but they are a little less starchy/fluffy by nature than russets - I wonder if that translates into more moisture in the potato? CI recommends using raw russets or another high starch potato and wringing out the shreds in a tea towel before cooking.

                                                                                                  1. re: biondanonima
                                                                                                    Antilope Jun 10, 2011 02:39 PM

                                                                                                    How about microwaving the grated potatoes in a glass pieplate to drive off some moisture and partially cook the interior before frying? That might solve some of the mositure and burning problems.

                                                                                                    1. re: biondanonima
                                                                                                      KailuaGirl Mar 17, 2012 01:42 AM

                                                                                                      My brother makes the best hash browns I've ever eaten! He grates the Russets on a box grater, spreads them out thin on paper towels, places other paper towels on top of them, lets them sit a few minutes, then presses down to squeeze out the moisture. He fries them up in a little vegetable oil (unless we have bacon grease) in a regular old skillet (from a set of Revereware that my Mom got for a wedding present about 60 years ago). Nice, golden, crunchy on the outside, warm and cooked through on the inside. And absolutely out of this world!

                                                                                                2. l
                                                                                                  lidia Apr 6, 2011 10:51 AM

                                                                                                  What a great report! How long did you par-boil the potatoes for, roughly?

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: lidia
                                                                                                    RealMenJulienne Apr 7, 2011 01:18 AM

                                                                                                    Thanks! it depends how big the potato is. I parboil until a fork pierces them easily, but meets some gritty resistance near the center, about 7-8 minutes for a fist-sized potato.

                                                                                                  2. m
                                                                                                    mandycat Apr 6, 2011 05:09 AM

                                                                                                    I think it's the San Francisco Chronicle columnist whose slogan was "I watch these TV shows so you don't have to." You went through all these gyrations so we don't have to do it ourselves and we thank you. I gave up on hash browns some time ago but maybe I'll give it another try using your winning method.

                                                                                                    The restaurant at Centennial Airport, just south of Denver CO, serves what are country fried potatoes rather than true hash browns. They (like all their breakfast items, how we miss that place) were delicious. We were told that the cook's method was to take the potatoes and onions to the 80% cooked stage and then let them sit in the fridge overnight, finishing them when ordered with a nice crusty outside. If you don't feel like going through the hash brown exercise, this is a good alternative.

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