Hash browns are the Anthony Bourdain-approved breakfast side dish of champions. Honestly, have you ever really ordered “home fries” with your breakfast because you wanted them? Hell, no. A shredded potato fried up nice and crispy is damn near perfect — when done correctly.
A great hash brown recipe is the simplest recipe. The crucial aspect here is to remove as much starch and water as possible, so that you get that nice “shredded” potato feel where the shreds feel fairly individual yet still part of a crispy whole. A lot of people will tell you to parboil or even bake and then cool potatoes before the grate. That doesn’t work. Too much starch is going to be left over and you’ll have more of a mash potato pancake at the end, rather than a hash brown.
Thing is, hash browns are pretty easy to make, they just take a little prep. In the end, we’re talking 15 minutes, max, to make a seriously delicious plate of hash browns at home right now. Here’s how.
The ingredients are the easy part here. You’ll need one medium-sized white potato for each person you’re cooking for. The potatoes I’m using are about halfway between the size of a softball and baseball. You’ll also need sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and a little olive oil.
You’ll also need a box grater, cast iron skillet, a bowl, and a spatula. That’s it.
Personal note: I like to add in a little garlic powder to my hash browns. It’s not necessary by any stretch but it does give them a nice little edge. I’ve also added smoked paprika if the mood strikes. It’s up to you. Maybe try it with the salt and pepper first and experiment from there until you find your hash brown #authenicself.
First, I peel one potato. Next, I grate it lengthwise along the large tooth section of the box grater. You want your potato shreds to be as long as they can. Do this slowly and deliberately to avoid cutting your fingers on those teeth.
Next, you’re gonna need to de-starch the potato. Get a large bowl and throw the raw potato in and cover with cold water. Move the potato around with your hand squeeze. Drain the water and replace then repeat the thrashing. Until the water goes from this color…
… to completely clear. This shouldn’t take more than three or four rinses over a minute or two.
This next part is the most important step that’s far too often skipped. You need to take a thin cloth or cheesecloth and wring as much water from the potato shreds as possible. As you can see in the below picture, I’m using a cloth that you can clearly see light through.
Put your potatoes in the middle and bunch the cloth around and then wring it as tightly as you can until the water stops dripping.
Now, most of the starch and water have been wrung from the potatoes and they’re almost ready. I put the potatoes back in a bowl and add a good pinch of sea salt and few cranks from the pepper mill. This is where I’d add the garlic powder or paprika as well. Then I gently toss the potatoes so that the salt and pepper evenly coat all the shreds. Now, your potatoes are ready for the skillet.
I heat my cast iron skillet on a medium heat with a good glug of olive oil to make a single, very thin layer of oil. I’m using olive oil because we’re cooking slow and olive oil has a low smoke point and is basically perfect for this type of cooking. It’s crucial that you don’t cook these potatoes too fast. You want them to slowly brown while the potato cooks to soft perfection.
I place the potatoes in the skillet and sort of form them into a thin circle. By “thin,” I mean no more than a half-a-thumbnail thick. It should be sizzling and slowly browning as steam escapes through the potato, cooking it. As it browns, the hash brown should hold together like a very loose pancake. After about four minutes, it should be ready to flip.
Allow it brown on the other side evenly. This shouldn’t take more than four to five minutes. That’s it.
I bunch up the sides of my hash browns to make them less round and slide them onto a warmed plate.
I quickly fry up an egg in the same skillet as a nice fatty-protein-bomb accompaniment. I crack a little more pepper over everything and then douse the whole plate in some hot sauce (I use the bottle I happen to have open right now which is Zatarain’s Cajun Hot Sauce).
The magic of great hash browns are that crispy crust, which gives way to a soft yet ever-so-slightly firm potato interior that’s kept its structural integrity. It’s crisp, clean, light, filling, and works wonders with the fat of the egg yolk. This really is the king of breakfast side dishes. And, now, you can do it too.