Crispy Hash Browns
My father, being of the solid German stock that he is, is naturally a connoisseur of all things potato. In particular he loves nothing more than very crispy shredded hash browns for breakfast with his eggs. Now, there are many ways of frying up potatoes for breakfast, and I think we do all of them.
But the shredded variety of hash browns holds a special place in his heart (mine too!) and for that reason he has mastered the way to make them extra crispy. He explained his approach to me one day, while my mother was in the room and couldn’t help but overhearing:
ME: Dad, how do you make your hash browns turn out so crispy?
DAD: Use a potato ricer. It’s the only thing I’ve found that really gets the moisture out of the potatoes. The trick to these hash browns is to get rid of as much moisture as possible before cooking them.
MOM: I always used paper towels to press out the moisture.
DAD: Your hash browns are mushy.
MOM: I made this family hash browns for forty years and you never complained. They’re perfectly fine.
DAD: They were mushy.
MOM: You ate them!
DAD: Yes I did. And they were mushy.
(and the debate continues as I quietly leave the room.)
Mom’s hash browns are mushy. Tasty, edible, yummy, but still mushy. They aren’t as good as dad’s, and that is just a fact. The trick to great, crispy, shredded hash browns is to squeeze as much of the moisture out of them as you can. Then you need to make sure you are using enough oil, the pan is hot but not so hot as to burn the potatoes, and you spread the shredded potatoes out in an even, thin layer, the thinner the better.
Updated from the recipe archives, first posted 2005.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, canola oil, or rice bran oil
- 1 lb Russet baking potatoes
- Salt and pepper
- Large frying pan (at least a 9" diameter bottom)
- Potato ricer
1 Peel the potatoes and grate them using the large holes of a box grater.
2 Squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the grated potatoes. An easy way do this with a potato ricer, using it much like you would a garlic press, except you don't force the potatoes through the ricer. You just press out the moisture. Work in batches and only fill the ricer half-way with the raw grated potatoes.
If you don't have a ricer, wrap the raw grated potatoes in a clean kitchen tea-towel and squeeze it until you have squeezed out as much moisture as you can. Work in batches to make it more manageable. Note that the potatoes can sometimes stain a cloth towel, so use one that you don't mind showing a bit of wear. You can also use sturdy paper towels to squeeze out the moisture, though they don't work as well as cloth or a ricer.
3 Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. When the oil in the pan heats up to the point of shimmering, but not smoking, add the grated potatoes, spreading them out along the bottom of the pan. The potatoes should not be too thick in any one place, a 1/4-inch to a 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the potatoes.
After a few minutes, lift up one edge of the potatoes and see how done they are. If they have fried to a golden brown they are ready to flip. Use a large metal spatula (or two spatulas) to flip the potatoes over all at once, or divide the large potato cake into halves or quarters and flip. Continue to cook until they are golden brown on the bottom.