When it comes to potatoes, hash browns are my favorite. I didn’t know what to say when the dietitian I saw a couple of years ago told me that I could have potatoes once a year for Thanksgiving dinner but they had to be soaked in cold water for 3 hours before boiling and smashing. Needless to say I haven’t been back to see her. I don’t eat potatoes as often now as I used to, but when I do, I really enjoy hash browns fried extra crispy. Hash browns that are not prepared properly are a thick and mushy ketchup delivery system.
In my book, hash browns are shredded raw potatoes that are pan fried. To others they may be small or medium diced or thinly sliced potatoes. To some they may be raw or previously cooked by boiling or baking. And to others yet, they may include various binders such as eggs or flour. To me, these other variations are home fries, cottage fries, potato pancakes, or latkes.
I like to use russet potatoes. Some prefer waxy or new potatoes because they have less starch in them. I find russets that have been soaked in cold water for 3 hours make an excellent spud for hash browning as a lot of the starch has been removed. Both types of potatoes will work. Use what you like. If you want to use previously cooked potatoes to cut cooking time in half, use previously cooked potatoes. I believe you get a crispier end product when you start with raw potatoes.
The fat(s) you use to fry your hash browns with not only helps in transferring the heat from the pan to the potato and helps in non-sticking but more importantly adds flavor to the hash browns. I like to fry my hash browns in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Bacon fat, lard, or clarified butter also works very well.
As for seasoning, potatoes enjoy salt which is another substance that is a no-no to my former dietitian. Minced onions, garlic infused into the fat, rosemary, paprika or other herbs or spices may be used if you like flavored potatoes. The big thing is to get the flavor from the onion or garlic without burning either one. To me, a little salt of some kind is more than enough.
The type of pan you use may depend upon on whether you are a pan flipper or a spatula flipper. A properly seasoned cast iron pan or a good, nonstick pan may be used. I use a heavy gauge, nonstick pan as I’m a spatula flipper.
Peel your potatoes and use your grater with the largest holes. Be sure to soak out as much water as possible from the potatoes with a paper towel or clean dish towel to hasten the crisping process. If you are not going to fry them right away, keep them covered with water to discourage discoloration.
Heat your pan over a medium to medium-low setting or flame. This would be the time to season the potatoes with salt or other seasoning of choice.
Add a little fat to the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and add flavor.
Add the potatoes and spread out over the pan. The thinner the layer, the more crispy they will end up being. Mounded up, the interior will be soft and white while the exterior is still crispy and delicious. The choice is yours. Mine is the former.
Fry over this medium low heat until brown and crispy which will take from 5 to 10 minutes before flipping and doing the same for the second side. Serve right away as they will become wimpy if you hold them.
Keep your fork