Cheap Eats at Bloglander

5/2/07 | Hash Browns

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Hash Browns - on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

More potato stuff – I just can’t seem to get away from it. Actually, I almost didn’t post this one because I thought I had already done a post on Hash Browns but it turns out that one was on Home Fries.

I dunno if a lot of people go through the trouble to try make hash browns at home, but I’ve tried several times with varying degrees of success. I guess you could always head over to IHOP or some similar breakfast place to get them. But I recently got a pretty cool flat cast iron reversible grill pan as a gift – the kind that goes over two burners on the stove. So I decided to try make some hash browns again.

Hash Browns are pretty cool to make, because the list of ingredients is so short. Cooking them correctly isn’t as easy… I’m still trying to figure out the best method, but below is a general idea of what I usually do.

Hash Browns

1 large potato — $0.40
1-2 tbsp butter (from $1.00 4 oz stick) — $0.13
(or 1-2 tbsp of oil or cooking spray)
salt, pepper — negligible

Total: $0.53

Russets are probably easiest and most people have ‘em around. I don’t pre-cook the potatoes for hash browns because it’s thin enough, though for thicker home fries you might want to try that.

You can use either butter, oil, or cooking spray… but you should probably use at least something to prevent sticking and help browning. On my cast iron flat grill I’ve gotten away with using very little oil or cooking spray. If you’re using a pan, try using a non-stick surface one first… it’ll allow you to use less oil. Butter really makes the potatoes brown nicely, however, so you might want to experiment.

Peel and wash the potato(es). Heat up the pan/griddle and oil/butter it. Meanwhile, grate the potato finely. What I like to do is put the grated potato in a paper towel or cheesecloth and squeeze the heck out of it. A considerable amount of water will drain out.

Scatter the potatoes on the grill and cook until brown on one side. Try and always keep the potatoes spread thinly instead of clumped up together. Flip it with a spatula and cook until desired doneness is achieved. Salt and pepper to taste.

Hash Browns - on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hash browns are supposed to have a sort of creamy or fluffy texture on the inside with a nice crunch on the outside. It can be difficult to achieve this… one of the problems is that if you don’t use enough oil, or the pan isn’t the right temperature, you’re going to get sort of limp and greasy, un-browned potatoes. I know some people are looking to use less oil and butter, and it’s possible to get them browned on the outside with only a little fat.

However, when I use less oil the potatoes do get cooked and browned, but the outside gets much darker – almost burnt. And when using oil instead of butter there is a noticeable difference. That golden brown texture on the outside is elusive if you don’t use butter. I’ve had some good success using cast iron – it just seems like the temperature is more consistent over the entire grill or pan and it tends to stick less (assuming your cast iron is seasoned). One time, I only sprayed the surface with cooking spray and tried frying them on that. The potatoes cooked fine, but just didn’t taste as good.

In any case, you need to experiment to find the best balance of oil to butter and pan type for your liking. But this is definitely cheap eats: so happy hash brown experimenting!

Price: $0.53
Cheap Eats Score: 8/10

30 Responses to “Hash Browns”

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  1. adam barnett Says:

    I’ve never been able to successfully make these at home – probably just as well because I’d have them all the time. My mother used to do it in an electric skillet, and they came out perfectly.

  2. Marvo Says:

    I really would like to make hash browns, but breakfasts at most places are cheap enough that it’s easier to get them at a restaurant.

  3. budderocks Says:

    I buy Ore-Ida Frozen hashbrowns at the local grocery store, $4.24 for a 6 pound bag (regular price). I think that that is quite a good price. Quite oddly, the Ore-Ida brand of hashbrowns are cheaper than the store brand.

  4. jim Says:

    i agree. i buy frozen hash browns from time to time. the price can be pretty good if you watch for sales. much easier than making your own.

  5. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    adam – my mom used to make them in an electric pancake skillet thing – they came out ok, but just not golden brown.

    marvo – yeah definitely agree with you, you can get it pretty cheap at breakfast joints.

    budderocks / jim – I’ll have to give those a try. Whenever I go shopping I’m always eyeing the Ore-Ida tater tots. I have to wrench myself away from the frozen food aisle before I end up buying things I don’t need!

  6. Gregg Says:

    Hash browns are one of my favorite comfort foods. I use cooked russet potatoes that have been cooled overnight in the refrigerator. They are prepared in a cast iron pan over medium heat with some chopped yellow onion in a mixture of cooking oil and butter. Delicious!

  7. zac Says:

    I add finely chopped onion; and instead of squeezing them (which I shall now try) I toss the shreds with a bit of all purpose flour and shallow fry them in 1/4 inch of olive oil. If you get the hang of the flipping timing/thickness you can make perfect patties with that restaurant texture, but unless you’re either making tons at one time or making them every day, it’ll take a while to get a feel for it. I love them but usually only cook them for other because it’s so tedious for me that by the time they’re done, I dont wanna LOOK at a hashbrown until the next time I make them.

  8. Jan Says:

    I am living in the outbacks of Australia
    I desperately need a good recipie for hash browns
    I even forgot to bring a recipie book
    Not a fast food outlet for miles and miles
    Plenty of potatoes etc Even an IGA store

  9. Craig Says:

    I can never get the hashbrowns to brown without sticking to the bottom of the pan regardless of surface, non stick spray or oil. They stick every time.

  10. Ben Says:

    The SECRET is…

    BOIL BOIL BOIL those potatoes before you shred them.
    This changes everything!

    Otherwise they come out with some strange gooey consistency at the end.

    BOIL them then shred them into the pan.
    Using oil is fine but I still use a little butter even with the oil.

    Also there is a trick to keeping them from falling apart when you flip them if you’re using a pan…

    Slide them onto a plate when they’re ready to be flipped.
    Then put another plate over top of that plate face down and flip the two plates together with the hash browns in the middle.
    Now slide your unbroken, brown-side-up, hash browns back into the pan for the finish, perhaps even have a little more butter waiting for them back in the pan.

    I also think that HIGH heat on the pan can be dangerous but helpful for a brown result.

    Bon Apetite!

  11. Ben Says:

    …and Craig:
    use zac’s advice and go heavy on the oil, give your pan a little shimmy regularly to make sure that the potatoes are mobile in the pan and not just stuck to the bottom.

  12. Matt M Says:

    Yumm! I love to put creole seasoning on my potatoes. OH SO GOOD!

  13. Matt M Says:

    One other thing… Why would you drain the “water” out of the hash browns? I’m just assuming there’s a lot of nutrients in that “water.” The dryer hash browns would soak up flavors better though I would think.

  14. Reg Says:

    “The SECRET is… BOIL BOIL BOIL those potatoes before you shred them. This changes everything!”

    This is right. You must boil them. 8-10 minutes is usually enough for medium sized potatos. If you don’t boil them, you must have them extremely thin to get them nice and crispy, but you won’t have a soft middle. If you make them too think without boiling, you’ll end up with grey mush.

    You can fry them in oil just fine. I do that, and add a bit of butter at the end. You can fry at a higher temp using oil.

    Don’t try to add onions or any other toppings; save those for american fries. If you really want to, add the onions a few minutes before you want to eat after turning down the heat.

  15. pat Says:

    i work for village inn. our hash browns are sugar cured. Thats what makes them get super golden brown when cooked on a grittle with oil. Try adding a pinch or two of sugar to your papas.


  16. 31andfat Says:

    Anything for the ones’ trying to lose weight?

  17. Joe Schwerein Says:

    We soak the shredded potatoes in water with a pinch of salt for about an hour. The water turns pinkish, then we drain and do the squeeze thing. Fry’em up in a mixture of butter and canola with salt, pepper, powdered onion or powdered garlic, and they turn out great. Downside: Large batches don’t freeze well. But if you’re just looking for the Sunday morning treat, great.

    We do have good luck freezing mashed potatoes and then turning them into fried patties. Different consistency, but very good.

  18. jesse Says:

    Grey discoloration is due to the iron in the potatoes reacting with the air (sort of like why apples turn brown). To prevent this, always grate directly into the pan.

    I agree with several of the other posts that butter and veg oil is best. Butter gives you flavor and browning while oil gives more heat contact, cooking the potato more thoroughly.

    “put the grated potato in a paper towel or cheesecloth and squeeze the heck out of it. A considerable amount of water will drain out.” – After 9 years in the business and having both sides of my family loaded with traditional cooking, I’ve never heard of this. The juice is alkaline, which would aid digestion.

    Using cooked or raw potatoes is up to preference. If you use raw and the middle is mushy, then it’s undercooked, under-salted, or both. The consistency should resemble the inside of a french fry.

    I also like to salt and pepper my hash browns in the skillet. Diced onions are great (as others have mentioned). Try green peppers as well. Also, try serving with sour cream rather than ketchup.

  19. DFT Says:

    Here in the UK I make similar patties the way my mother used to, using a little flour to glue the seasoned raw potato together. If the grated potato is very wet, then I drain it. The oil for cooking needs to be very hot. The results vary with the type of potato and the time of year but they all seem good to me!

  20. Rina Says:

    IM SOOOO HUNGRY GIMME A HASHBROWN! *takes hashbrown and eats it like a hungry hungry hippo would during breakfeast so the moral is never bring a game set to brekfeast*

  21. Anne Says:

    Take this from an experienced Midwestern frugal farmfrau: the potatoes need to be cooked before hashing or slicing or frying. Without precooking, the potatoes are slimy, purplish and funky. So, to be frugal, at the beginning of the week, scrub your 10 lb. $2.00 bag of potatoes and bake them.. then cool and keep the whole pile in the fridge forever for all of your inexpensive cooking needs. From there, they are easily grated, sliced or cubed. In a hurry for hash? Scrub and cube several potatoes, then micowave for seven minutes, stirring several times. Season and fry over low heat. Everyone loves these.

  22. Maggym Says:

    how about baking hash browns?

  23. Vashti Wood Says:

    Hey, just found this post… I make these ALL the time for my family… it was a family favourite of mine when I was growing up…

    Here’s how to make them perfectly soft on the inside, and cruncy on the outside.

    Grate/shred the potato. You HAVE to drain the liquid starch from it so they’re as dry as possible. Normally, we use 1/2 doz potatoes, so we make HEAPS of mixture.

    So, shred and drain the potatoes. Place into a large bowl. Add a lightly beaten egg, and enough plain flour to stick it all together.

    Then, just grab large spoonfuls or small handfuls of the goop, drop it into a medium-high hot frying pan (I use an electric skillet)and ‘flatten’ it out with the back of a spoon or spatula ’til they’re – oh, I dunno – around 1/2 inch thich. Cook ’til golden and crunchy on one side before flipping over.

    These are GUARANTEED delicious!

    Also, I make a variation on the above as my daughter is allergic to both egg and gluten.

    We use gluten free flour and an egg replacer. They actually turn out nicer on the outside than the normal ones.


  24. Jay Says:

    I, too, have been on the years-long search for great homemade hashbrowns and would like to add the following to all the interesting different approaches that have been mentioned.

    After trying pre-boiled, par-boiled, and baked potatoes, I’ve settled on raw grated potatoes using this approach:

    - Grate the potatoes (I use a food processor);
    - Put them immediately in a collander inside a pan of salted cold water and stir them a bit;

    *This will allow much of the starch to drop out and they will be nice and white. The starch is part of what gives raw hashbrowns that somewhat unpleasant, sort of, well, “starchy” flavor and a gooey texture. You can leave them for awhile if you wish. Further rinsing is optional.

    - Then, do the wringing out with the towel trick. This will give them better cohesion;
    - If desired, potaotes can be sprinkled with a small amount of flower which will help them stick together better;
    - If you want some oniony flavor, add grated onion or just the juice from a grated onion. (Sliced or chopped onions can compromise the “structural integrity” of the hashbrowns.)
    - Fry in a non-stick skillet using mostly veg oil with a little bit of butter. (You have to use a bit more oil than I would prefer to get that really golden crust.) SInce they’re raw, they will take a little while to cook so don’t have the burner above medium. Don’t pile them in there too thick and flip them only once. Season in the pan as desired. I just like salt and pepper but my daughter loves them with Season All.

    *Cultural note: When my grandmother and her sisters on the German side of the family used to make potato dumplings (we called them “knödel”), they followed a similar procedure. However, after soaking the grated potatoes, they discarded the water and mixed the starch back in. That makes the dumplings really stick together.

  25. VicinSea Says:

    I agree with Anne!

    I have worked in many, many greasy spoons and the trick to hash browns is that they are the leftover baked-potatoes from the day before.

    The night before, take 5 pounds of bakers(russet potatoes) coat with a light layer of oil and then add a bit of salt and garlic powder. Either wrap the spuds in foil or bake them in a covered dish. Enjoy the baked potatoes for dinner and refrigerate the rest.

    For hash browns: grate the pre-baked potatoes into a greased skillet or onto a grill. Drizzle with melted butter(Restaurant Secret # 4–add butter whenever possible!) and fry til golden brown. Flip and fry until golden brown. Sprinkle with Johnny’s Seasoning Salt (Restaurant Secret # 3, Never use salt if you can use MSG instead.)

  26. chazpraz Says:

    Instead of a food processor you can use a mandolin slicer. I use the one from OXO. It’s quicker to use and easier to clean. There is a setting for ‘fries’ and ‘shoestring’ that works quite well.

  27. Maggie Says:

    Has anyone thought of using peanut oil?

  28. Lori Phipps Says:

    I loved all of these suggestions. The part I do well is the seasoning of the hashed browns. I make them so often that I line-up the seasonings on my display and just go from one to the next (just in time to flip them). I use parsley flakes, powdered onion, granulated garlic, celery seeds, paprika, basil flakes, oregano flakes, salt and pepper. My family raves over the taste. Hope it helps someone with a taste for something a little different. Also, when I fry bacon, I save the grease and use a little with the butter for added flavor to the hashed browns.

  29. Dave Says:

    As a southern I can say that the only true way to make hash brown is with cast iron and bacon grease.

    Another thing I do is to grate the potatoes and put them in cold water to remove the starch then put them in a hot griddle, beware they will pop as they’ll be damp from the water.

    There are 100′s of ways to make them, and most are good.

  30. martha Says:

    I reckon instead of boiling you can slice a couple of slashes into the potato then stick it in the microwave on high for a couple of minutes. It should be hissing and cooking but still firm. Then grate and cook in plenty of oil. This is not a low fat food, it’s a comfort food.



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