How to make homemade hash browns

Shredded hash browns can be confidence killers in the kitchen. In restaurants they look and taste so darn good, we often think: “How hard can they be to make? Just shred potatoes and throw them in a pan, right?” And then we end up with mushy spuds that are overly browned on the outside but gray on the inside. To our chagrin, they’re anything but the crispy, delicious patties we get when dining out.

Some of us seek solace by making the easier, chunky style hash browns with diced potatoes, telling ourselves they’re just as good. Others never even try again.

Well, friends, buy a bag of Russets, ‘cause we’re about to change that.

Shredded-style hash browns really are a snap to make. After all, it’s just seasoned potatoes slapped in an oiled pan and fried. But there is a hidden enemy in those spuds, and it’s the reason why hash often goes haywire: water.

The secret to making perfect hash browns is to extract as much of the potato’s liquid as possible. The classic approach is to shred the potatoes on a grater, wrap the pieces in a paper towel and squeeze like mad. This can work, but you risk having bits of Bounty in your finished product, or having the paper tear completely before the extraction is done. In culinary school, we were taught to use cheesecloth, which worked well but left many aspiring Food Network stars with aching hands.

A simpler and easier option is to use a potato ricer. Yes, the same tool used to turn cooked potatoes into creamy mashed ones can be your gateway to perfectly hashed ones. For the uninitiated, a potato ricer looks like the world’s largest garlic press. The simple, hand-operated devices can be found online, at well-stocked discount stores, or kitchen shops like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table.

For our purposes, you need only to load the ricer with the raw shredded potato pieces and gently but firmly press it to extract as much moisture as possible. You’ll have to be a little careful, finding the correct balance of power; you’re not trying to squeeze the potatoes through the ricer, just the liquid. From here, it’s an easy road to hash-brown bliss. Ready to give it (another) try? Here’s how to make it happen.

RESTAURANT-QUALITY SHREDDED HASH BROWNS

(Makes 1-2 servings)

  • 1 medium to large Russet potato, peeled and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt or equivalent
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Step 1: Peel the potato and rinse it well. Using a box grater like the kind for cheese, grate the potato on the side with the largest holes. And watch those knuckles!

Step 2: Put the raw, grated potato pieces in the cavity of the ricer and, standing over the sink or a bowl, firmly but carefully press to extract as much liquid as possible. Fluff the pieces and repeat a couple of times. (Some people like to rinse the potato pieces before putting them in the ricer to get rid of excess starch; it’s totally optional).

Step 3: While heating a 10-inch or larger pan over medium, put the shredded potato in a bowl and add the seasoned salt and pepper, mixing well.

Step 4: Add the oil to the pan and coat the bottom. We want that oil very hot, so wait until it starts to shimmer.

Step 5: It’s go time. Put the shredded potato in the pan in a thin layer and press down firmly to create a large, thin patty. Turn the heat to medium-high and let the potato cook for about 5 minutes or until the bottom is browned, pressing firmly with a spatula from time to time. Flip and cook the other side several minutes, pressing occasionally, until it is browned to your liking.

Congratulations: You’ve just made crunchy, restaurant-quality hash browns. Serve these up with eggs or your favorite side, open a bottle of ketchup, and enjoy immediately.

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