How to Make Crispy Hashbrowns Like at the Diner
There must be a way to make hash browns quick and simple — or they wouldn't be a standard fare in diners whereever you go.
So how do you make them golden and crispy like in the diners?
We set off to find how they did it. It turns out, it's simple. There are just four keys to perfect hash browns.
The Keys to Crispy Hash Brown Potatoes
Key 1: Wring the water out of them before cooking! This is the most important step.
In preparation for this article, we made batch after batch of hash browns. We experimented with different heats and different amounts of butter and some results were better than others. But the best always had one thing in common: We wrung or pressed water from the grated potatoes before cooking them. The lesson is: Dryer grated potatoes are essential for crispy hash browns.
There are two ways to get water out of potatoes. Those backroom cooks in the diners, they simply take a kitchen towel, wrap it around grated potatoes, and twist the towel to wring the water out. Then cook them on the grill with butter. If you want to be a little more sophisticated than that, use a potato ricer as a press and compress the grated potatoes to extract the water. You’ll have very nice, dry shreds.
A ricer is even more efficient than twisting the potatoes in a kitchen towel, getting a fair portion of the moisture out of the potatoes.
Key 2: Add butter to your frying pan or griddle.
Use two teaspoons of butter for three cups of grated potatoes. That should brown your potatoes without being greasy.
Key 3: Cook them in Medium-High Heat
We tried different heat settings. We found the best heat combination to be medium-high heat to melt the butter. When the butter began bubbling, we added the potatoes and turned the heat to medium-low for ten minutes before turning them over. Then we continued frying on the same heat for another seven or eight minutes. A higher heat browned the potatoes too quickly, not allowing them to cook thoroughly.
Key 4: Use the Starchier Potato
Use russets. New potatoes are waxy and moist. Russets ae starchy. You need the starch to make crispy potatoes.
Recipe for Perfect Hash Browns
- 3 cups raw shredded russet potatoes (2 large potatoes)
- 2 tablespoons sweet onions, grated
- 2 teaspoons butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel potatoes and coarsely grate them. Rinse them in a strainer with cold water. Then using a potato ricer compress the water from the potatoes. You may also wring the potatoes in a cloth towel and then pat them dry.
- In a two-quart bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, and salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes to evenly distribute the ingredients. In a ten-inch frying pan (nonstick works best), melt the butter over medium-high heat. When it is bubbly, add the potatoes and reduce the heat to medium low. Press the potatoes evenly with a large spatula. They should be no more than a half-inch thick. Cook for ten minutes. Then with a spatula, cut the hash browns evenly in to four wedges for easy turning. Turn them over and cook the other side for another seven or eight minutes until the potatoes are tender. Serve hot.
Recipe for Sweet Potato Hash Browns
You can make hash browns from sweet potatoes, and they are very good but they are not going to be as crispy as those from russets.
The key to making sweet potato hash browns is not to overcook them. When you precook them in the microwave, stop short of cooking them until they are soft.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon crushed marjoram, basil, or rosemary (your choice)
- salt and pepper
- Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and sauté the onion dices.
- While the dices are cooking, peel the sweet potatoes with a potato peeler. Cut the sweet potatoes into slices or sticks. Place them in a microwave-safe bowl with about 1/4 cup water, cover with plastic, and cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave until almost tender—about two minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes to the onion. Add the desired spice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the sweet potatoes until crusty on one side, turn and repeat, until done.