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What's the secret to those crispy hash browns down at the diner? It's the water. You have to get the water out.
You can make hash browns at home just like at the diners. They are really quite quick and simple—or they wouldn't be standard dining fare wherever you go.
The best hash browns are fried until they are golden and crispy on the outside and cooked through. In our quest to make the best hash browns we tried several methods. We cooked raw potatoes and parboiled potatoes. We varied the heat. We added more butter. We tried different varieties of potatoes. Finally we pressed the water from grated raw potatoes. Then they worked.
Salty old cooks in diner kitchens place grated raw potatoes in a kitchen towel and twist the towel to wring the water out. It works.
You don't think of potatoes as being high water content but they are. So when you cook them you're creating a ton of steam which softens the potatoes—no crispy hash browns. Once you get the water out it's easy to get them crispy.
Wringing the water out with a kitchen towel seemed crude so we looked for a different method. A potato ricer presses the water out of grated raw potatoes easily and quickly and gets more water out than a kitchen towel.
Whether you use a towel or a potato ricer get the water from the potatoes and you'll make great hash browns just like at the diner.
Perfect Hash Browns
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 into 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.