A Treatise on How to Make Homemade Shredded Hash Browns

Do you ever discover yourself cooking a bag of frozen hash browns and find yourself thinking, “You know, these are good and super easy to make… hmmm, almost too easy!” Would your life be better if making breakfast was a little more time consuming, required more energy, and ran a much higher risk of utter failure? If so, keep reading!

Growing up I hated hash browns. I associated them with tater tots, which when in casserole form was my nemesis until my mom first whipped up turkey patties as her new form of cruel and unusual punishment. It wasn’t until my later twenties that I finally reconciled with hash browns, conceding that they were just harmless potatoes in a shredded form when not tossed together with cream of mushroom, canned green beans and other unspeakable ingredients that my dad screamed at me to stuff down my gullet. Ah… good times…

Like the college student that all of a sudden discovers he can drink beer, I went slightly overboard making homemade shredded hash browns. Eating frozen hash browns wasn’t good enough for me; I needed to know how to make them from scratch and how to do so perfectly. So for about a year I made them multiple times a week until I could fully understand each facet of the process. Why did some recipes call for soaking the potatoes and others rinsing them? Is changing the water or using ice cubes really necessary? I don’t like blindly following recipes. I want to know why I am doing something so I can figure out for myself if there is a better way.

Here is what I learned:

First gather the following….

1 russet potato,
~1/4 tsp salt,
~1/8 tsp pepper,
Butter and oil to coat bottom of pan

First thing I learned: Peel the potato if desired. This will not affect the final dish. Some like the rustic look of potato skins in their food, others do not. Pick a side. Then shred the potato and then quickly move onto the next step to prevent oxidation.

Rinse shredded hash browns
Rinse the shredded potatoes under cold water until the excess starch has been removed.

Second thing I learned: Some recipes call for soaking the potato in ice water, while others just say to rinse the shreds. What you are actually doing here is removing the excess starch from the shreds so you get a crisper final product. Cold water prevents oxidation and if you decide to soak the potatoes changing the water will remove more starch and speed the process. Personally I prefer to rinse the shreds in a strainer under the faucet until the water runs clear because it is easier to tell when the objective has been accomplished. When the water runs clear I know the starch has been removed.

Third thing I learned: The stored water must be removed from the potato shreds and there are multiple ways to accomplish this. Personally, I like to just grab a fist full and squeeze it over the sink. However if you are cooking for others you may want to ring it tightly in cheese cloth or just squeeze out the liquid in a ricer. Whatever method you choose, be sure to work in batches so the water can easily disperse. The more water that is removed, the crisper the hash brown will be. Once water has been drained, mix in salt and pepper.

Squeeze moisture out to dry shredded potatoes
Once rinsed and squeezed of excess moisture the potato will not oxidize as easily.

Fourth thing I learned: Heat a nonstick pan (This pan has been my main workhorse for years) with a mixture of oil and butter on medium high. Butter gives hash browns better flavor, but adding oil prevents the butter from burning by raising its smoke point. The fat mixture lies more thinly in the pan and also coats it more evenly which allows for more even contact with the hash.

Fifth thing I learned: Place the hash in the hot pan and press with a spatula to evenly flatten the potato shreds. Thinner is better as this will ensure everything cooks. If you desire healthier hash browns you can use a minimal amounts of oil/butter, but more fat will result in crispier hash browns.

Sixth thing I learned: Once the bottom is crispy you can use a spatula to divide the hash brown into four sections and then proceed to gingerly flip them. OR you can man up and flip the whole thing in the pan with a quick upward flick of your wrist… don’t worry your dog will love you as you practice. Once flipped proceed to cook until the bottom is crisp.

Once you have finished cooking your homemade shredded hash browns you can serve them immediately or place in a warm oven to keep them warm while you work on additional batches.

Crispy golden homeade shredded hash browns
Using enough fat creates a golden crispy crust.

A few thoughts on advance preparation:

You can shred the potatoes and leave them soaking in water for a few hours until you are ready to cook. This will remove the excess starch and prevent oxidation until you are ready to cook.

I never had good results with par-cooking the hash. Blanching the potato shreds did prevent oxidation but the hash browns never stayed together when cooked and the flavor was off.

Final thought:

I doubt that I just spared any of you from a year long sabbatical to fully understand the inner workings of the perfect shredded hash brown. However, if I have perhaps given one person a sense of personal satisfaction for not only following my recipe but actually understanding what they are doing and why… then I am just as happy.

Homemade shredded hash browns
Homemade shredded hash browns

I love to hear feedback, so please let me know what you think if you try this recipe!

Recipe summary below:

A Treatise on How to Make Homemade Shredded Hash Browns
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Deliciously crispy homemade shredded hash browns made from scratch!
Ingredients
  • 1 baking potato
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 TBSP Butter
  • 2 TBSP Oil
Instructions
  1. Peel desired amount of skin off potato,
  2. Shred potato through a cheese grater or food processor
  3. Rinse shreds under cold running faucet until starch has been removed
  4. Drain the water and wrap clumps of shredded potato in cheesecloth or ricer and squeeze tightly to remove all moisture.
  5. Mix salt and pepper with shredded potatoes
  6. Place hash in hot oiled non-stick pan on medium-high heat and press with spatula to flatten into a uniform thickness around pan.
  7. Once bottom is crispy divide into four sections and flip (or keep it whole if you are able to flip it), continue cooking until it has the desired crispness.

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55 Responses to A Treatise on How to Make Homemade Shredded Hash Browns

  1. Annie says:

    I just made hash browns the way you recommended and they were great! I just added cheese and made them yummier! Thanks for the advice. You succeeded in giving one person satisfaction in making better hash browns.

    • Carrie J says:

      Thank You, It is our Anniversary and I am going to do a Surprise Breakfast and my hash browns are terrible, I see what I have been doing wrong. ;-)

  2. Jacqui says:

    You taught me too! I just tried out my new cuisinart griller and decided to make eggs & homemade hashbrowns. I just shredded, seasond & cooked. It was a super-gross, brownish, sticky mess. I had to get online and see what to do right away. I have another potato shredded, rinsed & soaking for when my hubby wakes up. He won’t even know I’m not a hashbrown expert!

  3. Chelsea says:

    So happy you posted your potato experience! I’m preparing grated potatoes for tomorrow – grated potatoes with white cheddar and bread crumbs – most amazing cheesy potatoes on the planet. But as soon as they started turning pink I got worried about them! Googled some nonsense about potatoes and found your amazing post! THANK you!

  4. Bob says:

    I’ve also boiled them and cooled them, this makes them firm and cold when they hit the oil. So start the oil. peel and shred the potato and cook immediately.

    Some alternate ingredients:

    Mushrooms
    Onions
    Bacon bits (real or soy)
    Country gravy
    Chili
    Chili and cheese
    Cheese (grated)
    And anything else you can think of when you eat potatoes or rice

    Just tired them your way and took out the water never quite understood why my boiled potatoes always came out crisper and your way is much better than mine.

    Gracie

  5. Sean says:

    Your commitment to making the perfect hash, sir, is commendable! I salute the techniques you’ve described, and I have been, over the past several days, indulging myself completely! I now fear I may have a problem, since I can produce the perfect hash at will!
    If I cannot get this under control, and have to go through some 12-Step program, please keep an eye out for a bill to your email…

    Sean
    ;-)

  6. kimberly says:

    I laud your efforts. I get obsessed as well, most recently w/ cheesecake. I use my neighbors as test subjects.
    On to the hash browns. This is absolutely the best way to make them. There is a step to be saved however if you are making them immediately. The rinsing is unnecessary. I shred them w/ my box grater, give them a vigorous squeeze(removing as much water as possible is imperative), and get them into a hot pan.
    I flatten them w/ spatula after seasoning w/ salt and pepper, a little garlic and red pepper flakes. This flattening of them really does aid in the crispiness. These are so crispy when done I cut them w/ a pizza cutter. Absolutely fabulous!

  7. Jeannie says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I’ve always hated that my homemade hash browns turned a yucky grey when I put them in the pan. Now I understand the process and I’m gonna go make some.

  8. Jesse Short says:

    Just followed your recipe and my hash browns turned out PERFECT! It was my first time ever cooking hash browns. Thank you so much for sharing. Can’t wait to make them for friends. Had them with pan fried flat iron steaks and eggs….ummm! J.S.

  9. msprissysmom says:

    Thank you so much for this, it actually works! No more gummy/sticky hash browns for me ever again. Been making the potato pancakes, cause I never could get those hash brown correct.

  10. Sarah Cruickshank says:

    You just saved my Sunday morning breakfast. Thank you!

  11. Yvonne says:

    I have the same reaction to my cooking. I want to know how/why something affects the taste of the food I am cooking, especially if it’s delicious. Last night I sauteed onions, cabbage and bowtie pasta (and then cooked in small amount of chicken stock) seperately and then combined at the end. ( I may add shredded carrots next time. It’s an Eastern European dish. The recipes I found just asked for one to sautee onion and cabbage which I did. I’ve sauteed (carefully) the dry pasta before for different dishes. It adds a nice ‘brownness’. We like things spicey so I may add a spash of sriracha too.

  12. Jane says:

    Wish I had this information over the weekend. Tried a recipe and what a flop it was. Talk about oxidation, starch and excess liquid. Anyhow, thanks. I’ll look forward to trying them again.

  13. Joe says:

    Good advise. I love making weekend breakfast for the family, but always use frozed HB’s execpt once. The first time I made homemade hashbrowns I thought it was just peeled potatoes. I didn’t rinse them. I didn’t remove any water. I just shredded potatoes and threw them in a pan with oil …I pretty much ruined that pan. Thanks again, and I’m off to the kitched.

  14. Donna says:

    I’m going to try making these now. But i have lots of potatoes that i got on sale and want to make up and freeze. Any sugguestions? Would you peel, shred, wash, dry and then freeze and store? Or do you recommend cooking up the hasbrowns and then freezing them?

  15. Ellen says:

    I am almost 66 years old, and have never, EVER been able to prepare hash browns that turned out anything other than a gloppy, sticky, greasy mess (shame!). For some reason, this morning I got it in my head that I WAS going to find out how to make perfect, crispy hash browns. I would not want to die without having this knowledge! As my husband and I both appreciate perfectly prepared potatoes for breakfast, I naturally went on Google. Yours was the first ~ and ONLY ~ link I clicked on, much to my extreme pleasure! I’m relatively certain that the step I routinely skipped was to rinse the taters once shredded, for that made all the difference in the world. So, I shredded, rinsed well, blotted in paper towels, and poured them into the pan which was waiting with your recommended mix of butter and oil. Rather than further elaborate on my elation here, I will just send you a huge THANK YOU!! for your post here. I’ll be making many, many batches of hash browns in the future, and will always say a silent “thank you” to you! I’m not on my death-bed by any means, but now, when the time comes, I can die 100% happy!!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

    • Jerry says:

      Ellen, I’m coming up on 71 and have never had decent hash browns. Frozen were almost as bad. This works FANTASTICALLY! Likewise, I never “Cured” my fry pans. What a difference that makes. And, they ask, “Going to buy an new knife set, Don’t…”. I splurged and bought four and a steel. All I will ever use… This ole Dog learned a new trick!
      Jerry

  16. Michelle Ford-Copley says:

    I’ve learned my salad spinner is an invaluable tool when making hash browns. Just run cold water over shredded raw potatoes until they run clear, shake excess water off, line salad spinner with papertowels and spin all the water out. Crispy, golden and no gray mushy gluey mess…Just like waffle housees scattered covered and smothered here, though you don’t HAVE to scatter them, they will stick together if not

  17. Mo says:

    Nice! I do all sorts of things to my potatoes and this helped with the rinsing the strach part, thank you!

  18. Melba Myrick says:

    My question is: Can I freeze them after cooking? I don’t use many potatoes (widow) but buy the bag as its less expensive.
    As I have quite a few, thought maybe make a batch and freeze? If so, then I don’t have to buy the ones at the grocery. Whats your opinion/

    • Fox Valley Foodie says:

      I have never tried freezing them, so I am not sure but now I am curious. If you try it please let me know how it turns out. I would suspect it would turn out ok, though I would probably reheat them in the oven rather than the microwave (but then again I hate reheating most things in the microwave).

  19. Charlie says:

    Most of the previous comments were filled with things I had intended to say, but i didn’t want to repeat any of those. The only thing I WILL repeat is a heartfelt THANK YOU.

  20. Steve says:

    Did you use an infrared heat gun to measure or find the desired skillet temperature? Any advice for using clarified butter to raise the cooking temperature? How long does each side typically take to cook? We love the IHOP version of hash browns, although other places like the Waffle House elect to make the crispy version. While we love crispy hash browns, they are higher in oil than IHOP’s style. Any advice on making the non-crispy hash browns like IHOP…assuming you have tried that version? Instead of running water, we used the Asian rice technique. Fill a bowl with water, stir by hand then drain and repeat until excess starch is removed; the critical step in making non-mushy hash browns (as you recommend). Did you try Alton Brown’s technique for opening holes on a box grater…to make the shreds thicker? I ask technical questions only because you appear serious and dedicated a year to developing your techniques?

  21. Alex says:

    Thanks for the recipe! Just made some for breakfast and they turned out perfectly!

  22. colleen wanner says:

    I am going to try this! Thank-you for explaining the “why” because my first personal attempt this morning at what I thought was a really good idea turned into a grey gluey mess!! So I had to get on the internet and figure out what I did wrong :) Btw your blog is great! Love your humour!

  23. Beth says:

    I consider myself a decent cook, but I have been wondering for years why my hashed browns never turned out. Now I know why! I was determined to make a great breakfast for my husband for Father’s Day, and found your advice. I’ve made them according to your recipe several times and they haven’t failed since. Thanks so much!

  24. Allen says:

    Awesome advice, thanks

  25. Lucy says:

    Looks yum me and my dad make these for the family we served them with bacon eggs mushrooms and cheese they are fantastic I love the recipe .

  26. Virginia says:

    Thank y0u, thank you! We have harvested two 5 gallon buckets of potatoes (and that’s only half of the rows). I was looking for ways to use them and I am thrilled to have found this. My husband and son thank you as well ;)

  27. matthew clark says:

    This is exactly what I discovered. Excellent advise!

  28. Matt says:

    This worked great for me. Thanks.

    I will add something no one else has mentioned. If you want to get out the moisture after squeezing them over a strainer I suggest putting them in the microwave on high for 5 minutes. I thought they might lose some flavour or mess with texture (as microwaving often does) but it doesn’t.

  29. Cari says:

    PERFECT and DELICIOUS ! Thank you for the great advice to creating the best homemade hash browns ever!

  30. Dawn Pedersen says:

    Making hash browns has always been a challenge. If I tried to do them from scratch, they were gluey, grey and slimy. I had been using freeze-dried or frozen to avoid spending the time to figure this out. I read your article and went to work. What a difference, but I am still working on it. I had good success with a ceramic pan, but forgot to squeeze out the excess water. For those of us who do not have the typical family or four this is an amazing way to be able to cook exactly what you want. You should be very proud of your efforts. Thanks so much for the article. It was, not only useful, but also fun to read.

  31. Chris says:

    Just did your recipe… it was very good. Thank you. I love cooking breakfast and never seemed to quite get these right, until now. It was amazing to see how much starchy water came out on squeezing. I think next time I will reserve the water, and let the water evaporate to get the potato starch. I have a gravy idea that I want to try out. Thank you for your time in posting this recipe.

  32. William says:

    Excellent! Far superior to the crappy fare served at “family” restaurants across America. A note on oils: you should never use olive oil or any of the toxic industrial seed oils like canola for frying. A high smoke point oil is key. The number one best fat would be Leaf Lard if you can find it. Never use frankenfood hydrogenated lard which is full of dangerous trans-fats! Other excellent choices would be bacon fat as the author suggested or coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter).

  33. Ed Chainey says:

    I use an inverted plate, of a size just smaller than the pan, to hold the hash browns while I flip the fry pan. I then slide the potatoes back onto the pan to finish browning. There is much less chance of potatoes falling to the floor or the browns from flopping onto themselves. Otherwise, great recipe!

  34. Jenny Holdeman says:

    I shredded some potatoes in my food processor on Sunday to make hashbrowns for the first time. I immediately put them in the skillet and ended up with a waxy ugly mess! I didn’t know what I did wrong but now I totally get it! Thank you!

  35. smitha says:

    Love these Hasbrowns!!! came out perfect… everytime i did it… i had no idea of how to make hashbrowns and came across this post when i googled. Glad i tried it… i have never left a response for recipes online… but had to for this one……:-)
    thanks for making me a good cook !!!!LOL

  36. Johna Mohr says:

    Thanks for the info. It helped me a lot. My hashbrowns were grey, gooey and yucky. Now they are white, crisp and delicious!

  37. pego says:

    well here I go, one big breath and I’m heading for the kitchen. thanks!

  38. karen says:

    you sir are a gentleman and a scholar. damn good hash browns were made from this recipe, eternal and heartfelt thanks.

  39. Lori H says:

    Oh . my . gosh !! These were so delicious, light & fluffy. A wonderful complement to our breakfast before we head out to shovel a foot of snow!

    Thank you for the back-story & the significance of rinsing the starch out of the grated potatoes & then squeezing the excess moisture out as well. Good info to have.

  40. rebekah wilson says:

    Thanks for a great recipe! My previous attempts were dismal. I did an internet search and found this recipe. This worked perfectly and I was amazed at the amount of shredded hash browns one potato will make. I added a few herbs, shredded some parmesan reggiano on the finished potatoes and substituted coarse sea salt for salt.

  41. Austin Becker says:

    If you spill uncooked potato on the floor while practicing the “flip” don’t let your dog eat them. Raw potatoes are actually unhealthy for dogs; just like raw onions and grapes. Read about potato dangers here http://dogcare.dailypuppy.com/sweet-potato-vs-white-potato-dogs-2388.html

  42. Terry says:

    What about using a par-baked potato? You mention that the flavor is off when using par-cooked shreds, but I’ve had moderate success baking a potato for 30 minutes the night before, letting it cool and then shredding it. My main problem in attempting homemade hash browns has been that they just won’t cook. I wait 30-45 minutes for the shreds to stop being raw/crunchy, adding more oil and butter than I can justify, and then either declaring them “done” or eating semi-crispy hash browns that weren’t worth the wait. I’ve tried putting the lid on the skillet so they will steam themselves, and even though the outsides browned the inside was mushy and rubbery. I hadn’t heard of removing the starch and excess water, so maybe in addition to pre-cooking the potato (and letting it cool; otherwise it goes to mush in the food processor) I can use this method to have crispy hash browns without so much fat.

    • karen says:

      That’s not letting the oil heat enough. I had that problem. America’s Test Kitchen mentioned letting the oil heat until you see wisps, then put the potato in.

  43. 2ndHandLibrarian says:

    Genius! I remember and learn Always when I am told “why?”! Never understood the blandness because of no butter added to the oil! All the times I have not made a recipe because I didn’t have hashbrowns !

  44. Terry says:

    I tried this method using a Yukon Gold potato, and the shreds remained separate throughout the cooking process rather than forming patties. I followed the instructions to rinse and dry the shreds, but after a few attempts to divide and “flip” them during cooking, I ended up merely stirring them every few minutes to ensure that they all cooked evenly. The result was good – probably my best hash browns to date – but I wonder if this was the result of a Yukon being more or less starchy than a russet – ?

  45. Penny says:

    did you ever find out if you can freeze the uncook hash browns?

  46. Anne says:

    I have two football playing sons and they love hash browns! Can I peel the potatoes, shred and rinse and then store them before using? I would like to peel 10lbs and have them ready for the week. Please let me know! Bagged browns are getting too expensive!
    Thanks!

  47. Connie says:

    I do all of these steps but I line my salad spinner with paper towels and spin them dry. Easy

  48. Daisy says:

    Trying this for breakfast today!

  49. SWatts says:

    My husband paid this recipe the ultimate complement. He said these hash browns are better than the ones from Waffle House. Thank you for posting this- we live overseas and were really missing some good comfort food.

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