Roadside Diner Technique for Traditional All American Hash Browns
Recently I was asked about the technique used in restaurants for Traditional All-American Hash Browns. It’s actually pretty simple:
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the (skin-on) potatoes for 20 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes from the heat by either draining or cooling them off in an ice bath (if the skins are still intact).
- Once the potatoes are cool, peel and shred them, but don’t rinse.
- Cook on a flat top grill or non-stick pan with butter/clarified butter or oil.
- Season with salt and pepper, minced/shredded onions, or peppers and a variety of seasonings.
The Best Potatoes for Hash browns
In terms of starch content, there are three categories of potatoes: floury, all-purpose, and waxy. To find out which type you have, boil a single potato for 30 minutes. If it splits, then it has a high starch content. If it doesn’t, then it is the waxy variety with low starch content.
The most common floury potato used in the US is the ubiquitous large Idaho Russet potato. However, I implore you to experiment on heirloom potato varieties such as Kennebecs, Desiree, Burbank, Norkotah, Ranger, Shepody, Estima, King Edward, Maris Piper, Rosamunda, and Red Baron. All are excellent for hash browns.
The all purpose varieties include Yukon Gold, White Potatoes, Felsina, Elina, Matilda, Ofelia, Merlin and Van Gogh. These are a hybrid of both floury and waxy potatoes and work well for hash browns.
Types of waxy potatoes (not recommended for shredded hash browns) are New Potato, Red Bliss, Maris Peer Jersey Royals, Purple Peruvian, All Blue, Adirondack Blue, Purple Fiesta, Vitelotte and most fingerling varieties. When fried, waxy potatoes become limp and soggy because of their high moisture content. Likewise, The higher sugar content can cause dark streaks. The waxy potatoes do have their uses, however. Try them in potato salad or boiled till tender and tossed with butter, salt, chives or parsley. Waxy potatoes do not lose their shape when boiled making them ideal for soups, casseroles and stews.
Keep in Mind
Potatoes are more sensitive than you think. Sprouting or green potatoes produce solanine, which is low grade poison. While it won’t kill you (unless taken in super concentrated levels) it can cause intestinal discomfort. Always keep potatoes out of sunlight and in a dry, cool, dark place such as a cellar or basement. Only wash potatoes just before cooking. This jump-starts the sprouting process, so washing them before storing will dramatically decrease the shelf life. Also don’t store potatoes anywhere near apples or fruit that produce ethylene gas which again cause the potatoes to start sprouting.
Traditional All-American Hash Browns
- large pot for boiling the potatoes
- food processor or box style hand shredder
- flat top grill or 8" non stick pan
- spatula or non stick spatula
- 2 lbs potatoes, whole skins left on (Idaho, Maris Piper, Kennebec or even Yukon Gold)
- 1 gallon water, for boiling
- 2 tbsp salt and black pepper or general purpose chef's seasoning General purpose chef seasoning mix recipe: (6 tbsp Sea Salt, 3 tbsp Granulated Garlic, 3 tbsp ground Black Pepper, 1 tbsp ground Cayenne, 1 tbsp ground Cumin. Mix together and use as needed.)
- ⅓ cup butter, clarified/vegetable oil or more as needed Most any high-temperature oil will work.
- ½ whole onion, grated and juice removed (optional) Yellow/white onion or minced shallots will work best.
Preparing the Potatoes
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. For those at high altitude, add 2 tbsp of salt to increase the boiling temperature of the water. (Leave the potato skins on.)
- Add the washed and cleaned potatoes to the boiling water. Gently boil for 20 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes from the boiling water by draining them into a large colander or removing them with a long set of tongs.
- Allow the potatoes to cool for 20-30 minutes before attempting to shred.
- If preparing hash browns right away, place them in an ice bath. (Once cooled you can keep the potatoes, skin on, in this form refrigerated for 24 hrs.)
- Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the the potato skins with a peeler or paring knife. The skins should come off easily.
- Shred the potatoes using a food processor or box grater utilizing the medium to large grate setting. Do not rinse the potatoes! You need the remaining starch to hold the potatoes together. Reserve. (Shredded potatoes in this form will only last about 10 minutes before oxidizing and becoming discolored. Make sure you are ready to cook them right after shredding.)
Cooking Traditional All-American Hash Browns.
- Heat up a non-stick skillet/large flat grill or plancha. Oil/butter the surface liberally. When the oil/butter is shimmering hot but not smoking, add a handful of the shredded potatoes.
- Press lightly to form a patty. Add seasonings and shredded onion or pepper if desired.
- Cook until the edges turn gold brown.
- Using a spatula, lift the hash browns and flip to brown the other side.
- Once the hash browns are cooked on both sides serve immediately.