Monday, December 27, 2010

The Secret to Perfect Hash Browns

This story began in October. One of the Christmas magazines featured a breakfast dish that looked terrific. The basic idea was to cook shredded raw potatoes (okay, hash browns) with red pepper (and possibly an onion) in an iron skillet.

When you flip the potatoes, you make wells in them to accommodate eggs and then finish the whole thing off in the oven. Sounded great. So when I had company, I followed the recipe and it looked like this.

Trust me, the picture in the magazine looked a whole lot better! I don't know if it tasted better. The potatoes were mushy. We all agreed that there's something special about hash browns. That crispy exterior can't be beat, and the potatoes in this dish didn't quite make it. We all loved the traditional concept of a soft yolk over crispy hash browns, though.

If you're like me, there are some dishes that just don't turn out well for you. Hash browns are one of those dishes for me. I've never quite managed great hash browns. So I went on an internet search of hash brown recipes to find out what I was doing wrong. Every time, they bombed.

And then I happened to run across
a recipe posted by someone named Elise. It's very cute. Her father's hash browns are always better than her mother's. Why? Because he presses out the liquid with a potato ricer!

I was itching to try it. But where was the potato ricer? It's not one of my favorite kitchen items. Where had I put it? Ah, my mother would surely know where hers was. Apparently -- like mother, like daughter. Two households and no one could find a potato ricer. I tried pressing out the liquid like Elise's mother does, between paper towels. No go. Soggy hash browns.

So when I was baking Christmas cookies, I reached for cookie cutters and, by golly, there was the potato ricer. You know what I did next!

I shredded two red skinned potatoes (you're supposed to use russet), crammed the potatoes in the ricer and pressed. This is what came out -- nearly 1/4 cup of liquid!

I used my favorite frying pan with a generous amount of olive oil and heated it just below the middle temp until a drop of water sizzled in the pan. In went the potatoes. I did not press them flat. The hardest part was waiting and resisting the temptation to peek underneath or hurry them along. When the bottom seemed to be set and golden brown, I slid a metal spatula underneath and expected them to stick. They didn't! They turned beautifully! A little salt and the result was perfect hash browns. Our only complaint was that there weren't enough!

Perfect Hash Browns
with thanks to Elise and her father!

peeled russet potatoes
salt and pepper
olive oil

Shred the raw potatoes. Insert in potato ricer and press out liquid. Heat frying pan just below medium heat until a drop of water sizzles in the pan. Add potatoes and cook until the bottom is set and golden brown. Flip and cook through until the bottom is golden brown. Add salt and pepper and enjoy!

I wish you all perfect hash browns every time and a very happy New Year full of good friends, good times, and good food!

~ Krista


  1. I never realized there was so much liquid in potatoes. These hash browns look yummy. I'll have to give this a try. Wishing you and your family a joyous and Happy new Year.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. That makes a lot of sense, Krista. Did you retry with the sunny side up eggs....because that sounds like a really good combo to me! Thanks for the tips on the perfect hash browns. :)

  3. This has to be the best meal ever, I put poached eggs on top.
    Do you have a simple receipe for sausage gravy?

  4. Hey, I've got two ricers, both antique! One I inherited (my family would not make mashed potatoes without a ricer), and the other identical one I bought as a back-up in case the first one goes to an untimely end after fifty or so years. I've actually destroyed two or three modern ones because they weren't strong enough to do the job.

    The idea of pressing the water out of the potatoes is brilliant.

  5. What a great idea, Krista. I just acquired my first potato ricer right before Christmas and it's actually kind of fun to use. Potatoes have never been creamier. But I never thought to try this with hash browns. Love it! Your photos look wonderful. I'm craving hash browns now!

  6. Hi, Krista. I love hash browns and I have made them right over the years, mainly because I did know about the juice. It's amazing how much liquid potatoes have (which is why they do so well in mashed potatoes)! Great pictures. Love the picture with the eggs. Yum.


  7. Thank you, Mason! I wish you and your family a healthy and happy New Year, too, and lots of crispy hash browns!

    Elizabeth, I haven't tried it with the eggs yet. My theory is that you need to cook them separately, and then slide the egg on top to serve.

    ~ Krista

  8. Thanks for that secret! Now all is need is a potato ricer. I love hash browns and also have never succeeded in making them crisp.


  9. Marjorie, funny that you should ask. I have a short story coming out in a book (this year, maybe) called Dead Eye Gravy, about a caterer who doesn't know how to make Red Eye Gravy. I've never made a sausage gravy. Sounds great, though. Does anyone have a good recipe to share?

    ~ Krista

  10. Sheila, isn't it ironic that the old ricers hold up for 50 years and the new ones can't take the pressure? That's modern technology!

    Julie, I'm lazy when it comes to mashing potatoes and usually just beat them up a bit in my KitchenAid mixer. It works pretty well! But I think you're right, a ricer *is* actually better!

    ~ Krista

  11. Avery, how do you press out the liquid?

    MaxWriter, if you love hash browns, then you have to buy a potato ricer. What a difference it makes!

    ~ Krista

  12. I had never heard of potato ricer, but I see I'm going to have get one. I love hash browns. My son loves a dish called Cheesy Potatoes. I cheated and used frozen shredded potatoes, but if I get a potato ricer I'll have to try shredding my own.

    Beverly AKA Bookwoman

  13. Bookwoman, looks like they run about $20 at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

    As Julie mentioned, the really do make the best mashed potatoes, too. No lumps!

    ~ Krista

  14. LOL on those magazine food stylists making recipes look so perfect. Marc and I love crispy hash browns, and we make them a few times a month as a special treat. (You'll see why in a moment.) We've never tried the ricer method, but it's a great idea, thank you! The paper towel method has worked for us because we're very aggressive with it. After we grate our potatoes and onions, we place the mound in a double layer of paper towels and squeeze hard over the sink. Repeat. After we get as much liquid out of the mix as possible, we cook them in (shhh, don't tell the health police) bacon grease. (That's why it's a very special treat.) The cooking does take time. As you noted, getting those hash browns crispy requires patience!

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  15. I've always suffered hash brown fail and I never knew why. This is fabulous! Thanks so
    much Krista. Now on my shopping list is a potato ricer. Yay!

  16. That's also the secret to making good potato latkes, one of my family favorites!

  17. It's so funny to see this today because our son and his wife requested a potato ricer for Christmas, which I got them at They told us it was to squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes when making hash browns! I told him about this post today and he said they got the idea when searching online for hash brown recipes and encountered the story by Elise, the same as you! BTW, I'm reading The Diva Cooks a Goose right now (and unfortunately, found out this morning that my niece's home was burglarized on Christmas Day while they were gone and they now have the dubious task of explaining to their 5 yr. old, why someone stole her presents. Life imitating art in a sad way!)Happy New Year to you, Krista!