Monday, December 28, 2009

Recipe: Skillet Hash Browns

Cast iron skillet hash browns

On Christmas morning, as a gift to myself, I set out to create a recipe for hash browns that didn't involve a lot of fuss.  I'd heard from numerous sources that hash browns were hard to make and fraught with much peril (including burning, sticking, and potato disintegration).  Of course, it was essential that these hash browns were also produced using a cast iron skillet, since we threw Teflon out of our house years ago. Naturally, I still wanted crisp, flavorful, shredded potato hash browns without compromise.

Too much to ask for?  I think not.

After a few quarts of coffee, I recalled from somewhere that rinsing the cut potatoes was essential to removing surface starch, which can lead to sticking.  So, after shredding my russets in the Cuisinart, I rinsed them in cold water.  I then dried them in the salad spinner.

From there, it was a simple matter of cast iron skillet pan-frying: using plenty of oil, turning the hash browns before they got burned, and seasoning with enough salt to make 'em tasty.

Here's how it went down:

Ingredients
  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • Canola oil
  • Salt
Procedure
Peel your potatoes, and then shred or grate them. The cuisinart makes quick work of this, but you could also use a grater or a mandoline (especially if you harbor a special hatred towards your knuckles).  Once the potatoes are shredded, rinse them thoroughly under cold water to remove surface starch.  When the water runs clear, drain and dry the shredded potatoes.  I dried them with a salad spinner, but if you don't have one of those use a colander and then a towel to pat dry.

Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  Add a good quarter inch of canola oil to the skillet, and when the oil is shimmering and hot, add your potatoes.  Give the potatoes a good sprinkling of salt to start getting flavor into the innards.  Once the hash browns are browned on one side, flip them to expose the still-white surfaces.  Continue flipping the hash browns every few minutes to keep things browning evenly.

Be gentle. Try not to stir things around too much or the potatoes can break down.  Once the hash browns are mostly golden brown and have few sections that are wholly-white, taste them for seasoning and doneness.  If they don't burst with flavor, add salt as necessary. You may also need to add oil if things begin to stick. The potatoes will soak up oil in the beginning, and release it as they finish cooking.

When hash browns are cooked through and golden brown all over... you're done!  Serve immediately.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks Kath! Let me know if you have any questions.

    -D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Followed the recipe and they turned out great!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Brian,

    Thanks for reporting back... and glad to hear it worked out well. Nicely done!

    -Derek

    ReplyDelete
  4. My only question is do you deliver?? :-)

    I'm not a cook...don't even play one on TV. The best thing I do in the kitchen is clean & I do it very well, if I may say so. Cooking's just not my forte, which is why I love reading your blog.

    You love to cook and it shows!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I do love me some cookin' Hmm... have to think about the delivery service. ; - )

    ReplyDelete
  6. Derek, I did everything you said and it didn't work! Everything kept sticking to the bottom of my skillet. And they just didn't seem to brown...where did I go wrong? who knew hash brown would be so hard! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Click and Cook,

    Sorry to hear about your travails. Sounds like maybe I need to better explain myself in this recipe!

    I have a few theories as to what might have gone awry... Please let me know if any of them seem plausible:

    Theory #1: A too-full skillet. If you have more than maybe 3 potatoes' worth in a medium cast iron skillet, you'll end up with "hash poached" potatoes instead of hash browned potatoes (been there!).

    Theory #2: Not enough oil. You need to add a TON of oil for hash browns. Most people deep-fry their hash browns... and you are not too far away from that in this recipe. You'll want a solid quarter inch of standing oil in the skillet when you start, and you will very likely add more as you go. The potatoes soak it up (they then release it as they get cooked, and you end up with a bunch of residual oil in the skillet). I've updated the recipe to mention this, since it wasn't clear that oil may need to be added.

    Theory #3: Heat too low. Especially to start, you want the skillet nice and hot. And it should stay hot enough all the way through the process that if you aren't flipping the potatoes every 5 minutes, your hash browns will burn. Of course, you don't want the skillet TOO hot or stuff really will burn up. But make sure you give the skillet enough time to heat up right in the beginning.

    Theory #4: Not enough potato rinsing. It's really important to rinse the crap out of your taters. The water should run clear out the bottom of your colander.

    Theory #5: Too much rinse-water in the potatoes. You need to dry the potatoes by laying them on a towel (or paper towels) for a minute or two. You can also use a salad spinner if you have one. Otherwise they'll poach/stick.

    Again, please let me know if any of these seem like likely culprits. And don't give up! You'll get it. Guess I know what's next on my list for video recipes. ; - )

    -Derek

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey Derek, love the site. I have been making these via skillet for a while. One thing that can make hash browns amazingly delicious is to cook bacon in the skillet first. With burner on and grease still in, throw in the potatoes. Health is obviously a concern, so this is not for everyone.

    -Jack

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey Jack,

    Thanks for stopping by. Nothing wrong with a little bacon!

    -D

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have never made hash browns correctly until I used your recipe and methods. My 7 and 9 year old kids and I thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Pedrita,

    So great to hear that it worked out. My 4 and 8 year olds love this recipe as well!

    Thanks for the comment.

    -Derek

    ReplyDelete

Howdy! Thanks for visiting, and thanks even more for leaving a comment. I'll respond as soon as the kids are asleep.