Crispy yet fluffy hash browns are a breakfast staple in diners and homes across America. When done right, hash browns have a lacy, golden brown crust enveloping a fluffy, potato-ey interior. But achieving that ideal texture and flavor can be harder than it looks.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to make perfect hash browns at home. You’ll learn how to:
- Choose the right potatoes
- Shred and prep the potatoes properly
- Par-cook for maximum crispness
- Season for enhanced flavor
- Fry at just the right temperature
- Cook in batches to avoid crowding
- Keep hash browns warm and crispy
- Serve up for any meal
Follow these tips and techniques for next-level homemade hash browns worthy of your favorite diner.
Choosing the Best Potatoes for Hash Browns
Not all potatoes are created equal when it comes to hash browns. The type of spud you use can mean the difference between crispy shreds or a soggy mess.
You want a starchy, low moisture potato that will get crispy and browned when fried. Good options include:
The classic choice for hash browns. Russets have a high starch, low moisture content that results in crispy fried shreds. The starch also gives them a fluffy interior texture. Look for large russets with minimal eyes, sprouts or blemishes.
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Yukon golds offer a nice balance of moisture and starch. They make hash browns with a beautiful golden color that are still nice and crispy. The flavor is deeper than russets.
Part of the russet family, Idahos are another top choice for hash browns. They have similar properties to russets with high starch and low moisture. Great value option when russets are expensive.
Other Starchy Potatoes
Other varieties that work well include red potatoes, purple potatoes, gold potatoes, and fingerling potatoes. Just avoid high moisture, waxy potatoes.
Potatoes to Avoid for Hash Browns:
- Red bliss potatoes
- New potatoes
- Round white potatoes
- Baby potatoes
These moist, waxy varieties won’t get as browned and crispy when fried. They’re better suited for boiling, roasting or potato salad.
No matter which potato you choose, make sure it’s firm and free of sprouts, eyes, bruises and wet or damaged spots. Avoid potatoes that are shriveled or wrinkled, which signals dehydration.
The ideal hash brown potato should be fresh, starchy, and low in moisture. Now let’s talk about prepping them.
Shredding Potatoes for Hash Browns
Shredding the potatoes into thin, narrow pieces ensures maximum surface area for getting crispy when fried. Here are some shredding options:
A box grater with large holes is an inexpensive tool found in most kitchens. It gets the job done but can be slow going for several potatoes. Protect hands with a glove or towel.
Use the shredding disk attachment to evenly and quickly shred a batch of potatoes in seconds. Good for large quantities.
A mandoline slicer with a julienne blade makes short work of potato shredding. It yields piles of long, thin, uniform shreds in no time. The adjustable thickness lets you customize shred size.
Handheld Julienne Peeler
This specialized tool has small blades that slice potatoes into matchstick pieces as you slide the peeler over the surface. Convenient for small batches.
No matter how you shred them, the potatoes will release some starch and moisture. Be sure to rinse the shreds in cold water, then thoroughly pat dry with towels. Excess moisture is the enemy of crispy hash browns.
Pro Tip: Soak shreds in ice water for 30 minutes to draw out more starch for fluffier interior texture. Drain and pat dry well before frying.
Pre-Cooking Potatoes for Crispier Hash Browns
Here’s a secret used by diners and hash brown connoisseurs: pre-cook the potatoes before frying.
Partially cooking the potato shreds drives off some moisture and allows them to get extra crispy in the skillet. But they’re still raw enough in the center to get the fluffy, potato-ey interior.
Try one of these pre-cooking methods:
- Place shredded potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake at 425°F for 10-15 minutes until slightly softened but still raw inside.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before frying.
- Place shredded potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened but not fully cooked through.
- Allow to rest for a few minutes before frying.
The potatoes should still be quite firm and underdone before frying. This helps ensure they don’t get overcooked and mushy later.
Seasoning Your Hash Browns
Adding seasoning is key for flavorful hash browns. Salt is a must for enhancing the potato flavor. Beyond that, get creative with your favorite spices and herbs!
- Onion powder and garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
- Ground cumin or chili powder
- Fresh or dried parsley, chives, dill, etc.
- Cayenne pepper (add just a pinch for heat)
- Black pepper
- Cajun seasoning
- Italian seasoning
- Rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage
- Chipotle chile powder
- Ancho chile powder
- Ground jalapeños or habanero
- Curry powder or garam masala
- Harissa or sriracha powder
Herb and Cheese Combos
- Chives and cheddar
- Dill and feta
- Rosemary and parmesan
- Cilantro and pepper jack
- Sage and Gruyère
Start with 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of dried herbs or spices per pound of shredded potatoes. For fresh herbs, use 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped per pound.
Adjust to your taste, keeping in mind flavors will become more concentrated as the hash browns fry up.
Pro Tip: Let seasoned potatoes stand for 10-15 minutes before frying so flavors can penetrate.
Frying Hash Browns to Golden Perfection
Crispy hash browns are all about that crispy crust contrasted with a fluffy interior. To achieve this, you need to fry at high heat with the right amount of oil.
Choosing the Right Oil for Frying
Go with a high smoke point neutral oil such as:
- Vegetable oil
- Canola oil
- Peanut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
Avoid olive oil which can burn quickly at high fry temperatures.
For a crispier hash brown, you can add a tablespoon of bacon fat along with the oil. Or use half butter half oil for rich flavor.
Heating the Oil to the Correct Temperature
You want the oil to be around 350-375°F for frying hash browns. This high temperature ensures the outside gets crispy before the inside overcooks.
Use a deep fry or candy thermometer to check the temperature. If you don’t have one, drop a shred of potato in the hot oil. If it immediately sizzles and bubbles, the oil is ready.
Do not let the oil get above 400°F or it will burn the potatoes before they cook through.
Frying in Small Batches
Don’t overload the pan with potatoes. Fry in batches to avoid crowding for even cooking.
For a 10 inch skillet, heat 1⁄4 inch of oil, then add just enough shredded potatoes to lightly cover the bottom in a single layer.
Let the potatoes cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes until the bottom gets crispy and browned. Gently flip and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
Getting Both Sides Golden Brown
Use a thin spatula to carefully flip the hash browns over halfway through frying. Try to keep them intact as you flip.
If they won’t flip as a whole, break them up into smaller patties and flip those individually. Press gently with the spatula to reconnect them after flipping.
Fry until both sides are deeply golden brown. Don’t skimp on frying time or they won’t get crispy enough.
Draining and Seasoning
As soon as the batch is done frying, use a slotted spoon to transfer the hash browns to a paper towel lined plate. Immediately sprinkle with a pinch of salt while still hot.
Letting the freshly fried potatoes rest on paper towels wicks away excess grease for a less oily texture.
Maintaining Oil Temperature Between Batches
Let the oil come fully back up to temperature before frying the next batch. This ensures each batch fries up extra crispy.
If the oil is too cool, the potatoes will get greasy instead of crispy.
Reusing the Oil
The oil can be reused for several batches if strained between each one. Discard the oil once it looks dark or develops a heavy smell.
Keeping Hash Browns Warm and Crispy
A freshly fried batch of hash browns straight from the pan is piping hot and gloriously crispy. But as they sit, they start to cool down and lose that crunchy texture.
Here are some ways to keep hash browns warm and crispy while you finish frying all the batches:
Place fried hash browns on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Keep in a 225°F oven while cooking the remaining potatoes. The air circulation will keep them crispy.
Cover the plate of fried hash browns with a “foil tent” – loosely drape aluminum foil over the plate without sealing it. The trapped steam keeps them warm.
Paper Towel Draining
Let fried batches drain on a fresh paper towel instead of stacking on a plate. The paper towel absorbs excess grease.
Crisping Up Later Batches
If hash browns start to lose their crunch, you can briefly re-fry later batches. Add them back to the hot oil for 20-30 seconds per side to recrisp.
With these tips, your hash browns will be hot and crispy no matter how long they wait. Now let’s talk about serving up this breakfast treat!
Serving Up Delicious Hash Browns
A plate of freshly fried crispy hash browns is delicious all on its own! But you can also pair hash browns with sweet or savory extras:
- Eggs – Fried, scrambled, poached, over easy etc.
- Breakfast meats – Bacon, sausage, ham
- Gravy – Sausage, country, brown, or mushroom gravy
- Vegetables – Onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach
- Cheese – Cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack
- Salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole
- Sour cream
- Ketchup or hot sauce
Or go all out with loaded hash browns:
- Cheese sauce
- Chili and cheese
- Pulled pork and BBQ sauce
- Tater tot casserole
- Hash brown breakfast casserole
However you top them, crispy hash browns are the perfect base for an indulgent breakfast, brunch, or brinner!
Now that you’re a hash brown pro, you can enjoy diner-style potatoes any day. Customize cook times based on amount of potatoes and desired crispness. Impress family or guests with your homemade crispy hash browns.