By Dawn Perry
Photo: Alex Lau
Confession: Until 2 weeks ago I was a full-on hash brown-hater. To be fair, the only hash browns I had experienced were soggy, greasy, half-raw piles of shredded potatoes sitting alongside imperfectly cooked eggs (why can no one serve a proper over-medium?) and bread so raw you could barely call it toast. I promise you there wasn’t enough hot sauce in the world to make those things delicious.
I was more of a home-fries gal, until we whipped up these bad boys. It only took a few tries but once we figured out a few key techniques, these potatoes became, in a word, addictive. We ate each batch in record time, only pausing to grab the ketchup from the fridge.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Shred the potatoes. A box grater works, but ideally you still know where you put the shredding disc attachment for your food processor. Use that. It creates longer, more uniform strands and, believe it or not, that itsy bit more of surface area makes a difference once you add the potatoes to the pan.
2. Rinse the potatoes. And I’m not talking about just rinsing. We want you to soak the potatoes in water, like really slosh them around to release some starch. This helps to avoid that awkwardly raw center between crispy outer layers.
3. Dry the potatoes. Squeeze. Toss them around. Then squeeze again. WITH ALL OF YOUR MIGHT. This is the difference between crispy and soggy hash browns. Promise me you will squeeze at least 2 times and 3 if you really love me.
4. Season the potatoes. Remember, like all starches, potatoes need a decent amount of seasoning. Use the full teaspoon of kosher salt we suggest (half that if you’re using table salt).
5. Clarify the butter. Melting the butter and skimming off the milk solids (just real quick—it doesn’t actually need to be perfect for this) means you get to cook the potatoes in butter—hurray!—without getting any burned bits all up in the hash. Don’t be afraid to add a little more to the skillet if the potatoes stop sizzling. Sizzle is your friend. Your hash brown’s best friend.
6. Non-stick FTW. Cast iron is second best, but the non-stick allows for nice even browning without fear of tearing.
7. No touching. At least for a little bit. You know how we’re always telling you to “cook undisturbed”? Well, this is another one of those times where it’s absolutely essential. Cook the potatoes, let them get brown and crispy, then break up and flip in sections. We are not making a big latke. Repeat: We are not making a big latke. We are making a latke-like thing with mostly crispy parts and some tender (yet cooked) slightly less crispy parts. Understand? Cook undisturbed. Flip and break up. Cook undisturbed. Flip and break up. Repeat until perfect.
Recipe: BA’s Best Hash Browns
By Jessie Damuck
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or 6 tablespoons ghee
3 russet potatoes (about 2½ pounds), peeled
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foamy, about 3 minutes. Don’t let butter brown; reduce heat if needed. Skim off solids; discard. Using the coarse grater disk on a food processor or the largest holes on a box grater, shred potatoes. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of cold water; stir until water is cloudy. Drain and rinse potatoes well under cold running water to remove any excess starch, which can make hash browns gummy.
Transfer to a large kitchen towel. Gather together ends of towel and twist over sink, squeezing firmly to wring out as much liquid as possible (another step that ensures crisp results). Open towel and toss potatoes to loosen. Gather up towel and wring out potatoes once more. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl and toss with pepper, cayenne, and ½ tsp. salt (make sure seasonings are evenly distributed).
Heat 4 Tbsp. clarified butter or ghee in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add potatoes and cook, undisturbed, until a deep golden crust forms on bottom, about 5 minutes. Break up potatoes with a heatproof rubber spatula and continue to cook, turning occasionally with spatula and adding 1–2 Tbsp. clarified butter or ghee if pan becomes dry or potatoes start to stick, until crisped and browned all over, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; season with salt.