Don’t you hate it when you fry potatoes and they disintegrate in the pan? Here are a few tips to help you make the best hash browns and home fries.
It starts with the potato
Russets or all purpose white potatoes are the best for frying. They hold up to the heat and contain enough starch to form the crispy outer crust that covers the fluffy inside.
Parboil the potatoes before frying
Yes, it’s an extra step, but one that shortens the overall cooking time and reduces the chances of the potatoes falling apart when you stir them. You can leave the potatoes whole, or peel and cut them up before they’re parboiled. I peel and cut mine beforehand so I don’t have to wait for the potatoes to cool before handling them. You want them soft enough to poke a fork into the potatoes, but not so soft they break apart when you do.
If you prefer shredded potatoes to make hash browns, you can par cook them in the microwave for 2 – 3 minutes before frying. Drain off any liquid before adding them to the skillet.
Add ins make it a meal!
If you’re familiar with Waffle House restaurants you know what a hit their hash browns are. You order them smothered, covered, diced, capped (with onions, a slice of cheese, diced ham and mushrooms) with all the variations. I like them scattered and smothered when I’m eating there. At home I find a nice hash is yet another way to use up little bits of things in the fridge. Like the leftover chicken leg, the handful of fresh parsley that’s starting to wilt, or the forgotten half pepper in the vegetable drawer.
There’s no set rule for measuring the add ins, I usually go with what I have and try to keep it around half the amount of the potatoes.
Hearty meats and vegetables get a head start in the skillet before adding the potatoes. Herbs, cheese and tender bits are added later.
Use plenty of oil
You’re not deep frying, but it’s not a saute, either. Be generous with the oil and be sure to use one with a high smoke point. Regular olive oil is fine for this, but I normally go with sunflower or peanut oil.
Add the potatoes to the skillet, stir them around to coat them with oil and distribute any add ins, spread them into a single layer and leave them alone. They won’t form a crust if you’re constantly stirring them around and it may take five or six minutes for the crust to form. Just be mindful of the heat while this is happening.
When you turn them, use a spatula to flip the potatoes so you don’t break the crust.
Top those hash browns with a fried egg, if you’re inclined
When you cut into the egg, the silky yolk runs down into the potatoes, arguably the best part. If we’re eating these for breakfast we’ll serve some cut up fruit on the side. For other meals we add some bread and a simple green salad.
You can, of course, use different potatoes or skip the parboil or even reduce the amount of oil and get good or passable results. I’ve found the best results happen when I follow this formula.