When most people think of breakfast, they immediately think bacon and eggs, or maybe even waffles and pancakes. Hash browns, on the other hand, tend to get left behind despite being absolutely delicious and easy to make.
You can purchase hash browns premade or you can make them yourself. But whatever way you choose to make them, oftentimes you’ll find that they continuously stick to the pan while they are being cooked. This tends to be a huge turn-off for some people, which results in their aversion to making them.
However, cooking hash browns doesn’t always have to be so difficult; in fact, there are some secrets to making sure that they don’t stick to the pan.
Preventing Your Hash Browns From Sticking
The most obvious solution to keep your hash browns from sticking would be to use a non-stick pan.
While this is a legitimate solution, the problem with this is that non-stick pans tend to leave your food undercooked, or not browned enough. When you are making hash browns, you want them to be brown and crispy.
Not only that, but non-stick pans are non-stick because of a special coating that is sprayed onto them. Over time, the coating wears off and eventually sticks to whatever food you are cooking.
The last thing you want when cooking your hash browns is some kind of chemical ruining your breakfast.
When cooking hash browns, your best bet would be to use an old-fashioned cast-iron skillet. A cast-iron skillet doesn’t have any type of chemical coating over it; therefore, you don’t have to worry about over using it.
In order to prevent your hash browns from sticking to your pan, you must follow some very important steps that start with the very beginning. If you are using fresh potatoes, be sure that they are as dry as possible before you put them in to cook.
After you grate your potatoes, take a paper towel and pat them dry to make sure that you are getting all the excess moisture out of it. The more water is in the potato, the more it will stick to the pan, not to mention that they won’t end up with the crispy consistency that you want.
Another way to keep your hash browns from sticking to the pan is to make sure that your skillet is hot enough for your hash browns to cook. The best way to test this out is to spray a dash of water onto it to see whether or not it sizzles.
If it does, your pan should be ready to use. If not, you need to leave it on for a while longer before adding in your potatoes.
On the other hand, you want to make sure that your pan isn’t too hot, as this could also cause the hash browns to stick to the pan. Using the same water test we just mentioned, add a few droplets of water onto the pan.
If the water immediately evaporates, your pan is set much too high. Adding your grated potatoes would cause them to stick and to burn on the outside.
Speaking of heat, be sure that your stove’s temperature is set to medium. This is the best heat to use when making hash browns. Next up, you want to make sure that there is enough grease in your pan for your hash browns to cook.
You can also use your leftover bacon fat, butter, and even vegetable oil. These ingredients will not only prevent your hash browns from sticking to the pan but they will also add in an extra bit of flavor to them.
Before you add your potatoes in, make sure the butter is all the way melted through if that is what you have chosen to use to cook your hash browns with. When the butter is melted, add the potatoes in and be sure to let them cook on one side evenly before you flip them.
On average, it should only take about 10 minutes for your hash browns to get brown. Granted, this all depends on the heat you are cooking your hash browns on. The longer you leave the hash browns to cook on one side, the easier they will be to flip.
Keep Your Hash Browns From Getting Mushy
Another common problem that people run into when making hash browns is that they end up being too mushy.
Again, when you think of hash browns, the first thing you think of is their crispiness. However, mushy hash browns can be the result of the starch in the potatoes becoming oxidized as you cook them.
In order to prevent this from happening, one of the first things you can do is to make sure that you have a bowl of water handy when you are grating your potatoes. Make sure that you leave the potatoes in the bowl of water for at least 15 minutes, if not overnight.
Doing this allows the starch to be released from the potatoes, thus making sure that your potatoes stay nice and crispy as you cook them.
Before you decide to throw your potatoes into the pan, make sure that you drain them of the water. Dump your grated potatoes into a strainer and then place them to dry on a paper towel. Using another piece of paper towel, pat your potatoes dry to make sure that you are taking out any excess water.
Keep in mind that when you are slicing up your hash browns, you are doing so as thinly as possible. The thinner the cuts of potato are, the easier they are to cook.
If you put too many potatoes into your pan at once, they tend to mush together, so be sure to put in a small amount at a time when cooking.
Cooking the Hash Browns
Now that you know the basics to cooking the perfect hash brown, you can’t miss out on the proper way to prep them. We’ve learned that you want to soak your potatoes in water before cooking them in order to get as much starch out as possible.
Then, you’ll want to dry your potatoes so that no excess water remains in them when you cook them.
Once you have done all of that, you are going to want to make sure that your potatoes are well seasoned before sticking them into the pan. If you are going to use butter to cook, be sure to clarify it first.
If your butter has cooked all the way before you are done cooking your hash browns, don’t hesitate to add in a bit more butter.
As your potatoes are cooking, you want to make sure that you leave them alone. It may be tempting to want to toss them around or flip them over every few minutes. However, the longer you leave them alone to cook, the better they will turn out and the crispier they will get.
It’s okay if your potatoes end up mushing together while cooking. Simply cut them up using your spatula to create the shape you want out of them. If a potato patty is what you want, then so be it. Otherwise, be sure to break down the hash browns into different pieces.
Although an unpopular opinion with many, some prefer to use oil instead of butter to cook their hash browns because they create a much crispier outside. This certainly makes sense, as you are essentially frying your hash browns as opposed to cooking them.
If this is the route that you have chosen, be sure to continue adding oil into the hash browns to make sure that they don’t stick and to make sure that they reach the golden color that you want to achieve.
When choosing the oil you want to use to cook your hash browns in, be sure to use an oil with a high smoke point. Canola, corn, peanut, or sunflower oil would work best in this situation.
Frozen Hash Browns
If you find yourself with an excess of potatoes, do not panic. You can always freeze them and turn them into hash browns later on in the week!
In order to create your very own frozen hash browns, simply start by shredding up your potatoes and then placing them into a bowl of water as we mentioned earlier.
Again, be sure to take them out of the water and dry them as much as you can. You will then want to lay your potatoes on a baking sheet and spread them out as much as possible. Once that’s done, place the baking sheet into the fridge and let your potatoes cool.
After about an hour or so, you can then take them out and store them in freezer bags to keep until you are ready to cook them.
Typically, homemade frozen hash browns will last about three months. When you are ready to cook them, do so as you would with fresh potatoes!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.