Image: Karl Gustafson

I suck at hash browns. My efforts are so lackluster I feel inadequate as a father. Saturday mornings, I’d throw a bag full of wet potato shreds into the skillet—five minutes would go by, then 10, 15, and by minute 20 the potatoes would still be white and uncooked. What would end up on the plate wasn’t golden crispy pleasure, more the mess left when a baked potato explodes in the microwave.

I needed a hash brown intervention.

Luckily a book arrived at my desk recently called Breakfast: The Cookbook. It’s a 464-page compendium of how people around the world cook breakfast, from huevos rancheros in Mexico to toast with kaya (coconut jam) in Singapore and champorado, the chocolate rice porridge from the Philippines.

I immediately turned to the page about hash browns, and noticed a few things I wasn’t doing. For one, I could’ve shredded a whole potato rather than used the bagged stuff. It’s really not that much more labor intensive, provided you have a box grater at the ready. The second thing I wasn’t doing: I should’ve soaked the potato shreds in water to remove the starch, then dry the spuds with a towel. Of course, this made all the sense in the world: Wet potatoes don’t make crispy potatoes.

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I reached out to the book’s author, Emily Elyse Miller, for additional guidance.

“[You should] probably add more butter or oil than you’d expect—I use oil to cook, then add a little butter at the end,” Miller told The Takeout. “And you can’t touch it for seven minutes (which honestly, is the hardest part), flip, then cook another four or so minutes without touching it.”

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So in short:

  1. Grate your own potatoes.
  2. Rinse out the starch.
  3. Dry it out.
  4. Use more oil than you think you need.
  5. Patience.

I used Miller’s recipe today. It was more than crispy; my three-year-old called the hash browns a “potato record.” I bit into it: the dang thing shattered. I felt like an adequate father again.

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Photo: Kevin Pang

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Hash Browns

Recipe from Breakfast: The Cookbook by Emily Elyse Miller
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 2

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  • 1/2 lb. russet (baking) potatoes (about 1 medium), peeled
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Grate the potatoes using the large holes of a box grater. Soak ina bowl of water to remove extra starch, tossing the mixture for about 30 seconds. Drain and transfer the shredded potatoes to a tea towel and wring out water from the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss with your hands.

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In a cast-iron skillet or frying pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When it begins to sizzle, add the potatoes. Spread in an even layer and allow the potatoes to cook until golden, seven minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook until browned, four minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.


Recipe reprinted with permission from Breakfast: The Cookbook by Emily Elyse Miller, copyright © 2019. Published by Phaidon.

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