Weekday breakfasts at our house usually consist of oatmeal, granola and perhaps some fruit, but on the weekends I like to cook something more substantial for breakfast and hash browns are often a part of these weekend meals. My husband could probably eat potatoes, in one form or another, for every meal of the day and he is particularly addicted to hash browns so we have cooked them in many different forms. I sometimes buy frozen hash browns and sometimes make them from freshly shredded potatoes but I decided it was time to stop waffling and figure out which kind of hash browns we actually prefer. I bought some Ore Ida frozen shredded hash browns and shredded 2 regular baking potatoes, then I cooked them up and we tasted them side-by-side. Homemade hash browns are really very simple to prepare, so I don’t follow a specific recipe but I’ve tried to outline the basic steps below for those who may have never made them from scratch:
Homemade Hash Browns
I included three different kinds of fat in the ingredients list and you can use whatever you have on hand. Canola oil has the least flavor, but is the least likely to burn while using bacon fat yields the most flavorful hash browns.
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and shredded with the large holes of a box grater
2 Tablespoons canola oil, butter or bacon fat
Freshly grated black pepper (optional)
1. Place the shredded potatoes in the middle of a piece of cheese cloth or a thin tea towel. Twist the top of the cloth closed over the potatoes and then squeeze them a few times over the sink to remove some excess liquid.
2. Heat the oil or fat in a small cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the shredded potato to the hot oil in an even layer. Season the top of the potatoes with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
3. Â Cook the potatoes for about 5 minutes (without stirring) or until the hash browns on the bottom are golden brown. Once the potatoes are browned and crispy on the bottom, use a metal spatula to flip the hash browns over. Cook another 5 minutes or until the second side has browned. Serve piping hot!
I used canola oil Â and cast iron skillet to cook both the frozen and fresh hash browns. Â When preparing the frozen hash browns, I followed the directions on the bag Â exactly and these directions did not include adding any salt or seasoning. There was not a clear winner in the taste, time or cost categories in this comparison but there were a few differences between the homemade and frozen hash browns.
First of all, I would definitely recommend seasoning the frozen hash browns with some salt during cooking. Although they do contain some salt already, the frozen variety tasted pretty bland compared to the homemade hash browns and we added some salt to them while eating. However, even with the added salt, the frozen hash browns lacked some of the fresh, potatoey flavor that the homemade variety had. The frozen hash browns also had a more starchy texture when compared to the freshly shredded ones. The biggest drawback with the homemade hash browns was the appearance since potatoes begin to discolor very quickly once cut. Just in the time it took me to shred the potatoes and photograph them, they had begun to turn a bit brown and they retained a grayish color even after cooking. The frozen hash browns, in contrast, retained both their white color and an attractive shape during cooking. One last difference I noticed when cooking the two kinds of hash browns was that the frozen kind tended to stick to the pan and burn more easily than the fresh potatoes. As a result, I ended up using way more oil when cooking the frozen hash browns and I had to watch them very vigilantly Â to prevent burning.
The cooking time for frozen and homemade hash browns was surprisingly very similar; they both took about 5 minutes per side to brown and cook through. Of course, the homemade variety is a little more time consuming once you factor in the time it takes to peel and shred the potatoes. As far as price is concerned, all varieties of hash browns are pretty darn cheap, but the homemade variety are somewhat less expensive than frozen. A 2 pound bag of Ore Ida frozen shredded hash browns cost me $2.48 while a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes costs about the same.
Bottom Line: Frozen hash browns are a little bit more bland tasting than the homemade variety and cost a little more. However, they are less time consuming than homemade, and look more attractive. Homemade hash browns have a great, authentic potato flavor and are dirt cheap, but the potatoes have a tendency to turn gray if not cooked immediately. On a health note, homemade hash browns takes less fat to cook and contain none of the additives found in most frozen hash browns.
The prices and times below are for 1/2 pound of hash browns, or about 2 potatoes worth.