Perfect Hashbrowns

Every once in a while, I’ll ask my wife what she would like for breakfast. And just about every time I ask, she gives me a devilish little grin and says, “Hashbrowns!” Now that grin is because she knows this isn’t a quick little in-and-out-the-kitchen breakfast; it’s going to take time to get these going. She also knows how good they’re going to be. (I get that same little look on my face when I make something, and I’m thinking, “Wait till they taste this one!”)

When I was developing breakfast recipes for my previous Executive Chef position, I decided to keep this one to myself. But now I’m going to share my secrets for perfect hashbrowns with you. Below, I have listed the key ingredients and techniques to make a crispy, golden brown on the outside and creamy, buttery on the inside hashbrowns.

The first step to making perfect hashbrowns is to clarify butter.

Clarified butter is butter that has had the milk solids and water removed. It has a much higher smoke point than regular butter, so you can cook with it at higher temperatures and get the great flavor that butter adds vs. oil. Also, removing the milk solids means that clarified butter can be kept for much longer without going rancid.

To clarify butter:

1. In a small saucepan add 1 lb of butter cut into cubes. Melt over low heat—this process will take a little time, but it’s important to be patient, because you don’t want the butter to brown.

2. Once the butter is melted, the whey proteins will begin to foam and rise above the fat. At this point, a ladle or large spoon is used to skim the foam. The goal is to skim the white foam until you have nothing but beautiful, golden, buttery fat deliciousness.

3. Once this is achieved, there will still be some white sediment in the bottom of the pan. To remove sediment, pour the clarified butter through a fine sieve or strainer over a bowl.

You won’t need that much clarified butter for this recipe, and as I mentioned, this stuff is great for sautéing and frying, adding extra depth and intensity of flavor, and it keeps for a very long time, so I want you to do this now and then save the rest for another morning, or another recipe!

Now, back to the hashbrowns…

Really, if you don’t have the clarified butter on hand, that’s the hardest part of this recipe—which isn’t really hard at all, but at 8 a.m., who wants to clarify butter? I don’t!

In this recipe, I also use a small amount of canola or vegetable oil, added to the butter, which raises the smoke point even higher. Also, you’ll want that pan hot, starting out. But make sure to turn the burner down to medium-high once the hashbrowns get going.

It’s also important to make sure you use the right potato. Russets are good, and they make a tasty hashbrown. But the real winner for this recipe is the Yukon Gold. You don’t have to peel it, just grate it, on the large holes, like you’re grating cheese. The texture is more dense than a Russet, which makes it easy to handle in the pan (Russet gratings are thin and flimsy). The Yukon Gold potato flavor is also more pronounced, more creamy and buttery.

One last piece of advice: use a nonstick pan. The hashbrowns will get great color, and most importantly, won’t get stuck to the bottom (as the name suggests). Again, the pan should be very hot to get that initial crisp and browning.

I like to form the hashbrowns, season one side, and put that side down first in the hot oil, and then season the other side in the pan with just salt and pepper. So, only the first side gets the heavy seasoning (paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper). Incidentally, that’s also the presentation side; the paprika and cayenne add color. Spicing this way ensures a nice balance, so that your hashbrowns don’t end up over-seasoned and the integrity of the flavor of the potato is still present.

What makes this the perfect hashbrown? The clarified butter, the correct potato variety, and good seasoning. It is so delicious, that after making it you’ll be convinced. And if not, then I’ll have to come over and make it for you to prove it!

Happy cooking and happy eating!

~ Chef Kev

Chef Kevin Warren’s Perfect Hashbrown Recipe

Ingredients:

1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
1/3 cup clarified butter
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 TBSP paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

(Yields approximately 4 medium-sized hashbrowns)

Method:

  1. Grate potatoes. Form into hashbrown patties of desired size. Mix together paprika, cayenne and nutmeg in a small bowl. Season one side of each patty evenly with the spice mixture, plus salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a nonstick pan on high. Add 2 TBSP each of clarified butter and canola (or vegetable) oil. When the mixture is hot but not smoking, place the hashbrowns in the pan, seasoned side down. Use a spatula to smash the hashbrown to desired thickness.
  3. Season the other side in the pan with salt and pepper only.
  4. When the edges begin to brown, it is just about time to flip it over. Confirm this by lifting halfway up with a spatula to check for a nice golden brown color underneath (the edges often get brown long before the center). Done properly, these should only require one flip.
  5. Similarly watch the edges and check the second underside for doneness. Remove with spatula. Drain on wire rack or paper towels.