Culinary School Lesson: Restaurant-Style Hash Browns
In my “What I Learned in Culinary School” series, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks that I learned from two years of working with some of the country’s best chefs. This will include big things like learning to work efficiently, and small things like how to cook bacon perfectly. All of them will be applicable to your home kitchen, making you a faster, better, and more confident cook.
Before I went to culinary school, I was just terrible at making breakfast. I could cook a perfect steak, make salad dressings from scratch and bake a homemade chocolate cake. But ask me to cook breakfast, and you’d get a comically, ridiculously bad meal. Eggs were overcooked. Toast was burnt. And the biggest offense: hash browns were soggy. I now know that my problem was stirring. You shouldn’t stir if you want crispy hash browns.
My school must have realized that lots of cooks struggle with the first meal of the day, as the second class in my curriculum was “Breakfast & Pantry.” The “pantry” portion was a quick week of making salads and sandwiches, but breakfast cookery was the main event.
The hash brown station came with a handout that said “HASH BROWNS: Daily Required Objectives.” Let’s walk through them so you can make restaurant-quality breakfast spuds at home.
Your first task is to pre-cook the potatoes. Allow for one large Russet potato for every two people you need to serve. Leave the skin on, wash them, poke a few holes with a fork, and either bake them in the oven or zap them in the microwave until they are just tender. This step can be done a few days in advance. When they’re tender, just throw them in the fridge, uncovered.
When you’re ready to get your hash browns on, peeled the cooled potatoes (or leave the skin on if your prefer) and grate them on the largest opening of a box grater. Grab a nonstick skillet and coat it with a little bit of olive oil or butter. Heat the skillet to medium-high heat, then sprinkle in your grated potatoes in one even layer. You want to make a layer that is no more than 1-inch thick, so work in batches (or multiple skillets) if necessary.
As soon as your potatoes are in the skillet, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Do not disturb them until they are dark golden brown on the bottom. NO STIRRING. You can gently lift up one edge of the potatoes to check on them occasionally.
Using a large plate that covers the skillet, flip the potato cake and return it to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cook 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until this side is dark golden brown, and you’re done!
Transfer to a serving plate (or use the plate you utilized for the flip). Garnish with parsley if you desire, but I’m usually way too lazy on Sunday morning for that. Cut into wedges and serve your guests restaurant-quality crispy hash browns.