Growing up, there was never much fried food to be had in our house. Oven fried chicken may actually be the closest thing we had that I can think of... but, when I was first out on my own, I lived in Alabama for a couple of years. You don't live in the south without learning how to fry food! Making home fries (cubes of potato) are actually much easier than making shredded hash browns. There are a few tricks to the latter that I thought might be helpful to pass along.
Shredded Hash Browns
How you prepare the potato shreds is important:
- I use my food processor to get shreds that are less broken down. If you use a box grater (which I used to before I got my processor), the shreds tend to lose too much of their integrity and make for a mushy end result.
- If you have time, especially if you are using russet potatoes, it's good to soak them in water for about ten minutes to get rid of some of the starch that can make them gluey.
- Be sure to dry your shreds off. I place them in a paper towel lined bowl and put a few more paper towels over the top and push down to squeeze out the excess moisture (see picture).
- While the type of potato does play a role in the end result, the actual frying technique is the most important variable.
- You can use any type of skillet. I prefer cast iron because it holds a consistent temperature so well. You can use your non-stick skillet as well as any other.
- Use enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/4 inch deep. Be sure the oil is hot before adding the potatoes. This is important for a couple of reasons. For cast iron skillets, in particular, if you add the potatoes before the pan is hot enough, they will stick. That's a bad deal. For all skillets it is important to wait for the oil to heat up enough so that the shreds will not absorb too much oil. When you have as much surface area as you do with shreds, this is a major concern. To test the oil, throw one shred in; if it doesn't immediately start bubbling away, wait a little longer. You want to get your oil above the temperature you will hold it at to fry because it will cool down when you add your potatoes.
- Don't layer too deeply. These things will release a lot of steam and you want that steam to be able to escape easily, lest you steam the rest of the shreds (not what we're aiming for). I shoot for the potatoes being no more that a half inch deep in the pan.
- Let them be. This is another one of those ones that is a big deal with the shreds. The more you play with them, the more gluey they're going to turn out. If you leave them be, they'll fry up more golden and light. To be honest, I often will fry these up in single serving piles because the shreds do tend to stick together and that way I don't have to try and move them around much.
- Cook until the shreds are mostly golden and tender. The amount of time will vary depending on a number of factors, just grab a little bite to test if they're done.