"The hash brown is my favorite food, yet I had never cooked a great one," says RealMenJulienne. "In fact, the best hash browns I have ever cooked came from an ORE-IDA freezer bag." RealMenJulienne set out to correct this deficiency by systematically comparing hash browns made with potatoes treated in various ways (grated when raw, baked, and parboiled), while keeping the other components constant. "Well, my whole apartment corridor now smells like a Waffle House, my roommate won't stop bitching about the oil-spattered countertop, and I've eaten about a week's allowance of grease and starch, but it was worth it," says RealMenJulienne. "I finally cooked the homemade hash browns of my dreams!"
What was the winning method? Parboiling potatoes until easily pierced by a fork but meeting some resistance in the center (7 to 8 minutes for fist-size potatoes), then freezing the potatoes for 6 hours before grating. "The semi-frozen potato grated very well and produced long, firm shreds which did not stick together excessively. The cooking time was not really any longer than the others, despite the cold temperature, and the results were a perfectly crackly crust with a fluffy, greaseless, perfectly cooked interior. They also resisted sticking to each other, which meant that the interior did not turn into mashed potatoes when I pressed on the patty with a spatula," explains RealMenJulienne.
mamachef's spouse tried this method, producing the best hash browns ever. "Crusty golden brown on both sides; not real thick but a great crunchy component. Somehow the insides were creamy AND fluffy and the shreds retained their individuality," she says. "These were what even the very best diner hash browns cooked by the most talented line cook only aspire to be."
"The parboil and freeze method is fine, but a little hard to plan for if you want hash browns for breakfast," says 2intune. "I grate raw potatoes then use a salad spinner first to rinse and then extract all of the moisture. Cover the pan for the first ten minutes of cooking then uncover. The result is a nice crisp crust with nicely cooked-through strands." And rjbh20 thinks the best method is to blanch grated raw potatoes for a minute or so, then dry them without squeezing.