Difference between frozen bagged hash browns and a potato/grater?
September 12, 2012 8:16 AM   Subscribe

My wife loves hash brown casserole and I was going to whip up a batch this weekend for her but all the recipes I can find call for a bag of frozen shredded hash browns while I have a 7lb bag of whole potatoes. Is there any major difference between using frozen bagged hash browns and shredding up a few potatoes of my own?
posted by Captain_Science to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No difference except the elbow grease and skinned knuckles. You'll want to rinse your freshly shredded potatoes before you cook with them, though; they release a lot of cloudy starch that holds water and might make your casserole goopy and/or keep it from getting crunchy on top.
posted by echo target at 8:26 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

You probably also want to press the excess water out.
posted by cmoj at 8:27 AM on September 12, 2012

Best answer: Frozen hashbrowns are usually a thicker piece than you would get using a cheese grater. They are also usually blanched.

If you were to use a food processor with a plate that mimics the size of the bagged version and you blanch, cool and dry them before using, you should be okay.
posted by Seamus at 8:28 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The deal breaker with fresh potatoes to hashbrowns is the water. Rinse them well, yes, but squeeze the hell out of them afterwards. If you have a potato ricer that is ideal (not to rice the cooked potatoes - just use it as a squeezer to wring rinse water and/or potato juice out of the fersh shreds).
posted by dirtdirt at 8:28 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The biggest difference is the flavor. Frozen potatoes never taste nearly as good as fresh ones.
posted by Ery at 8:39 AM on September 12, 2012

Alternatives for squeezing:
- a large, sturdy (clean) dish towel, all the shreds inside, twist tight, twist some more. I mean, Twist.
- a good salad-spinner usually does the trick for me.

Also, use the largest nonstick (or well-sized cast-iron) skillet you have, to be able to spread everything out; use quite a lot of de-foamed butter (or whatever else fat you're planning to use), cook gently until some more dehydration has happened before attempting to brown them up. Oh yum.
posted by Namlit at 8:45 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Getting the water out is really key. After grating, I use a salad spinner and then squeeze them dry, too.
posted by jeffch at 8:45 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Major difference in taste? You betcha!

As Ery says, fresh is best. We make hash browns all the time for meals. Shred your 'taters, soak them in salted water--1/4-1/2 tsp per qt--then squeeze the water out. Make sure your pan is good and hot to fry. Butter or oil--it's up to you.

I like to brown my hashers before I use them in a casserole as they have that great crisped flavor.

You'll never use frozen again.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:49 AM on September 12, 2012

Can we have a recipe for hash brown casserole, please? It sounds good. I always grate and squeeze out the water for potato pancakes, must be similar. Yes, fresh taters are always better than frozen.
posted by mermayd at 9:09 AM on September 12, 2012

You can soak the starch out of your potato shreds. THEN wring the hell out of them to eliminate any of the water.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:11 AM on September 12, 2012

Best answer: Yes there's a massive difference in bagged hash browns and fresh grated potatoes, as stupid as it sounds I'm going to disagree and say that frozen hash browns are better.

First frozen hashbrowns aren't just frozen shredded potatoes, they're frozen "par-cooked" potatoes which means they're actually already cooked a bit. Second the act of freezing them actually helps them release moisture by creating ice crystals which actually breaks down some of the interior structure of the potato, this moisture converts to steam when cooking and also helps create that crisp on the outside, but soft in the middle type of hash brown you're used to.

I've actually had a hard time getting home made hash browns to actually be better then quality frozen hashbrowns.

But if you're going to do it, you want to par-cook the potatoes a bit, shred, then let the shreds dry (as others have noted this is key), then do a quick brown prior to using them (pretty much as Seamus suggests)
posted by bitdamaged at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh take a look at this article on trying to recreate McDonalds fries at home, a lot of good techniques there.

posted by bitdamaged at 9:22 AM on September 12, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips!

I have always made regular breakfast type shredded hash browns by grating my own potatoes...just wasn't sure if I were to try that in the casserole if would work well or if there was something special about the frozen ones.
posted by Captain_Science at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2012

Another way to get the taters you want is to use a mandoline with a "matchsticks" knife-block. Matchsticks would be firmer than shreds. In that case, you may want to parboil the potatoes after you make sticks out of them.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:01 AM on September 12, 2012

Good on you for making this with fresh potatoes! Definitely rinse the shredded potatoes (you kind of have to anyway...a pile of shreds will quickly oxidize to an unappealing shade of brownish red).

Here is a recipe for kugelis, a Lithuanian version of hash brown casserole, that I make. I think hash brown casserole generally has cheese added and this one does not, but of course you can throw some in.
posted by medeine at 10:51 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I'd shred the potatoes using a food processor, then blanch them to remove some of the starch, and then remove the excess water using a salad spinner. I've yet to find a better tool for getting the water out of potato shreddings, chips, etc. And then if you wanted to really get them close to the prepackaged product, you could freeze them uncovered on a cookie sheet. I think you'll find the results to have a lot less water in them than fresh potatoes.

Alternately, you could probably get away with being lazy and just reducing the water elsewhere in the recipe, if this is something you're familiar with. (You need to know what the consistency is supposed to be like, of course.) And the cooking change may increase since the raw potatoes wouldn't be par-cooked.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2012

The bag-o-hashbrowns are usually blanched. This is why they're still white, and haven't oxidized.

If you've got the inclination and biceps, you can take that 7lbs bag, grate them all up, (or use a food processor) put a few handfuls into gently boiling salted water for 3 minutes at a time, then scoop them out into a colander. Repeat with all your shreds then put them into baggies and freeze.

Back when I was un/underemployed I got it into my head that I needed to like, go all crazy homesteading. Every once and a while those giant 12lbs bags of potatoes would be $1.50, and I'd drag one home and do this to it. They were pretty much exactly the same as the store-bought ones.
posted by fontophilic at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Note for drying: after you've rinsed/soaked the starches out, sling them around in a salad spinner. After they're as dry as the salad spinner will make them, you can do a pat-dry without going through a whole roll of paper towels.
posted by aimedwander at 2:01 PM on September 13, 2012

« Older Where do I go now, career-wise?   |   Help me stop being mean. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.