Hash browns are oh-so-versatile! From a savory breakfast side to an alternative to French fries served with your favorite burger, these tasty spuds are a favorite for many.
Most people pick them up in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. And that’s just fine. But with rapidly rising food costs, many home cooks are looking for fresh ideas to trim down their weekly grocery expenses.
Of course, any pre-packaged commercially prepared selection costs more than a fresh or homemade alternative. And hash browns are no exception to that general rule. You can purchase fresh potatoes, prep them for the freezer, and cook them to order when you want them for a fraction of the cost.
Making Hash Browns for the Freezer: The Homemade Difference
Not only are frozen foods more expensive than a homemade version of a product, but they typically are less healthy than making something at home.
Here are a few reasons why:
Control Your Sodium:
If you must eat a sodium-restricted diet, you might find pre-packaged foods will not meet your dietary needs. Most commercially prepared foods contain sodium and a lot of it.
But don’t take my word for it…
The next time you are shopping, take a peek at some of the labels in the freezer aisle. Once you become aware of the added salt in these products, you will find it hard to ignore in the future. However, cooking at home empowers you to add salt in the amount that suits your needs–or omit it altogether if you are on a totally salt-free nutritional program. If you have a high blood pressure diagnosis, home-cooking is essential.
Monosodium Glutamate, which you probably know as MSG, is a common food additive. This chemical addition makes foods taste better. And that’s the entire reason why food producers use them–to make their goods taste better. Hence, consumers will want to make additional purchases.
On the other hand, it triggers medical symptoms in many consumers. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems MSG as “generally recognized as safe.”
According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, people who express sensitivity to MSG may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Burning or tingling in the face
- Flushed face
- Hot flashes or sweating
- Irregular or elevated heart rate
Food Product Quality Control:
Commercial manufacturers often use the potatoes that are rejected for other uses to make hash browns and tater tots. Yes, they are absolutely 100% safe to eat. But you can substitute the best specimens you can pick from the produce section, or even use home-grown or organic potatoes to create an even better experience.
In my case, farmer friends shared over fifteen pounds of russet potatoes with me. I could not use them all at once. So instead of letting them go to waste, I decided to freeze them, making a nice big batch of frozen hash browns.
How to Make and Freeze Hash Browns
Russet potatoes make the crispiest, best-texture hash brown potatoes. You may use other spuds, but they will have a waxy, less crispy finished product.
- 10 pounds of Russet potatoes, peeled
- Salt, to taste
- Large stock pot
- Cookie sheets
- Parchment paper
- Slotted spoon
- Lint-free kitchen towels.
- Kitchen scale
- One gallon freezer bags or vacuum seal bags and sealing machine
- Shred the peeled potatoes with a shredder, food processor, or box grater. If you prefer larger bites, use a knife to cut the potatoes into small cubes or spears. (The second option is how I did, see photos -- my food processor died as I was setting up to make this recipe so I improvised.)
- Add the potatoes into the large pot and cover with cold water and salt, to taste. Depending on the size of your pan, you might need to fix several batches. I used my enormous water bath canning pot and fit them all at once.
- Add the pot to your burner and turn the heat to high. Once the potatoes come to a boil, blanch them for four minutes. While the potatoes blanch, sanitize your kitchen sink and add a large batch of ice.
- Use the slotted spoon to put the blanched hash browns into the ice bath in the sink. Work quickly, stir as you add the potatoes to cool them down, and stop the cooking process.
- As the potatoes cool in the ice bath, line cookie sheets with parchment. move the hash browns to the tray. Use the lint-free kitchen towel to pat the potatoes dry. Once the potatoes are completely cooled and dry, you can move on to packing them for the freezer.
- Pack the potatoes into the one-gallon bags; you can weigh them as you go...or eyeball them, if you don't have a scale.
- Remove all air, and pack the bags flat. Place flat into the freezer. Use the potatoes within six months.
Unfreezing and Cooking the Hash Browns to Serve
When you are ready to cook and serve your hash browns, here’s how to fix them.
- One bag of homemade frozen hash browns, defrosted just long enough to break up the potatoes
- One tablespoon of olive oil (if you cook heart-healthy) or butter if you prefer the richness
- Sweet yellow onion, medium diced
- Black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
Add the olive oil or butter to a large skillet. Add the onions, and sweat them down until they are softened. Toss in the hash browns, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high heat, moving around the skillet occasionally. They are ready once the potatoes turn brown and crispy.
Feel free to get creative with seasonings
If you’d like something with a little more pizzazz than salt and pepper, then feel free to put on your creative thinking cap. Here are some other delicious flavors you can try:
- Cajun seasoning for a Louisiana inspired slow heat
- Lemon-pepper to serve with your favorite fish
- Taco seasoned hash browns to pair with your favorite burger or steak
- Herbs de Provonce, serve this along with brunch
The Bottom Line: Making Hash Browns at Home Beats Commercially Prepped Products
When you have the opportunity to purchase russet potatoes at a bargain price, feel free to take advantage of the pricing. You can freeze large batches of hash brown potatoes and pull them out of the freezer to use them whenever you want. The flavor is superior, the price is more affordable, and the quality is better. Plus, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you mastered this technique yourself! Have fun playing with unique flavors when you heat them up to serve. And as always, have a happy DIY day.