Shredded hash browns are a travesty
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
The beautiful thing about the potato is the innumerable ways to take a humble spud and make into a delicious dish, with hash browns as my favourite potato-y treat. Despite their side-dish label, hash browns are arguably the best part of breakfast and should not be overlooked. They’re savory, crispy little pieces of heaven that—depending on their preparation—can either make or break any brunch plate.
So, after extensive market research into the various ways hash browns are made (i.e. many hungover Saturday mornings spent at one of the city’s numerous brunch spots), I can confidently declare that shredded hash browns are, like, the actual worst.
I think an important aspect of my distaste for shredded hash browns comes down to language—there’s a whole brunchy vernacular that I wasn’t aware of until I did some real research into the issue. There seems to be confusion regarding what to call shredded hash browns, versus the far superior cubed hash browns, on menus. There have been many times I’ve ordered a brunch plate—accompanied with hash browns, of course—expecting these beautiful, cubed, red-skin hash browns, but what comes out instead is a disappointing pile of shredded dreams.
Well, it turns out that the US has that figured out: Over there, shredded hash brown are simply “hash browns” and cubed hash browns are “home fries.” Here, however, restaurants use the terms interchangeably. In fact, I’ll more commonly see restaurants serving “hash browns” as specifically “shredded hash browns” and “home fries” as simply “hash browns.”
I guess I resent the fact that this very key distinction isn’t made clear. I could have saved myself a lot of disappointment and unwanted, but nevertheless eaten, hash browns (a potato is a potato, after all). It is understandable, then, that brunch-goers feel the need to clarify a restaurant’s terminology, as I have often experienced while serving at the diner I where I work.
But why are “home fries” so much better? Mainly, it’s to do with their many flavour options and their superior crunch-factor. Think about it, have you ever had shredded hash browns that tasted of anything other than potato, oil, and maybe a little (or a lot) of salt? The more rustic home fry has far more to offer flavour wise: I’ve had roasted garlic, caramelized onion, rosemary, paprika, and even truffle oil potatoes.
In terms of texture, shredded hash browns are just a lump of would-be fries, with a weak outer crunch and an almost soggy, too-soft interior, whereas cubed hash browns have the surface area to form a real crust. Juxtaposed against that is a pillowy, floury middle that is perfect for mopping up the yolk of a runny egg. Try that with shredded hash browns and it just doesn’t work.
Additionally, the process to prepare home fries versus hash browns is not just better—it’s safer. You can easily grate off the skin of your knuckle trying to get those starchy strands, ruining both your hands and the food you were foolishly attempting to make. Making home fries requires minimal effort. I’m sure I could cube up twice as many potatoes in half the amount of time as it takes to make shredded hash browns (and who doesn’t need more potatoes in their lives?).
Regardless what you call them, hash browns/home fries are the true breakfast star…. But I know what kind I’m calling up to the plate this Sunday morning.