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Why Your Hash Browns Are Gray and Gummy… And How To Fix Them

You’re making breakfast for the family and you want to treat them to some fresh hash brown potatoes. They’re all done cooking and you go to serve it up, and it flops on the plate a gooey, sad gray mess. What went wrong?

To be totally honest, I was not aware that potatoes needed to be prepared a certain way in order for them not to turn gray and gummy. I just figured either I was using the wrong type of potatoes, or you just had to cook them immediately in order for them not to turn gray. When I tried to give hash browns a shot there was nothing I thought I could do to make them look or taste right. I just figured there was some sort of secret restaurants were keeping from me, preventing me from having hash browns at home.

Why Your Hash Browns Are Gray and Gummy... And How To Fix Them

I eventually just gave up making them because it was too much of a pain and they just looked like crap. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally did some research to figure out why in the world I couldn’t cook hash browns correctly for breakfast. Why do they turn gray. Why are they a gummy mess? What the heck come after 6?

Potatoes as I’m sure you’re aware of have a lot of starch. When potatoes are cut, especially into smaller flakes like your would for hash browns a lot of the starch begins to oxides and will cause the potatoes to turn gray. That starch is turning into sugar, mixing with the moisture in the potatoes which also causes it to become gummy.

So you know why it’s getting gray and gummy. So how do you prevent it from happening? Here’s a couple solutions that I use to prepare my hash browns and potatoes for other dishes as well!

Grate Directly Into Cold Water

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This should actually be a rule of thumb whenever you prepare freshly cut potatoes, whether it’s hash browns, country potatoes, or french fries.

When you grate whole potatoes for hash browns, do it directly over a bowl with cold water. Let the potatoes sit in the water for at least 15 minutes, for best results overnight. The water will remove all the excess starch from the potatoes and will solve any graying issues and will give you crispier potatoes as well!

Drain and Dry

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Once your potatoes are done soaking pour them through a strainer. Quickly rinse to get any residual starch off, then pat the potatoes down with a towel. You’ll want to remove as much moisture as possible because this will prevent your hash browns from getting as crisp as possible. All the water will just create steam and as any additional starch is released from the potato it’s going to get gummy, just not as gummy as before. So get them dry!

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Keep It Thin.

When cooking your hash browns, make sure not to throw too much into your pan. Just like anything you cook in a pan, if you overcrowd the pan it will cause food to steam and you’ll get a soggier hash brown for it. If you need to cook a lot of hash browns I highly recommend a electric griddle so you can keep the layer of potatoes thin and not have to cook them in multiple batches

Is There A Quicker Way?

So this will give you hash browns that come out a lot better than you had before, but this takes me a good 20-30 minutes to do, plus a lot of frustration because there’s a good chance you’ll nick your fingers on the grater. Plus, you’re really going to want to soak overnight, I’ve found that is the best way to get your hash browns to come out right when using the soak method.

So how can you get this done quicker?

Using Pre-cooked potatoes

This method is awesome! Not only does it take have the time in the morning to prep, your cooking time is reduced exponentially! Instead of a 30 minute prep/cook in to make hash browns, it takes me 5 minutes.

No really. 5 minutes.

So If you’re planning on serving up some baked potatoes for dinner, throw a couple extra more in the oven. No extra work you’re just making a couple extra for later right? All you have to do is store them in the fridge for when you’re ready to have some hash browns for breakfast! They should keep in the fridge for 3-5 days before becoming questionable.

Grate The Potatoes

So no that all the prep has been done, all you need to do with grate the cooked potato into a bowl. Did you notice how much easier it grates? It normally takes me about 45-60 seconds per potato when grating raw and there’s a good chance my hand will slip and get caught in the grater.. Grating a cooked potato took me no longer than 10 seconds and it runs through the grater with no resistance so the odds of your cutting your hand isn’t that high. Win/Win right?

Why Your Hash Browns Are Gray and Gummy... And How To Fix Them

Cooking The Hash Browns

Again like the first method, you still want to keep the layer of potatoes thin, but you don’t need to cook as long . They will brown and crisp up so quick and easily! Just throw them in a pre-heated pan with about 2 tbsp of oil and season with some salt.

Ah crap. I forgot to soak. Oh wait. There is no soaking step! When frying up hash browns using pre-cooked potatoes the starch is not an issue any longer.

Why Your Hash Browns Are Gray and Gummy... And How To Fix Them

It takes about 2 minutes on each side and you’re hash browns have a beautiful golden brown crisp, aren’t gray or gummy and are delicious!

So next time your craving hash browns don’t be intimidated, they’re simple to make as long as you have them prepared correctly! Get out your pan and get them cooking for the family and have a great start to your day! Please feel free to share any tips you have on keeping your hash browns from turning gray in the comments!

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Derek Campanile
Derek Campanile
I'm an IT professional by day. Home cook for the family by night. Follow my blog for easy to make recipes, how-to's and ideas to gather the family at the dinner table!
  • Emmanuel Abreu

    Pretty genius idea, man.

  • Tval

    So, what if I did rinse my shreds and dry them, and they still turned gray while cooking?

    • Its better than nothing, I’ve tried this before and they still will turn a little grey and gummy just because of the way they’re cut they just seep out starch. However, I’ve found that rinsing and patting dry works decent if your cutting breakfast potatoes in slices.

    • Lynette Foxen

      Tval, getting them as absolutely dry as possible will fix that. If you dedicate a few all cotton dish towels to the task by layering them and using all of your might to wring them out, then lay the shreds on a clean towel and pat (and unstick) and pat, this should work to do the trick. Work is the key word here, though. Lots of it. A salad spinner can also do part of the job for you-if you have one. Using the cold baked potato method does work better to avoid that crispy-over-slime-in-the-middle result that fresh does often produce due to the excess remaining water. As it evaporates it is trapped under the crispy crust and steams the potato while activating the remaining starch. Hence the slimy consistency that no one enjoys. Most frozen hash browns are blanched before packaging, so there really is something to the precooked method. Also, pouring melted butter over the baked and shredded potatoes yields a crispier result. I flip mine with my wrist like a pancake and swirl them around for even heating, but breaking them up and flipping the pieces into an new position works as well. Removing the water is the only way to avoid your issue when frying from raw, should you decide to try again. Good luck!

  • Athina

    All of your suggestions are great, however, your hash browns look really under-cooked, it appears that 3/4 of your potatoes have no color whatsoever, why not take the time to get all of the potatoes browned and crispy?

    • Honestly, I think this was one of my first batch of posts that I did and I think I was so pre-occupied with not wanting to burn them for photography purposes, that I erred to the side of under-cooking just for the sake of playing it safe!

      • Lynette Foxen

        Taking the shot After they are cooked would solve that issue and give your readers an exact idea of what your recipe should yield-which is why they are visiting your page to begin with. Is there a way to edit the shot? Had I not read the comments I would have discarded this tutorial. The wording errors could be attended to at the same time, allowing readers to take your useful suggestions more seriously. I do agree that baked potatoes are far easier, and produce a more flavorful end product in their un-rinsed non-grey state.

      • Ignore the trolls. This was perfect. It addressed the problem without the pretentious food snobbery that so often accompanies the Snapchat loving perfect picture people.