I tried for years to figure out how to make delicious, crispy hash browns in my own kitchen. I would get all sorts of yummy, delicious fried potato sides and flavor combinations, but they were never crispy enough. I wanted them to be like the hash browns I got at the Waffle House on Natty Bridge when I went there with Doc to talk about band stuff and student government stuff and life in general. After trying and trying and failing and failing I figured it was just some sort of potato trickery and people weren't supposed to get crispy hash browns at home. Kind of like you can never make McDonald's fries at home; they're not really potatoes, there's a bunch of other stuff in there, too. Then Corey made breakfast and succeeded in making the best hash browns I've had since those Waffle House days with Doc. Apparently it has nothing to do with the type or condition of your potatoes, how hot the oil is or how how long you cook them. The only thing that matters is the moisture level of the shredded potatoes and not crowding the pan.
P.S. - I have learned that there is this contraption called a potato ricer made specifically for squishing the liquid out of shredded potatoes (or mashing cooked ones also). It sounds like it would be pretty neat, but crispy hash browns can definitely be accomplished without another kitchen contraption.
Crispy Hash Browns
potatoes - whatever kind you like or have on hand
butter or oil for frying
salt/pepper and spices to taste
optional: onions, peppers, cheese, mushrooms, whatever else you like in/on your hash browns
1. Select your potatoes and scrub the leftover dirt off them. Peel them if you're that kind of person. I am decidedly not that kind of person. I cut any black or growing bits out/off, but I'm not opposed to eating potato skins.
2. Prep any add-ins you want (dice onions, slice mushrooms, etc.) and shred your potatoes.
3. Place shredded potatoes onto an absorbent surface such as a small, clean towel or lots of paper towels. If you choose the cloth towel route (really, it would take a LOT of paper towels so I do suggest going the cloth route), be advised that potatoes do indeed stain. I did not know this beforehand and have some lovely grey markings on various items of laundry 'cause I just tossed the used towels on the pile.
4. Squish the heck out of your shredded potatoes and get out all of the moisture you can. Multiple towels may be necessary depending on the condition and moisture content of your potatoes.
5. Get your pan and oil/butter ready.
6. Add your shredded potatoes. This is also the time to add onions and such if you want to make sure they get cooked. Or you could cook them separately. I was really impatient and put my potatoes in all at once. Granted, I do have a huge frying pan. The hash browns were still crowded and didn't get as browned and crisp as they could have. So for the best result, do smaller batches.
7. Cook without stirring for several minutes, until the bottom layer is crispy and golden. While that side is cooking, add your salt/pepper and spices to the top side. I prefer my hash browns without a bunch of other stuff in them, but if you like stuff in yours, now would be the time for other add-ins such as mushrooms. I added salt/pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika to mine. I also decided shortly thereafter that I needed more butter if I didn't want them to stick horribly.
8. When the underside is nice and crisp, go ahead and turn it all over (Or, if you prefer, stir them up instead. I prefer so that's what I did) so you can cook the other side.
9. Keep turning or stirring until everything is all crispy and golden and so delicious looking you just can't stand it any longer.