Know Your Breakfast: Potatoes

I’m often asked…”which are better, hash browns or home fries”?

To me, breakfast is never quite complete without some sort of breakfast potatoes. Maybe it’s because I was raised in Ohio, where we eat potatoes with just about everything, but especially our eggs.

But breakfast potatoes are so much more involved than just slicing up some goldens to fry.  It seems that there is a bit of confusion among a lot of us about the various styles of breakfast potatoes, and “which is better”. To me, they’re all good. It really just comes down to personal preference. There are several different styles of potatoes that are commonly available at most breakfast places. Many diners and restaurants offer just one style that they serve with every meal, while others give you choices. But one thing is for sure, just about everyone has a favorite.

With this Know Your Breakfast post, I hope to encourage you to try something different next time you go out to breakfast, and you decide which ones you like the best.

 

Home Fries

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Home fries themselves are not fancy. Traditionally, home fries are potatoes that have been diced into small, bite-sized chunks and cooked until tender or soft. Most of the time, these are cooked using a little bit of butter, bacon grease or other fat to add an element which will help steam and soften the potatoes on the inside, and brown them on the outside. Home fries can be seasoned with a simple shake of the salt & pepper mill….

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….or occasionally are seasoned with garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and other spices to jazz them up a bit.

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Home fries are also commonly used in other breakfast dishes like skillets or hashes. They are mostly used because they’re filling, and they don’t outshine the star of the dish.

 

Hash Browns

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Hash browns are generally shredded potatoes that have been cooked in oil or butter in order to get a nice, even, brown crisp on the outside, while still maintaining the integrity of the potato on the inside. As in all styles of breakfast potatoes, many people have their preference on how to best cook these – some like them light and tender, and some like them dark and crispy all the way through. I prefer an even balance of both.

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Like the home fries, hash browns are often times used in a variety of different “breakfast bakes”, casseroles, and skillets. Just Google “breakfast casserole” to see what I mean.

 

Hash Brown Patty

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Ok, here’s where it gets a bit confusing, because a lot of places (especially fast food shops) refer to the hash brown patty as simply a “hash brown”. Now, I’m not going to knock these, because Lord knows I love ’em (I know you do too), but there is most definitely a difference. Most hash brown patties come pre-formed and frozen, and are cooked in a deep fryer. The result is a crispy, often greasy exterior with a steamy, soft inside. You can also cook these on the stove or on a flat-top griddle with a little oil for browning.

Fried Potatoes

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There’s always some debate about fried potatoes. I know some folks who think home fries are the same thing as fried potatoes, and vice versa. Well, let me assure you that they most certainly are not. Fried potatoes are very similar to home fries in that they are cooked in the same fashion, often with the same methods, and can be altered to taste. The difference is in the size and shape, and sometimes the texture. Unlike home fries, fried potatoes most often do not have a uniformed shape. Often times, you’ll find large chunks, bite-sized pieces and crumbles all in the same serving, because fried potatoes are just rebels. A lot of times, fried potatoes are cooked until very soft, resulting in a slightly mashed consistency, unlike home fries which usually have a slight firmness, or chunkiness to them. Some people don’t care for this, but again, it’s a preference thing. I happen to love them. In fact, aside from shredded hash browns, these are probably my next fave. And they’re even better when they have a nice, brown crust on them!!

 

Potatoes O’Brien

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Potatoes O’Brien are very simply home fries, fried potatoes, or even hash browns served with diced peppers and onions. Every once in a while, you’ll find this version of potatoes listed on a diner menu, but I’ve found that even if it’s not, most places will gladly add onions and peppers to your spuds if you ask for them. I recommend trying these. Depending on whether you add sweet peppers or hot peppers, these can definitely add a touch of sweetness or a bit of heat to your breakfast.

 

Latkes

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Latkes, or potato pancakes, are probably the most seldom seen on this list, but something I would love to see more of. They’re basically a patty made from shredded potatoes, formed with flour and egg, and often flavored with grated garlic or onion and seasoning. Latkes may be topped with a variety of condiments, ranging from the savory (such as sour cream or cottage cheese) to the sweet (such as apple sauce or sugar), or they may be served ungarnished. Potato pancakes are sometimes made from mashed potatoes to produce pancake-shaped croquettes.

The next time you breakfast or brunch around town, make sure you check out the different potatoes that are offered on the menu. If you’re adventurous, try something new. If not, that’s ok too. But at least now you know the difference.

 

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