When I think of the perfect diner breakfast, there are always over-easy eggs and hash browns involved. Rare is the diner that makes hash browns (I usually see home fries), and rarer still are they made the way I like them best—super crunchy on the outside. I get i: Diner service is hectic and the potatoes come out quickly. So when I make them at home, I make sure there’s a riotous crunch when I eat my breakfast potatoes. My trick to the crunchiest hash brown exterior? None other than cornstarch. 

Starch makes the best crust

Starches have phenomenal crisping abilities. That’s why potatoes are so good for french fries—they’re full of starch, specifically amylose and amylopectin. (Here’s a bit of information on amylose and amylopectin.) Essentially, these two starch molecules form new links together around 350°F, and those brittle connections give us that crunchy sensation when we eat them. Cornstarch and potato starch have more of these molecules than flour.

Hash browns are made of potatoes, of course—and potatoes bring their own starch. Technically, you can keep a potato patty simple and just smash shredded taters into a pan of oil. You’ll get an okay hash brown. But I like to augment the potato’s natural starches. Dusting the patties with cornstarch effectively creates a wall of crunch for you to break open. It’s wonderful. It’s satisfying. It’s my ideal hash brown. 

For the best diner-style breakfast, consider these tools:

Tramontina 8-inch Frying Pan

Mueller 4 Slice Toaster

How to make the best hash browns

You can use potato starch for this if you have that on hand—the flavor matches up better—but I find that cornstarch is more of a pantry staple. You can use starch to intensify crunch with other foods too. (Here’s how to use starch to your advantage when frying up some of the crispiest chicken you’ve ever tasted.)

1. Shred the potatoes

Shred two large russet potatoes with the large holes on a box grater, or with a food processor. Some recipes will instruct you to rinse the potato pieces to remove some of the starch, but I think they cling together better if you keep the natural starches involved. 

2. Form the patties

Season the potatoes however you like. I use a bit of salt and garlic powder and toss it all together. A lot of it will drain out with the water, so don’t be shy. Squeeze a handful of the shredded potatoes to drain out excess moisture. Place the clump on a piece of paper towel and fold it up around it to press out more moisture and help shape the hash brown. Unfold the top of the paper towel.

3. Dust with cornstarch

I put a layer of cornstarch on a plate and smothered my first hash brown in starch. This made for an incredibly crisp layer, but I think it was overkill. Instead, use a sieve and dust the top with a layer of cornstarch. The application is more even and you can control the amount. Flip the patty over, using the paper towel to help hold it together, and dust the other side. Repeat with the rest of the hash browns.

4. Fry the hash browns

In a frying pan, add about a tablespoon of oil and a half tablespoon of butter. Heat the fats over medium heat and fry the hash browns until crisp and brown, about two or three minutes per side. Cool them on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.

You’re well on your way to a classic diner breakfast. Enjoy your cracklin’ hash browns with eggs any style, sausage, bacon, toast with little packages of jam, and a ridiculously tiny glass of orange juice. 

Better-Than-Diner Hash Browns Recipe


2 russet potatoes, shredded

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle of garlic powder

Cornstarch for dusting

Neutral oil for frying

1 or 2 tablespoons butter for frying

1. Toss the shredded potatoes with the salt and garlic powder.

2. Squeeze out a handful of the potatoes and press it into a piece of paper towel. Use the paper towel to shape the patty and dry it off.

3. Unfold the paper towel on top and dust the surface with a light layer of cornstarch. Use the paper towel to flip over the hash brown, and dust the other side with more starch. Repeat this with the rest of the potato mixture.

4. Add a half tablespoon of butter to the frying pan along with about a tablespoon of frying oil. Heat it over medium heat to get it up to frying temperature. Add the starch-coated hash brown to the hot fat. Fry for two to three minutes per side, or until golden brown and crisp. Cool for a few minutes before serving.