For a supposed side dish, breakfast potatoes regularly steal the show. But not because they’re fancier than the omelet or the benedict—in fact, just the opposite.

“They’re so good because they’re so comforting, almost generic,” says Yoni Levy, chef at San Francisco’s beloved breakfast spot, Outerlands, where he serves 700 covers during weekend brunch.

Breakfast potatoes run the gamut: from golden diner-style shreds, to cubed potatoes cooked up with spices, peppers, and onions, to even made-in-a-lab McDonald’s patties that are uniformly salty and golden.

The idea of "hashing" things is an old one: you take day-old potatoes and cook them with day-old meat and seasonings to revive something into a new dish. Sometime in the 19th century, the tradition of putting potatoes into hash gave way to a new recipe: the hashed brown, potatoes molded into a cake as they browned. That update pushed the breakfast potato towards textural nirvana.

“You have the part that’s starchy, and a part that’s gooey,” says Christian Page, formerly the chef at L.A.'s Short Order and now helming the kitchen at Cassell’s, a cult burger joint where the traditional diner hash brown receives the nuanced touch from a highly skilled professional.  

Of course, he’s not the only one perfecting potatoes. Turns out there are as many methods for making standout versions as there are cooks looking to tinker with them. Luckily we’ve got three of them—Neil Kleinberg from New York’s Clinton Street Baking Company, Page, and Levi—with instructions on how to master the genre, whatever your preferences for the tuber may be.