421: Making Hash Browns

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Making Hash Browns
There are at least fourteen ways this could go badly (seventeen if that fork is a dangerous crossbreed.)
Title text: There are at least fourteen ways this could go badly (seventeen if that fork is a dangerous crossbreed.)


Cueball is attempting to make hash browns. A hash brown is a way of serving a potato where the potato has been diced or shredded in some way, then pan-fried. Cueball's method for making hash browns, though, is rather unique. He is throwing potatoes into the air and striking them with a flaming tennis racket at his friend, who is holding a tray with a dangerously tilting half-empty glass balanced on top. The friend is also holding a fork in the other hand.

The idea is that the tennis racket would simultaneously dice the potato, fry it, and then launch the completed product towards his friend's plate. In reality, this probably wouldn't do much. To properly pan-fry food, it must be cooked in a pan with some oil to lubricate the food, with enough time for the heat to transfer through the oil and spread properly through the food. Hitting a potato with a flaming tennis racket would not cook it, as it would strike it too quickly, and it probably wouldn't dice it either unless the wire of the racket is incredibly sharp. Cueball would probably just end up batting a not even hot, uncooked, unprepared potato at his friend, while simultaneously burning his own hand. In the case that the wires did actually cut through the potato, then the potato would not be moved forward, but actually end up behind the racket.

The title text comments on how many ways this experiment could go badly (14), and jokes that there are even more potential problems (17) if the fork Cueball's friend is holding is a cross-breed. (See 419: Forks and Spoons, which was published only four days earlier. By reading this comic, it should be clear what could go wrong if they were included in the equation - 3 more ways would be a low estimate....)

It's unclear what Randall may or may not have had on his mind with regards to specific ways the situation in the comic could go wrong. But here are several potential ways the activity could go wrong without including Sporks:

  1. Cueball could burn himself with the flaming tennis racket.
  2. The can of gasoline could leak, and then Cueball could drop the racket, causing a fire to spread.
  3. Cueball may fail to hit the potato, and it would get dirty from the ground.
  4. Cueball may fail to hit the potato and instead whack himself with the aforementioned flaming tennis racket.
  5. Cueball may fail to hit the potato and hurt himself as it lands on his face.
  6. Cueball may hit the potato and knock the plate out of his friend's hand, smashing it.
  7. Cueball may hit the potato and knock the glass out of his friend's hand, smashing that instead.
  8. Cueball's friend may fail to catch the hash browns.
  9. Cueball might hit his friend's arms with a potato (flaming hot or not), causing the friend to drop the plate, thereby spilling glass, porcelain, a potato, and orange juice everywhere.
  10. Cueball might instead hit the potato at his friend's head.
  11. Cueball could accidentally launch the tennis racket itself (if he has exceptionally poor grip) at his friend.
  12. Cueball could drop the tennis racket onto the can of gasoline, causing it to explode.
  13. Cueball's friend may lose his balance with the plate, dropping it and/or the glass onto the ground.
  14. Cueball may try to get a better grip on the tennis racket by moving his hand up, and thereby burn his hand.
  15. Even if none of the above happened, Cueball would fail to actually cook the potato.
  16. Likewise, Cueball would probably not succeed in dicing the potato.
  17. And he could miss hitting his friend's plate.
  18. If the fork is a crossbreed it could kill Cueball's friend, and then Cueball in any number of ways


[Cueball stands holding a flaming tennis racket. He is throwing a potato in the air as if to serve like a tennis ball. Behind him is a red gas can and a sack of potatoes. Across from him is another person holding a fork in one hand and balancing a serving tray with a glass holding an orange liquid in it.]

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


He could hit his friend with the potato who could then fall back onto his fork. 20:09, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

He could dice the potato but not propel the freshly-made hash browns forward; they would instead fall on head. 18:31, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

Because a potato getting dirty from the ground is totally one of the worst things that could happen. Newsflash: Potatoes come from the ground, and these ones don't look like they've been washed anyway. Alcatraz ii (talk) 00:06, 8 November 2013 (UTC)

That's probably not a glass of orange juice but a cardboard container in which the french fries are delivered at the fast-food restaurant, painted on the outside and white inside, of the characteristic shape with a cut-out on the front side. What can be more appropriate to catch the fries with? 00:45, 31 January 2014 (UTC) I think the "orange juice" looks like frying oil. 08:10, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

I would have thought one of the ways it could go wrong would be if the glass of juice was literally half-empty. 19:42, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

I feel it is important to include suspension of disbelief, such that we are assuming the tennis racket method has been devised properly and they can indeed fry and dice the potato with the tools they have aquired. Thusly, the searing hot potato could land on his friends face instead. 01:56, 10 January 2015 (UTC)

I agree that there are a lot of ways the hypothetical flaming potato could cause more problems. I would also like to point out that he is clearly trying to “serve” hash browns the same way he would serve a tennis ball. -- 09:04, 11 December 2015 (UTC)

Really, this unjustified prejudice toward fork/spoon cross breeds still irks me. Anyone dealing with utensils should know good and well that the breed doesn't matter, but rather the environment and people around them. Raised properly, a spork mutt is just as kind and gentle as any purebred fork or spoon. I swear, they make one movie and it instills years of prejudice. 10:59, 23 March 2017 (UTC)

The flaming potato could hit the platter, scattering burning hash browns on the friend. This could ignite the contents of the glass as it gets flung back to the server. Randall Munroe, meet Rube Goldberg. Jelsemium (talk) 03:37, 14 December 2017 (UTC) Jelsemium

Man, I really want to try this. Herobrine (talk) 22:59, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

But it wouldn’t work, right? And won’t there be a lot of risks to doing this hazardous activity? 42.book.addict (talk) 18:02, 3 February 2024 (UTC)

Numbers 2 and 9 are currently identical (dropping the flaming racket onto the gasoline can) 19:26, 25 February 2019 (UTC)

Add to the list: potato dices and cooks perfectly, crisp and hot hash browns land directly on the friend's plate, friend suffers serious health consequences from ingesting gasoline. 18:15, 10 July 2020 (UTC)

No one made the obvious pun on "serving" hash browns with a tennis racket? Nitpicking (talk) 12:24, 25 August 2021 (UTC)

For the list of ways it could go wrong, it lists seventeen, but in the title text is says three of those ways involve the fork in some capacity. Not to mention it says "at least fourteen", which suggests there could be more (non-fork related) ways it could go wrong. -- 10:49, 13 April 2022 (UTC)