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My first ever cast iron pan just arrived. The package contains following seasoning directions.

  1. Wash with clothes detergent (not soap or dish detergent) to remove the rust protection coating.
  2. Wash thoroughly with warm water to remove detergent. Dry pan.
  3. Fill the pan with fresh potato peels. Pour sunflower oil or rape oil on them, until it is almost full with oil.
  4. Leave the pan with the potato peels and oil for an hour on the next-to-highest setting on the stove top.
  5. Throw away the potato peels and oil, dry the pan with kitchen paper
  6. Coat the pan with a thin layer of sunflower or rape oil.

Not only don't I want to spend the afternoon peeling potatoes and then throw away most of them (I cannot eat the amount of potatoes needed for these peels), but even the positive amazon reviews for the pan all warn before the stench the charring peels produce during the seasoning: It lingered for about three days although I changed the fume hood filters, but it is a small price to pay for such a great pan. For me, it is a big price, because I have no fume hood, and there is no door between the kitchenette and the living room/bedroom. I looked up advise on seasoning pans, hoping for some trick, and found this question where the accepted answer doesn't include potato peels (in fact, no answer mentions them).

Now I am unsure whether to use them. On the one hand, I don't want to deal with the side effects. On the other hand, a producer is supposed to know what is best for his products. I don't want to get poisoned by an anti-rust coating residue that would have been rendered harmless in a chemical reaction with potato peels. Besides, I can't use the seasoning process outlined in the question I linked, because my pan doesn't fit in my oven.

I guess it would be easier to decide if I knew of their purpose. Does any of you know of using potato peels for seasoning pans, and can you tell me why they are needed? Or is it just an urban legend the ignorant manufacturer printed in the manual (the pan is not a well-known brand, maybe some hardware manufacturer decided it will be easy to add pans to their product line and made them without gathering enough know-how).

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I personally had never heard of it, but after doing some research online, I found another set of instructions that called for boiling potatoes in the pan before seasoning:

After boiling potato peelings for 15 minutes, the skillet had a nasty slurry of grey looking sand in the bottom Once the skillet was heated, the pores were opened, and the starchy/water mixture was able to draw out oils and dirt that I was not capable of getting to through normal washing. I fully do not understand the science behind why the starch/water mixture did this, but the experience was enough to convince me of the need to do this. So much in fact, that I did this process twice on each skillet.

I read a few too many web pages while researching this, and didn't save all of the links, but I did notice a few things:

  1. Some of the posts kept switching between saying cast iron and carbon steel; both are typically seasoned, but they're different materials, so I don't know if it's recommended for both, or if people were mixing things up. (I only have one carbon steel item, a wok, which I got second hand, so had already had its first seasoning).

  2. Some of the posts mentioned boiling potatoes for 15 minutes, other mentioned frying potatoes as the first thing to be cooked in the pan (in oil), some mentioned cooking them 'til they burn. The boiling potatoes ones also mentioned it works for cleaning stainless steel pans.

  3. Some mentioned peels specifically, others say that you can use any part of the potato ... if it's the starch that's of interest, I'd think the middle would actually be better, but I'm guessing that the peels were considered waste, and so considered a less valuable item; I'd be inclined to just use one potato, dispatched with a peeler, if you were trying to avoid wasting potatoes you weren't going to eat.

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3  
Thank you very much! After reading your link, I decided to try boiling first and frying second. Instead of peels, I sliced whole unpeeled potatoes on the mandoline. I can confirm that a greyish sludge develops during boiling potatoes in the unseasoned pan, so I guess it was a good idea to do it. Frying didn't produce a visible effect except for the smoke (and that was violently visible despite of open windows and doors on all sides). Conclusion: I will always do the boiling from now on, just to be sure. –  rumtscho Feb 20 '11 at 22:59
    
I wonder, was they gray stuff... iron? –  derobert Feb 24 '11 at 6:59

I've never heard of such a thing. As one who has seasoned a few cast iron pans, I can tell you that you don't need the potato peals. Just coat it with oil and bake it. Here's one of the first hits I got on Google. That's all you need to do.

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1  
or call in a favour from a friend to borrow their oven for a while if it doesn't fit inside yours? –  KimbaF Feb 19 '11 at 17:09
    
@raven It could be that the producer knows something Google doesn't - at least, boiling (instead of frying) the potatoes definitely provoked some kind of material leeching into the potatoes, turning them grey. –  rumtscho Feb 20 '11 at 23:02
    
@KimbaF It is true that I only have a small toast oven. But my purchase is a 28 cm pan with a 27 cm handle, thus needing an oven which is either 55 cm wide or has a 67 cm diagonal. I don't think any of my friends has such a monster. Anyway, I somehow succeeded seasoning it on the stovetop, despite the fact that the pan surface got 95°C at setting "3" and 220°C at setting "4". After that, I just ordered an induction cooking unit which can heat in steps of 20°C o.0 –  rumtscho Feb 20 '11 at 23:06
    
@rumtscho: Wait, a half-sheet is something like 35×50cm, an oven that fits that is hardly a monster... And 220°C is a little lower than I'd use to season cast iron in the oven, but it'll probably work if left long enough. –  derobert Feb 24 '11 at 6:55
1  
@derobert Oh, I didn't know that the "stuff is bigger in America" rule extended to ovens. A standard oven here is 44x37 cm, with a ~57.5 cm diagonal. I admit I made a mistake in calculating the diagonal needed above, it is actually ~62.2 cm (including a 2cm width of the handle end) so still not enough. A 35x50 cm oven is also too small if we want to lay the pan horizontally. We'd get it in if we wedged it in at an angle to the bottom, but I doubt that an oven's owner would appreciate the resulting burned oil marks from where the pan touched the sides of the oven. –  rumtscho Feb 24 '11 at 12:02

From what i understand, NEW pans come coated with a wax or lacquer to prevent them from rusting after manufacture. The boiled potato peel water removes this layer. You do not need to fry them, just bring them to light boil in the pan and then after about 15 mins, use the hot potato peel water to wash the pan surfaces. You then rinse the pan "in very hot water" and then dry the pan and start your seasoning protocol.

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I am the same, in that I have never heard of seasoning with potato skins. As a process I use on my omelete pans that are cast iron which will prevent sticking , is that I cover the bottom with table salt. Bring up to heat then reduce temperature not to create to much smoke. Keep moving the salt and you will find that it starts getting darker which is the impurities being drawn out. Salt for about 5 mins, pour salt into a heat resistant container as the heat will melt and scold. Wipe clean, drizzle with oil , bring to heat and wipe over the entire inside of the pan so the oil soaks in and it is seasoned. Do process regularly to maintain quality.

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Dry salt on a dry surface doesn't draw anything out. If you put salt in a dry pan and heat it, the only thing that could cause the salt to darken is organic material on the surface of the pan burning to leave carbon deposits on the surface of the salt, and the smoke that you see. If you heated dry salt on perfectly clean iron to any temperature you can achieve in a kitchen, absolutely nothing would happen. –  David Richerby Jul 17 at 22:51

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