Help cooking hash browns (new cook)

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Assistant Cook
Feb 27, 2010
Greetings everyone.

I need some help with cooking basic hash browns in a stainless steel pan.
When I use my cast iron skillet (that I keep at my summer cabin) and bacon grease, my hash browns come out perfect...when I try to use my new Stainless steel frying pan - not so much :) Here's the problem:

most basic recipes for hash browns I read say put the potatoes (cooked or uncooked) in to the pan with oil and let them sit. But when I do this i get a fine layer of brown stuck to the entire surface of the pan and the top of the potatoes are not cooked/browned. I find I have to continually scrape off the brown skin layer to even get the potatoes to cook at all and what I end up with is a parts of them cooked to well (the thin layer that sticks to the pan ) and then the undercooked layer on top.

I don't want to use non-stick cookware - and I'm carefule to pre-heat the surface of the pan first before putting anything in it.

Anyone have some good advice for this novice cooker?
Are you drying out the potatoes good? I normally put them in a dish towel and ring the water out of them. Makes for nice crisp hash browns.

Edit: You're flipping them aren't you?
What kind and how much fat are you using in your stainless steel pan? The seasoning of cast iron makes it naturally non-stick, so with your SS pan, I would guess you need more fat (assuming all other things are the same, including the moisture content of the potatoes). I love hashbrowns in leaf lard, too. Yummy! With onions and mushrooms... even better.

Also, you may need to leave them without turning for a little while longer in the SS pan than in the cast iron because the cast iron heats so thoroughly and evenly. Perhaps you SS pan is not getting as hot as evenly as your cast iron.

I use mostly cast iron, so I can certainly understand the preference for using them. Maybe buy another cast iron pan. ;)
Is the oil (or whatever fat you are using) hot when you put the potatoes in? I love making them in the CI skillet!
If I'm without a CI or non-stick skillet, I give the pan I'm using a good spray with a non-stick should help. I also get my pan very hot and when I put in the potatoes, I let them cook til they release a little like meat does, turn them and leave them again. The temptation to have a peek is hard to shake..;) but it works.
Thanks all for the replies!

I have been using olive oil and I'm careful to pre-heat the pan before putting anyhing in it. I do turn the potatoes although this is hard because they are stuck to the pan so quickly. I almost have to chisel the brown stuck part off (I'm a novice for sure;)...

I want to try to leave them sit for a while as Kadesma says but is is where I run in to trouble. I'm going to try them again this morning using a little bit more oil (although I'm already using quite a bit) and also drying out the potatoes as suggested - which I had previously not tried.

I'm trying not to buy another pan that I'll have to store in my small kitchen, otherwise the idea of buying another cast iron pan might be appealing - and bringing it back and forth to my cabin would be a good upper arm workout - I don't think I'll do that.

Once again thanks for all the suggestions, I'll report back on my progress :).

peace and love.
Dry potatoes.....
Hot pan and oil...
Into the pan and LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!DO NOT DISTURB!!! Let them embrace! When they're done, they will release...Turn the potatoes over and LEAVE THEM ALONE!!! When they are done, they will release from each other..

Or buy another cast iron pan and......leave it at the cabin!

Have Fun!
main problem is that you're using the wrong tool for the job. i'm guessing that you've got a near-mirrorlike finish; nice and shiny. a certain amount of glamour appeal, but stainless steel is inherently "sticky". you should reserve it for sauteing drier items or items that you can dust with flour. i can't off-hand think of anything that i'd actually recommend it for. if this is the only saute pan you have, then as others have also mentioned, use extra fat and let the potatoes develop a good golden crust before using a spatula to turn them over.for hash browns, i'd recommend boiling your potatoes whole, drain well, and then slice them after they've cooled. beyond that, you could always sacrifice the shiny good looks of your pan and go ahead and season it.

while a cast iron pan is actually ideal for your potatoes, the recommended (non-teflon) pan for general sauteing is a plain steel french style saute pan. they are relatively cheap, light and will last for generations. although they come both un- or pre-seasoned, i'd recommend seasoning the pre-seasoned ones even more before using the first time.

Just as Uncle Bob said:

Dry potatoes.....
Hot pan and oil...
Into the pan and LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!DO NOT DISTURB!!! Let them embrace! When they're done, they will release...Turn the potatoes over and LEAVE THEM ALONE!!! ...

I actually wring them out with my hands until nearly all of the water is squeezed out of them. Then, pressing them down into the bottom of the skillet with the spatula and leaving them alone for 8 minutes seems to be the magic number for how long it takes at medium heat before flipping.
the second try:

Okay, so armed with all the tips from everyone (thanks!) I tired again:

I used a salad spinner to wring out as much water as I could (it was amazaing how much brown water came out of 2 mediums sized baking potatoes!).

I used more olive oil (maybe an 1/8th of an inch deep..more than I really want to use for sure)

I heated the pan first, then set aside for a moment. then back on the burner on aboiut medium or slightly less flame. Onions first quickly then I put in the shredded taters. I let em sit as long as I could bear ..very worried they are gonna stick to the pan (the very expensive pan I just bought !!) I was able to turn about half first and to my joy, nice and golden crusty brown taters. I turned them over and tried to let them sit again as long as I could bear and then drained on a paper towel. With a good amount of sea salt, they were delicious, a bit on the oily side and slightly undercooked in the middle in spots, but overall quite good ...for this rookie chef anyway.

I'll keep working at it until I get them perfect. I really like the idea of cooking with a cast iron pan, so I may just break down and buy another one for apt. (For some reason I thought this was just for cabin and camp cooking...don't know why it couldn't be for the city as well). I'm not sure I would get the beautiful brown color and texture that the SS pan produced.....we'll see.

Thanks again everyone, and any more suggestions on how to improve the process and recipe are always welcome!
Not relevant to the OP, but I just wanted say "Thanks, guys". For brunch this noon I tossed some leftover mashed potatoes I had into my panini grill (which I think has Teflon-coated plates) with some margarine and left them for 10 minutes on medium heat until all the steam escaped. Foolishly, I checked after 3 minutes and the entire project looked like a failure. After 10 minutes, they peeled off into these beautiful, thin, ridged (not rigid), potato cakes. Looks like first-hand evidence that it's moisture in the potatoes that allow them to stick to the pan.
I am going to try this with a stainless steel pan now, just to see if I can get the same trick to work, which I would do with well-wrung hashed browns, since it would be a real trick to remove the moisture from mashed potatoes in a stove top pan.
Next time roll up the shredded potatoes in a kitchen towel then twist the towel as tightly as you can to wring out even more water than the salad spinner. The dryer the potato, the easier it s for them to brown.
Lex, I'm glad you got the results you were looking for. You do seem to prefer not to use so much oil. I agree with you. You can use less, now some will not agree but I always use a cooking spray when I fry potatoes in a ss pan. It seems to help them release easier. Any way glad you had a great meal.
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