So many recipes call for sautéing ingredients. While this may seem like an intimidating term, the process is simpler than you may believe. Once you master this process, you will be able to prepare thousands of dishes with ease.
The word sauté is French, and means “to jump”. The reason this applies to cooking is that you are going to heat the food at a high temperature, in a fairly quick manner, without letting it linger in the pan. Sautéing is a form of frying; however, it is more of dry high heat, with a small amount of fat or liquid.
In order to get the very most out of sautéing, you will need the proper type of pan. Some chefs insist a good sauté pan needs to have sloped sides, while others insist upon straight sides. As long as the pan has a thick, heavy bottom that heats evenly to prevent hot spots, your food should cook with no problem, regardless of the sides.
You can certainly use a non-stick pan for sautéing, but if you plan on making a pan sauce at the same time, you will find a regular pan will work better because you will need to have those little stuck on brown bits in order to get the very most flavor.
Another very important element of sautéing is having the right type of fat. Butter is highly recommended as it heats hotter, provides a good deal of flavor, and allows the food to obtain a great golden color. That being said, butter cooks off quickly, and can also burn. Oil can heat even hotter than butter, still produces a great crust, and does not burn off as quickly. That being said, it does not provide as rich a flavor as butter. Many chefs use a butter and oil combination for the best of both worlds.
The next key to getting a proper sauté is knowing how much fat to use. You are not deep frying, so you need just a skim coating on the bottom of the pan. Keep in mind the size of the pan you are using to ensure the food will not be floating in the fat.
Finally, you need to make sure your pan is properly preheated. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not heating their sauté pan hot enough in advance. People simply place cold ingredients right from the refrigerator into a cold pan and put it on the stove burner. This does nothing more than cause food to stick, cause food to be oil laden, and in the end meat becomes dry, tough, and rubbery.