Sauteing 101

Sauteing 101When you enroll in an online culinary arts program, chances are, you’ll come across the term “saute” quite frequently. It’s commonly used in recipes to whip up dishes quickly. When you saute something, you’re cooking it over high heat using minimal fat. This method is perfect for fresh vegetables and lean proteins that dry out and tend to lose flavor when they’re cooked for too long.

The ultimate goal of sauteing? To quickly cook diced or chopped foods so that they are lightly browned, yet thoroughly cooked through, preserving texture, flavor and moisture. Sauteing properly, however, takes the correct technique and skill.

Making the cut
Before you even put your vegetables or meat into the pan, you must first cut them up in the right way. After all, a good saute comes from cutting your foods appropriately. It’s tough to successfully cook large chunks of food. If you’re planning to saute meat or fish, you have to cut the food into small pieces, usually no larger than 1/2-inch thick. For vegetables, you have a few cutting options:

Julienne: This is when you cut your veggies into thin, even strips.

Small dice: Dicing refers to a vegetable cut between 1/4- and 3/4-inches thick. The chop is larger and less regular and produces small cubes.

Batonnet: Start by cutting off both ends of the vegetable you wish to batonnet, and slice into 1/4-inch slabs. Stack the slabs and cut them into 1/4-inch strips.

Find the right pan
If you have too small of a pan and too much food, not all of your ingredients will end up getting cooked evenly. But too large of a pan with a small amount of ingredients can overcook them. Therefore, your saute pan must be perfect size. As a general rule, your pan must be large enough to hold all of the food in a relatively thin layer so that everything has the chance to cook evenly.

Heat
Before adding anything to your pan, you should heat it over medium to medium-high heat. Doing so will help make sure that the food doesn’t stick and the oil doesn’t burn. Once the pan has reached the desired heat, add a small amount of oil with a high smoke point, like vegetable oil, and let it heat up for about 30 seconds, until it begins to simmer.

Add ingredients
The first ingredient to add would be the item that takes the longest to cook. Vegetables, spices and herbs are generally added to the pan last. Once everything is spread in an even layer on the pan, the key is to keep the food moving. However, you don’t want to constantly be moving it – too much motion and the pan cools down, increasing your cooking time.

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