In the culinary-filled language of French, the word sauté literally means “to jump”. That’s exactly what some foods do when heated in a pan, turning a beautiful shade of brown on the outside and cooking to perfection on the inside. It’s a favored method of cooking for the resulting taste as well as the beautiful presentation appeal it has when served
To sauté perfectly, you’ll need just a couple essentials and a few simple tips. Add a little practice and you can master this cooking method in no time, insha’allah.
Sauté or Heavy Sauce Pans: A sauté pan is a shallow, wide-mouthed pan with either vertically straight or slightly flared sides. Heavy sauce pans are usually deep, allowing for more cooking surface area. Both generally come with lids to allow for quick internal cooking. The best pan materials to use are aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron or tin-plated copper for high heat conductivity.
Spatulas or Tongs: These simple gadgets are essential for quick and easy turning of foods. For example, delicate fish would do best with a fish spatula because it’s so light on delicate fish meat; heavier foods like chicken breast or eggplant can be easily turned with wooden, silicone or metal spatulas and tongs.
Best Foods to Sauté
For a successful sauté, use the foods that are less likely to fall apart and also have short cooking times. They’ll need less oil, brown nicely and cook on the inside rather quickly.
Here are a few examples:
- Firm vegetables like eggplant or zucchini
- Any type of fish, especially thicker cuts
- Lamb chops
- Boneless chicken
- Boneless veal
- Loin steaks such as T-bone or Porterhouse
- Any tender cuts of meat
With cooking essentials in hand, use these 10 steps to bring it all together in a perfect sauté.
- Choose meats of the same thickness. This helps it cook more uniformly and finish at approximately the same time.
- Bring meats to room temperature before adding to a pan of hot oil. This prevents the meat from sticking to the pan and turning out tough.
- If salting foods ahead of time, wait a few minutes for it to draw out moisture.
- Dry foods thoroughly before adding to oil. Wet foods create steam in the pan, which will not result in browning and searing, both of which are the goals of a good sauté.
- Be sure oil is hot before adding foods. Cold oil will cause the food to steam instead of brown and this will usually result in a soggy, oily food instead of a nicely browned pieces.
- Never crowd the sauté pan. It lowers the cooking temperature of the oil, thus causing the food to steam, not sauté.
- Stay close to the pan when sautéing so as to keep an eye on the browning process and avoid any burning. Cook in batches if you have to.
- Most foods will let you know when they’re ready to be flipped, so don’t force them. Meats will begin to release themselves from the bottom of the pan and are easy to move when ready.
- Sautés are usually done in uncovered pans. For thicker foods to reach safe internal temperatures, sauté in oil first then finish in the oven or broiler.
- When cooking large amounts of food, sauté in batches then keep cooked foods warm by placing in a low heat oven. Keep food uncovered to retain crispy texture.
You can get a great flavored sauce when deglazing the resulting crumbs and/or oil drippings from the bottom of most sautéed dishes. De-glaze with a bit of high quality apple or grape juice or even a bit of vinegar. Bring to high heat then add a pat of butter or heavy cream. Reduce heat and use the resulting sauce to top the food you’ve just prepared.
A good sauté can make food taste delicious and be pleasing to the eye. With these simple tips, anyone can master a technique that’ll make even beginner cooks like they’re professionals.