Saute is French for jump. The word pretty much describes what is happening in the pan. I love sautéing because it involves a small amount of oil, some tossing and flipping of food and a delicious end result in a short amount of time.
Sautéing works best for vegetables and meats, or fish, to be cut into small pieces. Sautéing is similar to stir frying but at a lower temperature.
The trick to sautéing is to find the exact temperature where the food is crisping and lightly browning in the pan and not either steaming or burning. This precise temperature at which items start to caramelize is called the Maillard Reaction.
While each food item has its own specific temperature, the reaction usually begins at round 285 F. For most home stoves, that equals medium to medium high heat for many vegetables, meats and poultry. Searing foods happens at a much higher temperature, when a thick crust and intense browning are the desired result.
My tips for all home cooks are:
1. Do not be afraid to turn up the heat. Sautéing is a quick process, so crank up the heat!
2. Don’t crowd your pan or your food will just steam and not really brown.
3. Use only as much oil as necessary to glaze the bottom of the pan.
4. Keep the food moving. Chefs like to toss their food so it flips over (thus the whole jumping namesake), but you can easily achieve the same result with a good spatula.
Try out my Sautéed Summer Vegetable recipe. You won't regret it!
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