Nearly every stovetop recipe requires a little sautéing action. Whether you’re making soup, curry, kale, or chili, you’ll likely have to sauté at least some of the ingredients. So it’s a good idea to know just how to wield your wooden spoon to create magic in the kitchen.
Sautéing is also a handy technique for those times when you don’t have a recipe to follow. Let’s just say you receive a CSA full of spring vegetables. Sautéing is one of the easiest and quickest cooking methods you can apply to a multitude of ingredients. Add seasonings and you’ll create the side dish du jour!
Now that you’re ready to give it a try, I’ll let you in a little secret: to sauté is to quickly cook a food in fat. It’s that simple! The word sauté comes from the French verb sauter, which means to jump or bounce. This refers to the movement in the pan, as the ingredients are occasionally stirred for even results and to prevent burning.
Sautéing helps to:
- Release the flavors from aromatics, like garlic, ginger, and onions
- Soften and cook lighter foods that don’t require a lot of heat
- Add flavor to cooked foods, like boiled kidney beans or blanched asparagus
Whether or not you’ve sautéed before, check out this challenge for step-by-step instructions on how to perfect your technique.
- Get Even. When preparing your produce, meat, or aromatics, be sure that each cut is uniform. This will allow the food to cook evenly. If your cuts are all different shapes and sizes, you run the risk of burning smaller pieces or undercooking the larger ones.
- Pick Your Pan. I like to use a stainless steel pan, but you could also use a non-stick or cast iron pan.
- Choose Utensils. Select a stirring utensil that won’t scratch the surface, like a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
- Add Fat. Place your pan over medium heat, and add about 2 tablespoons of fat, such as olive, coconut, or grapeseed oil. You could also use butter or ghee. Give the fat a few seconds to warm.
- Sauté Away. Drop the ingredients into the pan and stir them occasionally. It’s a quick process, so you’ll only have to cook the food for about 2-8 minutes.
- Time to Eat. Once it’s soft and aromatic, it’s ready to season and eat, or move to the next step of the cooking process.