Just about any time you find yourself cooking on a stove, you’ll find a recipe asking for something to be sautéed (I totally had to look up that past tense spelling). What does that even mean? To be honest I wasn’t even completely sure until I decided to make this handy little guide. You see, I thought I could explain what it was, then I started to think, well what exactly is sautéeing. Then, I went on a short research binge, figured out what I had right, and what I had wrong, and from there I began crafting this here blog post. Without further ado-let’s jump into it!
What is Sautéeing?
Sauté is literally translated from French to mean “to jump” which is pretty accurate when you consider what sautéeing really is. You take a small amount of oil, get it pretty hot, then cook it nice and quick. In contrast to stir-fry where it’s really hot and really fast and other methods like simmering that’s low and slow (and a liquid, not an oil).
You can honestly sauté about anything as well. Whether it’s meats like chicken, fish or small pieces of beef to just about any vegetable (generally cut into small, manageable pieces). The goal here is to cook everything enough to be slightly browned and cooked, but for meats to stay moist and vegetables to retain some structure (and thus crunch!)
How do you sauté?
So the real question is, how do you sauté. I mean that’s where the skill comes in…so how do we get this skill? Well first off have the right equipment! You’ll want to pick a skillet to start. These are what you may consider a typical skillet with the rounded edges and flat bottom. The rounded edges let you to that sweet toss that you see TV and restaurant chefs do (and it’s really not hard if you got the right technique!).
Generally you will see eight inch, ten inch, twelve inch and maybe a fifteen inch skillet as your size choices. The last thing you want to do is choose the wrong size. If the skillet is too small, everything will be over-crowded and you’ll end up simmering more than sautéeing. A skillet too big, you’ll never get anything cooked evenly. The best idea is to have enough space that everything can lay in roughly a single layer with some extra space.
To start, add oil to the correctly sized skillet. About a tablespoon or two for an eight inch skillet then add another tablespoon for each size you move up. You want good oil coverage, but not the entire bottom of the skillet covered. Next, you’ll want to heat your skillet up on medium high heat until a piece of your food gives a nice sizzle when added to the skillet. Afterwards, add all your ingredients and begin sautéeing! I just love the sizzle and pop this type of cooking creates, makes me feel like a real chef!
Most cases you will cook for 3-5 minutes depending. That’s a bit of a general answer, but just cook until everything is nice and browned and if it’s a vegetable it should be slightly softened. Again, you for sure want to keep most of the crispness. Afterwards, you can add your veggies or meat to whatever dish you are cooking (or eat as is, they’re probably delicious!).
So you also want to do that fancy flip trick? It’s all in the wrist! Well, okay a bit more than that. You want to tilt the skillet away from you slightly. This helps a ton in ensuring that you can catch what you toss. You will want to keep it tilted throughout the entire motion. For the actual flip, flick the skillet up as well as pushing it forward at the same time. This keeps all your food centered under the skillet and prevents pieces from flying all over. I find diced veggies the easiest to practice with. You may lose a few pieces here and there, but fear not, you will conquer this trick!
I’m sure just about everyone has sautéed before, but armed with this new found knowledge I hope you learn how to perfect the technique! It’s a super common technique and doing it right can ensure you get all the right taste and textures in your dishes. I hope ya learned something and if I missed something, let me know! Thanks for reading!