Learning how to sauté will change your life in the kitchen. Sautéing is cooking food quickly at a high temperature in a small amount of oil — just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. The pan and the oil should be hot before the small or thin pieces of food are added. Pat the food dry before adding it to the hot oil. It will brown evenly and the oil won’t spatter.
In French, sauté means to jump, which translates to keeping the food moving. You can stir frequently or toss the ingredients in the pan with a flick of the wrist. Sauté pans typically have sloped sides to make it easier to flip foods.
Stir-frying is an example of sautéing. Small pieces of food are cooked quickly in just a little oil over high heat in a wok. Unlike searing, where the goal is only to brown the food, sautéed foods are fully cooked.
The trick with sauteing is learning the art of stirring occasionally. I’ve seen countless cooks get excited about this participatory part of cooking and stir and stir and stir and stir. Here’s the problem with the constant movement, the food never has an opportunity to cook. Think of it this way, the food cooks by coming into contact with the bottom of the pan, which is hot. You need to stir it occasionally to keep it from burning and to promote even cooking, but not constantly. Learning to let food cook, without constant intervention, will turn you into a better cook overnight. Add food to hot pans and give it a stir every 35-45 seconds.
You can practice your skills with one of these delicious recipes: