Sautéing is like the Way and the Truth when it comes to giving foods a golden, crispy crust and a juicy, tender interior. There is more to pull it off than food-to-pan contact.
One thing you should know is that when you learn how to sauté correctly, you can prepare hundreds of meals with this same technique. But first things first, Sauté in French means “to jump” and can be a method of cooking or a way to describe a dish like sautéed chicken breasts.
The reason they are called “to jump” is because you are cooking at very high heat and you do not want it sitting too long in the pan. One needs to move the ingredients either with a pair of tongs or like they do it on Tv, tossing it in the air. The word sauté could also mean how food reacts when placed in a hot pan.
So, what exactly does sautéing do? The browning achieved lends richness to meats and produce. The integrity of the flavour and texture of the food is not compromised and remains intact.
Asparagus, for example, retains its slightly grassy punch as well as a pleasing crisp-tender bite. Imagine eating it overcooked, not as pleasant, huh?
The following are some tips on sautéing real good.
Right Pan Choice
The equipment used for this method of cooking is either a skillet which is a full pan with sloped sides or a sauté pan which is a wide pan with straight sides. Both pans have a large surface area, so food is less likely to become overcrowded.
Choose a pan with a dense bottom that evenly distributes heat. The best for this is the non-stick, anodized aluminium and stainless-steel options.
The wider the pan, the faster the evaporation and the size is suitable for the food which fits in a single layer than overlapping or too much space that may lead to burning. A bonus tip you need to know is greens or foods like mushrooms will cook down in volume as they release moisture.
Chop The Ingredients Uniformly
Chop your ingredients into manageable, bite-size pieces because cutting them up makes them easier to eat and to handle. It also them to cook faster now that you aren’t cooking them for long.
Carrots, for example, are very fibrous so you would do well to julienne them which is cutting them in slender strips. Greens like spinach will wilt very quickly and therefore won’t need to be cut. Cut the pieces evenly because ingredients chopped down to the same size will cook evenly.
Food should start cooking the moment it hits the pan so that you can get that good sear and not as people think when the pan gradually warms. This will prevent it from sticking on the pan for those who don’t have a non-stick pan.
First heat the pan over a medium-high flame. A little lower is excellent for white meats or thick cuts fish and vegetables that have already been blanched. This is before adding the fat then again for a moment afterwards.
When you see the fat rippling or hear it foaming, then the pan is ready. When you see smoke or smell the fat-burning turn off the heat pour out the fat and start over. Suppose you aren’t sure if the oil is ready. Dip an edge of the meat into the pan and listen for the heavenly sound of a sizzle.
Add The Food
Make sure to start with the food that takes the longest to cook first. Try to stagger the introduction of the ingredients into the pan so that the first ingredients to hit the pan are the one that takes the longest to cook.
Go Easy On The Fat.
Use only enough oil or clarified butter to keep the pan lubricated. Any more than that takes you to the pan-frying territory. If you tip the pan and see more than a teaspoon or two of fat drip to the side, be a good cook and pour out some, would you?
The point here is to cook the food in minimal oil, remember? And yes, it is still going to be tasty trust me! Also, remember that the amount of oil will vary by recipe, and the type of fat you choose will affect the final dish being served.
Butter has a smoking point of 350 F while moist oils have a higher smoking point 375-450.
This means that butter burns easier than oils. If you are worried about burning your fat while you cook, opt for oils. On the other hand, butter leaves a better “fond” and richer taste.
Dry The Food Well
When you sauté , make sure there’s no excess moisture or marinade when you add it to the hot fat. Remember, oil and water do not mix and may cause a pretty damn accident.
Be Present But Do Not Hover.
The tension of nudging flipping or stirring the food on the pan like you are in some cooking show is legit but imagine you don’t have to. Let the food develop the colour and crust you want on one side before shifting it at all.
When it is done, it should naturally release from the pan. In the case of meat or larger foods flip a couple of times, thrice is okay. You could also pat off the surface moisture just a little bit.
Test The Food
It should take around to minutes to sauté most firm vegetables, but you can test a piece by sampling it. While the colour of the ingredients is incredibly important, the taste is the real factor in determining whether an ingredient is cooked.
Most vegetables sated should be cooked al dente which means undercooked as the ingredients will continue cooking even off the heat. Sample your food obsessively taste that piece of meat. You will be surprised to know that chefs in professional kitchens taste their food. Do not trust a skinny chef hehe!
Drain The Oil
Remove pan from heat and pour ingredients onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to remove excess oil, especially for the vegetables.
Season your food appropriately and serve.