Size matters. Cutting food to a uniform thickness and size ensures that it will cook evenly. Vegetables should be no longer than bite-sized, meat no larger than portion-sized. Food that is too thick or large runs the risk of burning or forming a tough, overly browned outer crust in the time that it takes to completely cook them.
Preheat the pan. Be sure to thoroughly heat the pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes before adding ingredients. A hot pan is essential in order to cook the food properly. A barely heated pan can cause food to stick, and the food will end up releasing liquid and steaming rather than sautéing. A drop of water in the pan should sizzle.
Choose a fat. In general, use fats that have a high smoke point-peanut oil, regular olive oil, or canola oil. Or use a mixture of oil and butter to add more flavor. Once the pan is hot, add the fat and swirl enough to just coat the bottom of the pan. Heat the fat for 10 to 30 seconds-until oil shimmers or butter’s foam subsides-and then add the food.
Don’t overcrowd the pan. All food releases steam as it cooks, so you need to leave room for the steam to escape, otherwise the food will steam instead of brown. It is better to work in batches or use a larger pan. Another common error is turning food too often. Meat (Chicken, steaks, or pork medallions) won’t develop a nice crust unless you allow it to cook, undisturbed, for the specified time.
Best foods to sauté. Time in the pan is brief, so it’s important that the sautéed food be naturally tender. With meats, cuts such as beef tenderloins, fish fillets, and chicken breasts are good candidates. For produce, tender vegetables such as baby artichokes, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, and bell peppers lend themselves to this technique. That’s not to say that denser, tougher vegetables can’t be sauteed-they just may need to be blanched (briefly cooked in boiling water) first to get a head start to cooking.
Briscione, James. The Great Cook: Essential Techniques and Inspired Flavors to Make Every Dish Better. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.