How To Saute: Secrets to Saute Pan Successes

Many popular recipes require you to saute ingredients on the stove. Everything from chicken breasts and fish to green beans and gravy can be prepared in a saute pan. Whether you're just getting into cooking or expanding your culinary horizons, it's important to know how to saute and what makes a saute pan different from a skillet. A little bit of knowledge in the saute department can lead to lots of delicious meals in the kitchen. 

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What is a Saute Pan and How Is It Different From a Skillet?

Having the right cooking ingredients and the right saute pan is all you really need to prepare quick and easy meals. Saute pans have straight sides and larger surface areas compared to skillets with slanted sides, which are often called frying pans. The saute style pan is preferred for searing meat and reducing sauce because it's easy to keep food from spilling out of the sides. Meanwhile, skillets are the more likely choice for stir-frying and fast dishes that require a lot of movement and added ingredients. Skillets are also used for dishes that are served directly from the frying pan. 

With a similar basic design, saute pans and skillets are both highly versatile and are often interchangeable, as they are made from the same materials and just have different sides. Both can be used to cook food quickly over medium-high heat and are dishwasher safe and oven safe. You can buy a saute pan online with free shipping and start testing your saute skills from there.

When Should You Use a Saute Pan?

You can use a saute pan to prepare many different foods, but here are a few of the most common situations where sauteing the food gives you the best outcome:

  • Shallow frying in cooking oil
  • Searing at moderate temperatures
  • Braising
  • Poaching
  • Pan-frying if ingredients don't need to be flipped frequently

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How Do You Saute Vegetables?

By following a few simple steps, you can saute vegetables to crispy, caramelized goodness.

  1. Make sure the saute pan is large enough to fit all the veggies in a single layer. Otherwise, a pan that's too small will cause the veggies to steam rather than brown. A saute pan that's 12 inches in diameter is a great size.
  2. Rinse veggies and pat dry. When possible, try cutting into similar sized pieces for even cooking. 
  3. Coat the pan with two or three teaspoons of olive oil or use nonstick cooking spray. If you use butter, remember that it burns more quickly so just keep an eye on the temperature or combine butter and oil.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-high and preheat for a few minutes.
  5. Add vegetables to the hot pan and bring the heat down to medium. Do not cover the pan or pour in any liquid. 
  6. Stir veggies with a spatula or shake with the saute pan handle to ensure even cooking.
  7. Stir or shake occasionally to get all food in the pan coated in a small amount of fat so it doesn't scorch at the smoke point.
  8. Saute vegetables until they are done, ideally to a crisp-tender texture. Use slight pressure to insert a fork and confirm the veggies are cooked all the way through.
  9. As long as you use enough oil, the veggies shouldn't stick to the pan and should slide out of the pan easily.

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What About Meat and Poultry?

Larger pieces of meat such as skin-on chicken breast and ribeye steaks are great to sear in a saute pan.

  1. Select a saute pan of the proper size that fits the meat in one layer without being too crowded. 
  2. Preheat your pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add a layer of high smoke point oil, such as vegetable, avocado, or canola.
  3. Once the pan is very hot, put the meat or poultry into the pan without adding liquid. 
  4. Leave uncovered and let cook for several minutes on medium heat. Watch the meat and turn a few times, and also reduce the heat if the food browns too quickly. 
  5. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. Chicken should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit and steaks at 145 degrees for medium. 
  6. After the meat is thoroughly cooked, let it sit for five minutes before serving with the rest of your meal. 

Once you're comfortable with the saute process, you can always try making a succulent pan sauce to compliment your tasty tender steaks or chicken breasts. It's all possible with the best saute pan.

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