Getting a jump on sauteing

May 17, 1998|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

The fast-moving cooking technique known as sauteing takes its name from the French verb "sauter" (to jump), a reference to the way food jumps about in a hot pan being vigorously shaken over heat. Mastering this technique is a matter of choosing the right pan, preparing the ingredients properly and cooking at the right temperature.

A good saute pan is shallow, with straight sides to reduce spattering and a handle long enough to be grasped with two hands. Although a frying pan will do, any pan used for sauteing should conduct heat well and be large enough to hold the food without crowding.

Aside from whatever is being cooked, sauteing requires a small amount of fat: olive oil, clarified butter or both. Clarifying butter (separating the liquid from the milk solids, or sediment) enables it to withstand the relatively high heat of sauteing without burning. Cooks who want the flavor of butter and the stability of olive oil often combine the two for sauteing.

The temperature of the fat is just right for sauteing if the surface of the food sears, sealing in nutrients and juices, as soon as it touches the hot fat. If the fat is too hot, the outside of the food burns before the inside can cook through; if it's too cool, the food won't sear properly.

Food for sauteing should be of uniform size, at room temperature and patted dry, since even a little moisture can produce enough steam to interfere with searing and browning. Quick-cooking foods such as chicken, shrimp and most vegetables are good choices for sauteing.

Success tips:

* To prevent sticking, preheat the pan until it is too hot to touch; add oil or clarified butter; then immediately add food to be cooked. Giving the pan a few rapid, chef-like shakes helps keep the food from sticking as it sautes.

* Test the temperature of hot fat by touching the tip of a piece of food into the fat. If there's no sizzle, the fat isn't hot enough. If the fat smokes, it's too hot.

* To avoid overcrowding the pan when sauteing large amounts of food, saute in batches or have two saute pans going at once.

* Sauteed foods are done when the interior is fully cooked and the surface is browned to one's liking.

Cole Publishing Group

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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