Chances are you’ve sautéd many times. Technically speaking, sautéing is cooking small pieces of food in hot fat in a hot skillet for a short amount of time. The goal is to brown and caramelize the food quickly, making it crispy and succulent.
Any wide, shallow pan will work. A sauté pan has straighter sides than a skillet. However a skillet’s sloping sides help you flip food, which you’ll most definitely want to do.
When sautéing, always get your pan really hot. If it’s not hot enough, the food won’t brown, won’t develop rich flavor and more than likely will stick to the pan. Don’t worry about the pan being too hot—you can always lower the heat as the food cooks.
After getting the pan really hot, add the butter or oil. This way it won’t burn before the pan gets hot enough for cooking. Place the food in the hot sauté pan, and leave it undisturbed for about 15 seconds, then give the pan a quick and vigorous shake. This loosens the food from the pan just as the surface starts to cook and lessens the likelihood of sticking from that point on.
Don’t put too much food in the pan. If the pan is crowded, the food will steam and accumulate water as it cooks, instead of browning. (For this reason, you may need to sauté the pork or apples in batches.) After sautéing meat, deglaze the pan by adding liquid and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. (For the pork an apples, use cider and broth for deglazing, then add cream and cook until the mixture is a thick, silky sauce.) Serve immediately and enjoy.
By Chef Chris Koetke, dean of the School of Culinary Arts, Kendall College, Chicago. Ill