To brown and cook things quickly in a small amount of fat.
To saute something, you need need a skillet or saute pan, a few tablespoons of fat, and a hot burner.
- Add your fat to the pan, and turn the burner up to high.
- When the oil appears to be significantly less viscous than what's in the bottle, and starts to 'ripple' slightly, add the items you need to cook to the pan.
- Sauteing translates literally to "jumping," referring to the constant motion needed to keep foods from burning over the relatively high heat.
- Cooking time varies considerably depending on ingredient, size, cut and purpose. When it's cooked to your liking, remove from the pan.
Sauteing is one of the real workhorses of western cuisine. The purpose of sauteing something is to expose the surface area of your food item to the extremely hot, oiled surface of the pan triggering browning (caramelization or the maillard rection depending on the food.) If you crowd the pan, there won't be enough pan surface area to go around, and things will just end up releasing their water content into the pan. If there is any water based liquid present in the pan, it will dissipate the heat, and all of the food will steam instead of brown. This is generally not a desirable substitute to browning. For some foods like mushrooms, this can be difficult. It's best to either brown them heavily for a very short amount of time over very high heat and serve them instantly, or cook them until the water content is gone and then let them brown a little.