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Cook Like the French—Sauté

Cook Like the French—Sauté

What types of food can be sautéed?
Do I need special pans and utensils?
Do I use butter, oil, or cooking spray?
What are some tips for sautéing different foods?

What types of food can be sautéed?
Sautéing foods like onions, chicken, spinach—even pears—is a great way to keep the flavor in. And, if you learn a few tricks before you get started, you can minimize the added fat. You may already know what sautéing is because you've probably seen someone do it. When you cook food in a small amount of fat (such as oil or butter or cooking spray) over medium heat, you are sautéing. back to top

Do I need special pans and utensils?
When you're cooking, there are few things more frustrating than having the food burn or stick to the pan. One way to help prevent sauté disasters is to use a heavy pan with a nonstick coating. This coating can get scratched, so be sure to use plastic, rubber, or wooden utensils, never metal. One of the best things about nonstick pans is that you can cook food with less fat. back to top

Do I use butter, oil, or cooking spray?
You can sauté food in oil, butter, margarine, or cooking spray. If you're following a recipe, it will usually tell you which of these to use. If not, make a choice based on flavor and fat. Flavor is a matter of personal preference and of learning which types of cooking fat go best with certain types of foods. You can cut back on the "bad" type of fat by cooking with olive oil or canola oil instead of butter or margarine. And, you can eliminate or reduce fat by using cooking sprays. You won't have to give up on taste—cooking sprays now come in a variety of flavors, including olive oil. back to top

What are some tips for sautéing different foods?
Here are some tips for sautéing food the way experienced chefs do:
  • Onions: Heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the onions and stir occasionally, for 6 minutes, or until they are golden. Then, use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked onions to paper towels to drain off excess oil.
  • Shrimp: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. Pull off the "legs" and most of the shell but leave the tail on the shrimp to keep it moist. Dry the shrimp with a paper towel, then sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the pan. When they are pink and opaque (solid white) in the center, they're done. This takes about 3 minutes.
  • Pears: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add pear slices and sauté until tender and golden brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Spinach: One tasty way to sauté spinach is to use a combination of 1 tablespoon butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in the same pan. Sauté the spinach until it is wilted, about 3 minutes. back to top
Last Modified Date: 3/22/2001
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