How to Saute: A Beginner's Guide to Cooking with Confidence

How to Saute

Sautéing is a cooking technique that involves quickly cooking ingredients in a hot pan with a small amount of oil or fat. It's a versatile technique that can cook everything from vegetables and meats to eggs and seafood.

The key to successful sautéing is ensuring your pan is hot enough and your ingredients are evenly sized and cut. This guide will show you how to sauté like a pro, from selecting the right equipment to mastering your technique.

Whether you're looking to cook a quick and healthy weeknight meal or impress your dinner guests with a fancy French dish, we've got you covered.

Table of contents

Equipment You'll Need

To sauté like a pro, you'll need the following equipment:

A Sauté Pan

A sauté pan is a wide, shallow pan with a flat bottom and straight sides. The pan's large surface area allows for quick and even cooking, while the straight sides make it easy to toss and stir your ingredients without spilling them. Look for a pan with a heavy bottom and a comfortable handle for easy manoeuvring.

A Good Knife

To sauté your ingredients, you'll need to chop or slice them into evenly sized-pieces. A good chef's knife will make quick work of chopping and slicing, allowing you to prepare your ingredients with ease.

A spatula or tongs:

You'll need a spatula or tongs to flip and turn the food as it cooks. Make sure you use a tool that won't scratch the surface of your pan.

A heat-proof spoon or ladle:

You'll also need a spoon or ladle to scoop up any sauce or liquid that you're cooking with.


Choosing the Right Oil

When it comes to sautéing, the type of oil you use matters. Here are some oils that work well for sautéing:

Vegetable oil:

Vegetable oil is a good all-purpose oil that works well for sautéing. It has a high smoke point, which means it can be heated to high temperatures without smoking or burning.

Canola oil:

Canola oil is another good choice for sautéing. Like vegetable oil, it has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor that won't overpower your food.

Clarified butter:

Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is a good choice for sautéing because it has a high smoke point and a rich, nutty flavor. However, it's important to note that clarified butter is not suitable for people with dairy allergies.


Preparing Your Ingredients

Before you begin sautéing, you'll need to prepare your ingredients. Here's how:

Chop or Slice Your Ingredients

For even cooking, it's important to chop or slice your ingredients into evenly sized pieces. This will ensure they cook at the same rate and don't burn.

Season Your Ingredients

Before you add your ingredients to the pan, be sure to season them with salt and pepper. This will enhance the flavours of your dish and make it more delicious.

Pat Your Ingredients Dry

To ensure that your ingredients cook evenly and don't steam, it's important to pat them dry with a paper towel before you add them to the pan.

How to Sauté

sauté picture cartoon style

  1. Step 1: Preheat your sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Step 2: Add a small amount of oil to the pan. You want enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, but not so much that the food will be swimming in oil.
  3. Step 3: Once the oil is hot, add your food to the pan. Make sure the food is in a single layer and not overcrowded, as this will cause it to steam rather than sauté.
  4. Step 4: Cook the food for a few minutes without stirring, until it starts to brown on the bottom. This is called the Maillard reaction and it adds flavor to the food.
  5. Step 5: Use your spatula or tongs to flip and turn the food. Continue cooking until it's cooked through and evenly browned. Keep in mind that sautéing is a quick cooking method, so you don't want to leave your food in the pan for too long.
  6. Step 6: Remove the food from the pan and place it on a plate or serving dish. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to drain any excess oil.
  7. Step 7: If you're making a sauce or gravy, deglaze the pan by adding a liquid such as wine or stock and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook the liquid until it reduces and thickens, then pour it over the sautéed food.
  8. Step 8: Garnish the dish with fresh herbs, lemon wedges, or any other desired toppings.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Sautéing

To help you sauté like a pro, here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind:

Use High Heat

To achieve a nice sear on your ingredients and avoid steaming, it's important to use high heat when sautéing. However, be sure not to use heat that is too high, as it can burn your ingredients.

Don't Overcrowd the Pan

When sautéing, be sure not to overcrowd the pan. This will cause your ingredients to steam instead of sauté, resulting in a less crispy and flavorful dish.

Keep Your Ingredients Dry

Moisture is the enemy of sautéing. Be sure to pat your ingredients dry before adding them to the pan to avoid steaming.

Use Evenly Sized Ingredients

To ensure that your ingredients cook evenly and at the same rate, it's important to chop or slice them into evenly sized-pieces.

Don't Stir Too Often

While it's important to stir your ingredients to prevent burning, be sure not to stir them too often, as this can prevent them from developing a nice sear.


Q: What kind of oil should I use for sautéing?
You can use any type of oil or fat for sautéing, but it's best to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as canola, grapeseed, or vegetable oil.

Q: Can I sauté frozen ingredients?
It's not recommended to sauté frozen ingredients as they will release a lot of moisture, which can prevent them from developing a nice sear.

Q: What's the difference between sautéing and stir-frying?
A:Sautéing and stir-frying are similar cooking techniques that involve cooking ingredients in a hot pan with oil. The main difference is that stir-frying uses a wok, which has higher sides and allows for a more vigorous stir-fry motion.

Q: Can I sauté in a non-stick pan?
A: Yes, you can sauté in a non-stick pan, but be sure to use a wooden spoon or spatula to avoid scratching the surface.

Q: What is the difference between sautéing and frying?
A: Sautéing and frying are both methods of cooking food in oil, but sautéing uses less oil and higher heat than frying. Sautéing is a quick and efficient method of cooking small pieces of food, while frying is typically used for larger items like chicken or fish.

Q: Can I use olive oil for sautéing?
A: While olive oil is a popular oil for cooking, it has a low smoke point, which means it can easily burn when used for sautéing. If you do use olive oil for sautéing, make sure to keep the heat low and watch it carefully to prevent burning.

Q: How do I know when my food is done sautéing?
A: Your food is done sautéing when it's cooked through and evenly browned. You can check for doneness by cutting into a piece of food to make sure it's no longer raw in the middle.


Sautéing is a simple and versatile cooking technique that can elevate your home-cooked meals. By following the tips and tricks in this guide, you'll be able to sauté like a pro in no time. Remember to keep your ingredients dry, use high heat, and stir them just enough to prevent burning. With a little practice, you'll be able to create delicious sautéed dishes that will impress your family and friends.
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