Learn How to Saute

Sautéing is one of the simplest ways to cook and a good technique for preparing a wide variety of food. It calls for briefly cooking food in a small amount of fat over fairly high heat, thus evaporating the water in the ingredients and concentrating their flavors. The high heat also seals in food's natural taste. Here's how it's done:

  • 01 of 06

    How to Sauté

    Sauteing brussel sprouts in pan
    sf_foodphoto/Getty Images

    For successful sautéing, a heavy-bottomed skillet or a sauté pan with sloping sides is essential so the heat will be evenly distributed over its surface and the food will cook without scorching. Be sure to use a pan that is just large enough to hold the food in a single layer without crowding. If it is too large, the juices released from the foods will run to the edges and burn, and if it is too small, the food will steam in its juices rather than sauté.

    1. Add enough oil or butter (or a...MORE combination) to the skillet to lightly coat the bottom. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until hot. It’s important to let the pan get very hot, or the food will absorb too much oil, stick to the bottom, and begin to stew in its own juices.

    2. Add the ingredients and cook by tossing or stirring them until lightly browned. Tossing the ingredients in the pan is a technique used by chefs. It is not hard to do and is worth the practice for the home cook. Grasp the handle of the skillet with both hands and move the pan back and forth. Lift up slightly on the backward pull to make the vegetables jump and redistribute themselves. 


    • Chopped and diced vegetables can be easily tossed or stirred. Sliced vegetables are a little more cumbersome; a spatula works well for these.

    • Don't crowd the pan. Food releases steam when cooking, and if it's crowded, that steam won't have enough room to escape, staying in the pan and steaming rather than sautéing the food.

    Fats such as butter, oil, or bacon fat are used to coat the food and prevent it from sticking to the pan, aid in browning, and add flavor.

    • Potatoes need to be partially cooked or blanched before sautéing.

    • Vegetables that exude a lot of water, such as zucchini and mushrooms, are best sautéed over very high heat to quickly evaporate the liquid. 

    • Foods can first be coated in flour or a breading mixture to give them a crisp coating.

  • 02 of 06
    succotash. Getty

    The version of succotash features sweet corn right off the cob, fresh lima beans, and red bell pepper for a dish that's packed with flavor and texture, and makes a great accompaniment to almost any meal.

  • 03 of 06
    Photo (c) John Mitzewich

    This simple sautéed clamshell mushrooms recipe makes a perfect garnish for steak, but also can be used to top a chicken breast, pork chop, or even a bowl of pasta. If you can't find clamshell mushrooms, also known as brown beech mushrooms, this recipe will work with regular button mushrooms.

  • 04 of 06

    Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Pasta

    K. Kingsley

    This garlicky shrimp recipe is simple, delicious and so easy to make that it will quickly become one of your go-to dishes. The beauty of this dish is that it can be served many ways: tossed with pasta as it is here, or over rice, couscous, or plain with a side of crusty herb buttered bread

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Shrimp Creole

    Shrimp Creole
    Shrimp Creole. Getty

    Shrimp creole is a southern classic. Don't be daunted by the number of ingredients in this recipe. They're not exotic and they take little time to prepare. Serve this heart-healthy dish on its own or ladled over rice. For some extra heat, add more hot pepper sauce.

  • 06 of 06

    Most chicken Marsala recipes call for the chicken to be pounded out thin before cooking, but this chicken Marsala recipe uses the whole breast for a moister, and easier version. Chicken Marsala is a classic dish in Italian-American restaurants, and now you can make a delicious version at home. If you decide to give this chicken Marsala a try, be sure to buy regular Marsala wine.