Sautéing is a cooking technique for browning meat in a little bit of oil or a combination of oil and butter. When referring to meat I mean steak, lamb, pork, veal, chicken or fish. This technique is good for a piece of meat up to 3/4-inch thick.
Rinse the pan (iron skillet if not making a sauce otherwise stainless steel).
Dry over high heat.
Turn the heat to medium.
Add a small amount of oil or a combination of oil and butter.
Usually the meat is lightly coated in flour, salt and pepper. Salmon, swordfish, tuna, and steak would be four exceptions; no flour is needed.
I like to tap off the excess flour.
Lower the meat into the pan and sauté for a few minutes. Once nicely browned, turn and then sauté on the other side.
If you have a thin piece of fish you might only sauté on the second side for a few seconds lest the fish be overcooked. Just go for that mahogany brown on one side when you are dealing with a thin piece of fish.
If the pan is smoking, turn down the heat.
If you do not hear anything (a good sizzling sound) then turn up the heat.
Tips for Sautéing Success
- To avoid sticking, heat the pan before you add the oil.
- The meat must be dry in order to achieve the desired crusty brown and to avoid sticking.
- Do not overcrowd the pan because the meat will steam instead of sauté.
- For a gluten-free option, I coat in water chestnut powder instead of flour.
- Be mindful of the pan drippings as you don’t want them to get too dark if you are making a sauce.