Sautéing is an excellent cooking method for people that don‘t have a lot of time but want something healthy and delicious at home. It uses far less oil than some other cooking methods and is by its nature meant to be quick. You can make a delicious dinner in less than 20 minutes, including a fantastic pan sauce, using the sauté cooking method.
Sautéing is a high-heat, pan frying cooking method. The word itself comes from French and means “to jump” which is what happens to smaller things that are fried on high heat, they start jumping around. The most important ingredient when sautéing is the meat you want to sauté. The meat mustn‘t be too thick or else you run the risk of having a perfectly done outer layer with a raw center. The frying time will differ based on the type of meat you are using and its thickness, here‘s a rough guideline:
- Salmon and other fish: 2 minutes or so on each side. Works well with butter.
- Beef: 3 minutes on each side for rare, 5 minutes for medium, 7 minutes for well done (depending on thickness). If you are cooking it for more than 3 minutes then flip the meat after the initial searing.
- Lamb: 3 minutes on each side (depending on thickness), add same amount of time as for beef for doneness.
- Chicken breasts: 2 minutes on each side, then lower the heat and continue flipping, leaving it for a minute or two on each side until the meat is cooked through which normally takes around 10 – 12 minutes of cooking in total. Works well with butter.
- Pork: 3 minutes on each side, then lower the heat and continue flipping like with chicken breasts until the meat is cooked through.
For beef, lamb and pork, pick tender, high quality meat. Soup meat and the like is not really meant to be cooked like this and will likely be very tough. Price is a good estimate of how well a cut of meat will fare when sautéed, more expensive cuts generally being better. Also, if you are cooking pork or chicken, make sure the meat is cooked through by cutting into it with a knife to check the center. There should be no red juice or meat.
When sautéing you‘ll want to pick an oil that can stand up to the heat. If you like butter you need to be careful. Butter contains ingredients that are not just fat; it also contains milk- and butter solids which can burn. If you want to use butter when sautéing you have two options; you can either use meats that don‘t need as much time (such as fish) or you can make your own clarified butter. Clarified butter is made by melting a rather large quantity of butter in a pot, then letting it stand for a while. The butter will separate into three layers. The middle layer is the one you‘ll want, that‘s the clarified, i.e. the fat ingredient of butter.
Other good oil options are sunflower oil, corn oil, peanut oil as well as rapeseed (canola) oil and olive oil although you‘ll want to avoid using extra virgin olive oil when cooking in general. It has a really strong flavor that can overpower your dish, only use it if you love the taste of it or you have strong, powerful ingredients that can stand up and harmonize well with it.
When sautéing use 1, maximum 2 table spoons of fat.
Here‘s a delicious butter sautéd chicken breast recipe including pan sauce:
- 2 – 3 Chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 Table spoon butter
- 1 dl / 1/2 Cup white wine
- 1/2 dl / 1/4 Cup real chicken stock
- 1/2 Table spoon fresh chopped rosemary
- 1/2 Garlic clove, crushed
- 1 Tea spoon mustard
- 2 Table spoons cold butter
Begin by preheating your oven to 50°C/120°F. Rinse, then pat your chicken breasts dry and rub them on both sides with salt and pepper. Put the table spoon and a half of butter into a frying pan and turn the heat to medium high or high. Put the chicken breasts, presentation side first, into the hot pan as soon as the butter has stopped sizzling.
Let the chicken breasts cook on each side like this, 2 minutes per side after which you should reduce the temperature a bit and continue turning the breasts, leaving them for a minute on each side. Usually this takes around 3 – 4 times per side, 10 – 12 minutes of cooking in total.
Make sure the chicken is properly cooked by cutting a little hole with a knife into the thicker half of the biggest breast. There should be no redness. Once the breasts are ready, keep them warm and nice by storing them in the oven. Make sure the oven is not too hot. If it is, keep the door ajar.
Using the same pan you fried your chicken in, turn it to high and add the white wine mixed with the chicken stock, rosemary and crushed garlic half.
Let the wine/stock mixture boil down until it looks rather syrupy. Make sure to taste it as you‘ll want to reduce the liquid to a taste you are happy with. You can add some stock to the sauce if it’s too thick or strong.
Mix in the mustard and stir thoroughly. If the liquid is too thick add some more chicken stock. Turn off the heat and whisk in cold butter until all of it has melted and has been incorporated into the sauce. You’ll need to whisk constantly while the butter is melting. Use cold butter instead of warm to slow down the melting of the butter. This will make it easier for you to emulsify the butter into the liquid.
Season with salt and pepper until you think the pan sauce tastes just right. Use the sauce sparingly (like in restaurants) with the chicken.
Serve with steamed and buttered string beans and some fried small potatoes. Bon appetite!
The pan sauce recipe is flexible and can accommodate different meats. You can substitute the white wine with rosé or red wine and the herbs and mustard with a range of other herbs and spices that fit the meat you are preparing or your interests. This combination of sautéing and creating a pan sauce can be done with virtually all meat and vegetables. The combination of possible outcomes is immense.
Learn more about meat cooking techniques in NammiNamm Recipes