Pan Frying and Sauteing

Pan Frying and Sauteing
In this lesson, we'll cover both pan frying and sauteing. These techniques are fairly similar but lead to very different results at the end.

Both of these techniques are crucial to building flavor in your recipes, so they're a great starting point for learning to cook! 

A few words of wisdom before we start: 

When you add food to your pan, it should always sizzle. If it doesn't, your pan is not hot enough! 

Change the heat when you need to. Don't feel like you need to keep the pan over medium-high heat AT ALL TIMES just because a recipe says so. If things are browning too fast, turn the heat down. No noise or movement in the pan? Turn the heat up! 

Not all stovetops are created equal, so keep an eye on yours and become used to its quirks and temperatures.

What Is Pan Frying?

Pan Frying and Sauteing
Pan frying differs from sautéing in that you ALWAYS want the food you're cooking to brown and/or crisp up. That means you'll want to let it hang out in the hot pan instead of stirring it constantly. You also tend to use more oil with pan frying - up to 1/2 inch of oil in your pan. 

For the purposes of this class, searing and browning also fall under pan frying.

Pan frying is best done in a large, low sided skillet - though it can also be done in an uncrowded saute pan or dutch oven. You want excess moisture to be able to move away from the food to promote browning. 

This also means that you shouldn't crowd the pan with ingredients - if there's not enough space, the food will steam instead of brown.

Make sure to have a splatter screen around for this cooking technique - otherwise you will get splattered!

How to Pan Fry

Tools for pan frying:

Large skillet - 12-14 inches is best (non stick is preferable if you're new to this!) 

Fat or oil of choice - I prefer avocado, olive, or canola oil 

Tongs or another utensil to move the food around 

Splatter screen 

Cooling rack and/or paper towels for draining, if necessary

Pan Frying and Sauteing
How to do it:

1. Heat an empty skillet over medium-high heat. 

2. Once the skillet is nice and hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. (If you're shallow frying, you may need to add up to 1/4 inch of oil.) When the oil begins to shimmer, you're ready to cook!

3. Add the food to the skillet, moving it around gently to get covered in oil. If you're using ground meat, break it up into smaller pieces.

4. Let the food cook without moving until it begins to brown. (You can check the done-ness by lifting an edge gently with tongs of a flipper, or gently stirring things around.) 

5. Once the first side is browned, repeat as necessary on the other sides. 

6. If you're cooking meat, check the temperature with your instant read thermometer. If the middle is undercooked, turn down the heat and flip the meat every minute or so until it reaches temperature. 

7. Make sure to remove the skillet from the heat when done cooking. You may even want to move the food to a plate. Keep in mind that the food will continue cooking for a little bit due to residual heat. 

8. If you're pan frying something that was breaded, chances are you want it to stay crisp! Place the finished food on a cooling rack above paper towels to let it drain any excess oil. 

CAUTION: putting "wet" food into hot oil will cause an oil explosion. Oil and water do not mix, so make sure to pat meat dry, and to dry washed vegetables before adding them to hot oil. Moisture will also keep spices and herbs from sticking to the food, so there's another great reason to dry everything added to oil! 

Pan Frying Recipes

Pan Frying and Sauteing
Now that you've learned all about pan frying and sauteing, why not test your knowledge with a few recipes?

In the Pan Frying collection, I've brought together a variety of recipes where pan frying is the main cooking technique used. (Or it's the most important part of the recipe!) 

What Is Sautéing? 

Pan Frying and Sauteing
Sautéing is the most basic of cooking techniques and also one of the most common. You could honestly just call it "cooking" instead of sautéing. 

Sautéing is a cooking technique that uses a small amount of oil and fat to cook food - just enough to coat whatever you're cooking. Sauteing involves near constant stirring over medium to high heat - it all depends on the result you want! 

Sautéing over high heat will result in ingredients browning fairly quickly - it can be similar to stir-frying. Sautéing over a medium heat allows ingredients to soften and lost their moisture slowly - browning normally doesn't occur until all moisture has been cooked out, like in the case of caramelized onions.

Sautéing is the first step in many recipes: it's used to soften aromatics such as onion, celery, carrot, pepper and garlic, it allows spices to bloom and develop more flavor, and can also add extra flavor from browning your ingredients slightly.

Sauteing can be done in both a saucepan or skillet - though I recommend using a skillet if you're looking for browning. The high sides of a saucepan will trap in moisture, making it harder for whatever is in the pan to brown.

How to Sauté:

Tools for sautéing: 

Large skillet or saucepan - whatever you need to make the recipe! 

Fat or oil of choice - I prefer avocado, olive, or canola oil 

Wooden or plastic spoon 

Pan Frying and Sauteing

How to do it: 

1. Heat an empty pan or skillet over medium heat. 

2. Once the skillet is hot, add just a bit of oil. (Maybe 1-2 tablespoons - you want just enough to cover your ingredients. You can always add more if you need to!) 

3. Add in your ingredients and immediately stir them around, coating them with oil. 

4. Continue cooking, stirring and scraping every few minutes (or more frequently, depending on how hot your pan is!) so that the ingredients don't stick to the bottom of the pan. 

5. Test meat with a instant read thermometer to determine doneness. For vegetables and other ingredients, check by taste to see if they're ready.

Sautéing Recipes 

Pan Frying and Sauteing
Now it's time to practice your sautéing skills! I've made a small collection of recipes where sautéing is the main cooking technique so you can focus exclusively on that skill.

Now that we've covered pan frying and sauteing, let's move on to the next techniques: boiling, simmering and stewing!

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