New Year’s resolution: learn to cook! This is the year to leave your kitchen fears behind and create fabulous food with ease. To get started, look to our new cookbook Cook Good Food, full of simple techniques and foolproof recipes for everyday eating. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing key technique primers from the book, along with great recipes to go with them. Start reading — and make good food tonight!
To saute (which comes from the French word for “jump”) means to quickly cook food in a small amount of oil over high heat. The best foods for sauteing are generally lean and tender and cut into small pieces. For the best results, look for a saute pan made of a quality metal so it heats evenly. Also, use a neutral-flavored cooking oil that can withstand high temperatures (you can use butter, but watch carefully — it will brown quickly).
Pat foods dry. Soak up the moisture on foods’ surface with paper towels before sauteing to encourage browning.
Do not crowd. Crowding food in the pan will create steam and inhibit browning. Use a pan that’s large enough to fit ingredients comfortably in a single layer, or cook everything in batches.
Resist the urge to move food around. When cooking meat or poultry, don’t turn it until it is browned on the bottom. If it seems stuck to the pan, it usually means the food isn’t ready to be flipped.
Preheat the pan. Once the pan is hot, add the oil and heat it for a few seconds before adding the food. To test the heat level, hold you hand over the pan; you should feel the heat rising.
Cook the side you present first. When cooking meat, poultry or fish, the first side cooked will often look better than the seconds side. Be sure to put the prettiest side facedown in the pan when you begin to saute.
|Heat the pan
You’ll feel the heat radiating up when it’s hot enough to start cooking.
|Swirl in the oil
When you see the surface of the oil shimmer, you’re good to go.
|Add the food
Leave it undisturbed for a few seconds to encourage caramelization.
|Stir & toss
When you see browning, stir and toss with a wooden spoon or tongs. Repeat every few seconds to encourage even cooking.
If you’re making a pan sauce, add broth or wine and scrape up the delicious browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.
|Reduce & finish
To finish a pan sauce, vigorously simmer the liquid until it is a sauce consistency. Stir in butter or mustard to thicken the pan sauce.
|Spicy Broccoli Rabe Bruschetta
Here, pleasantly bitter broccoli rabe is sauteed until tender with garlic and red pepper flakes. Paired with creamy ricotta, it makes a rustic and unexpected topping to crostini.
|Citrus Crabby Cakes
Rich, tender crab cakes become lightly browned and crispy when quickly sauteed in a fry pan. Serve alone as an appetizer or over a bed of butter lettuce with a citrusy vinaigrette for a light dinner.
|Wilted Spinach Salad with Pancetta Lardons and Warm Vinaigrette
The classic warm spinach salad gets is distinctive flavor from sauteed bacon or pancetta; the lardons add crunch to the salad, while the bacon fat enriches the vinaigrette. This recipe adds a couple of creative twists: sweet-tart dried fruit, crunchy toasted almonds and shaved ricotta salata cheese.
|Fettuccine with Wild Mushrooms
Take your pasta dinner to the next level with a topping of mushrooms sauteed with shallots and herbs and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s a great way to enjoy the earthy flavors of wild mushrooms like chanterelles, shiitakes and more.
|Chicken Sauté with Thyme, Lemon and Chili
In this simple dish, thin chicken cutlets are quickly sauteed, and then a quick pan sauce is created by cooking fresh thyme, tart lemon juice and hot chilies together. Serve with mashed potatoes for an easy but comforting meal.
|Sautéed Pork Chops with Kale Salad
Pork chops are ideal for sauteeing: just brown both sides in a pan with olive oil, then reduce the heat to cook them through. A honey-mustard vinaigrette lends bright flavors to both the meat and the salad in this dish.
|Spicy Sautéed Kale and Chickpeas
Here, dark-colored, nutritious Dinosaur kale is sautéed with chickpeas to make a hearty side dish, which you can prepare with ingredients you may already have in your pantry. Pair it with roasted meats or poultry.
|Apple and Sausage Patties
Breakfast sausage patties are easier to make than you’d think, and they cook quickly when sauteed on the stovetop. Adding grated apple to the pork sausage creates tangy, flavorful patties that are perfect for a breakfast buffet.