Monday, January 7, 2013

How Much Fat to Use When Sautéing Can Vary

An easy way to cook food is by sautéing, which entails heating a pan, adding a fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.), waiting for the fat to get hot (but not smoking), adding food (proteins and vegetables work well), stirring or flipping (if necessary) and cooking until the desired doneness is achieved (if the food item needs more cooking but is already nicely browned, finish cooking it in the oven).

Yes, that was a bit of an oversimplification, but I'll expand on one component—how much fat to put in the pan—which I get asked about often. I suggest coating the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of fat when cooking most food items. However, if you are sautéing a low-fat protein such as a skinless chicken breast, you'll need more oil to make up for the breast's leanness. Conversely, if cooking bacon, no fat is necessary, since the fatty bacon will quickly render enough fat to make you forget that you started with a dry pan. (See photo above.)

Other foods and some tips:

  • Eggplant will soak up tons of fat, so you'll need to keep adding more during the cooking process.
  • Onions, if stirred often, will give off some of their water, so you may not need as much fat as you think. I cook onions at a slightly lower temperature than other foods.
  • Slice harder vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.) thinner than vegetables that contain more water (zucchini, mushrooms, etc.). Carrots cut too big will remain hard in the middle.
If you end up with extra fat in your pan, don't throw it away! Save it for the next time you cook (it's sort of free!) or do what I did last night with my excess bacon fat: soak bread in it and enjoy while you are cooking. 

Another option is to make croutons.

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