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Is there a name for "slow sauteing"


Fat Guy
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Okay, so sauteing is technically when you keep stuff moving in the pan almost constantly. But there are a couple of things I cook -- mushrooms, home fried potatoes -- where I put them in the pan, let them sit unagitated for a couple of minutes to brown and crisp on whichever side is in contact with the pan, then toss as in a saute, then let them sit more, and so on.

What's the name for that?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Sauté.

Food does not need to be kept moving almost constantly to be considered sauté. The fat needs to be of a relatively small quantity, the pan needs to be shallow and wide, the food needs to be able to fit the pan in one layer (though this element is often stretched a bit), and the heat needs to be relatively high. How long the food sits before you make it 'jump' (sauté) depends on the food and the level of browning, if any, you desire.

Kevin

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Sauté is so often misapplied that even the common American restaurant-industry BOH usage is incorrect, such that "sauté" has come to be more or less synonymous with "fry in a small amount of fat" and "fry" has come to be associated with cooking partially or entirely submerged in fat (which I would call "boiling in oil"). I believe this misapplication, at least in restaurants, comes from the fact that the so-called "sauté station" probably does more frying than it does sautéing and also the ubiquity of deep "frying." In the popular imagination, again due to the association with "deep frying" I think "sauté" has been used in place of "fry" because it seems lighter and less greasy. I'd be interested to see when the transition started happening from "fry" to "sauté." Anyway, the point is that you can't sauté a trout fillet, and there's a reason we don't call it a "sautéed egg."

Anyway... what I would call something that sits in the pan for an extended period, then gets tossed, then sits in the pan for an extended period (repeat as needed until browned) is: "frying." Technically, one could call the act of tossing the ingredients by shaking the pan "sautéing," at which point the process would go back to frying until the next shake... but that's splitting hairs. This is not to say that the pan has to be in constant movement. At some point, one is tossing the ingredients frequently enough that it becomes "sautéing." I'm not sure it's possible to put a number on this (or that anyone would agree on that number anyway), but I'd say that you can't walk away from the stove for very long and still call it "sautéing" -- perhaps 60 seconds or less between shakes? Another way to think of sautéing is "stir-frying, but shaking the pan instead of using a utensil to move the ingredients."

Basically what you are doing in your mushroom example is frying, and using a shake of the pan to flip the mushrooms instead of tongs or a spatula. Clearly, if you had turned the mushrooms with tongs, you wouldn't be asking the question. Most likely, and this is a reason I think most home cooks rarely if ever sauté, on a high-powered restaurant stove and in single-portion amounts such as are prepared at restaurants, you wouldn't need to let the ingredients sit in the pan in order to brown -- you would be doing a true sauté.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Stovetop pan roasting

Slow stir frying

Flip frying

Pan griddled

Sauteus interruptus

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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"Cooking"... you're cooking the mushrooms. :raz:

"Cook the mushrooms on high heat to brown, toss, repeat."

I suppose you could go with frytéing. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Sauté is so often misapplied that even the common American restaurant-industry BOH usage is incorrect, such that "sauté" has come to be more or less synonymous with "fry in a small amount of fat" and "fry" has come to be associated with cooking partially or entirely submerged in fat (which I would call "boiling in oil").

This usage seems like it's so standardized now on both sides of the atlantic, that I wouldn't bother trying to fight it.

Once upon a time, your definition was basically right. Sauté means "jump." It's the reason we have slope-sided pans (which are no longer even called sauté pans, but fry pans or poêls). And what we call sauté pans are large, straight sided, and better suited for frying, pan frying (what we now call sauté much of the time), braising, and frickasees.

Getting back to FG's original question, "sweat" is usually applied only to vegetables, but it generally means to cook in a little oil on low heat (with the intent to cook/wilt without browning).

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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"Smother" (etouffee, in cajun french) is a south Louisiana term used generically for any food cooked a bit in fat, then slowly cooked down, either in its own juices or in a little added liquid. Technically not a stovetop braise (which uses a little more liquid, and the pot is most often covered in a braise), but not a saute either. Crawfish etouffee is just one variation of the pantheon of etouffees.

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"Pan frying," for most people, has the connotation that you are "shallow frying" (which is to say, cooking the food partially submerged in fat) in a skillet instead of a deeper vessel. See my remarks above about how this is not really "frying" -- which is neither here nor there, since this is a commonly accepted meaning. The problem is that it has shifted meanings: "fry" now often means "boiling in oil" and "sauté" now often means "fry."

If one is using the "correct" meaning of "fry," then there is no need to preface the word by saying that it is done in a pan. All frying (which is to say, cooking food in a limited amount of fat, mostly by letting it sit still) is done in a pan.

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"Pan frying," for most people, has the connotation that you are "shallow frying" (which is to say, cooking the food partially submerged in fat) in a skillet instead of a deeper vessel.  See my remarks above about how this is not really "frying" -- which is neither here nor there, since this is a commonly accepted meaning.  The problem is that it has shifted meanings:  "fry" now often means "boiling in oil" and "sauté" now often means "fry."

I don't know where you get this idea. Deep frying is not boiling in oil (the oil is not boiling), nor is it some new deviation. It's a classical technique (friture). "Pan frying" is a useful term because it distinguishes shallow frying (done in a pan, with the food only partially immersed in oil), from deep frying, and from sauté (where only enough oil is used to coat the pan to provide better heat transfer along the surface).

Of these, pan fying in a moderate amound of oil seems like the modern deviation (at least looking at the continental tradition). I don't see any reference to it either in larousse or escoffier. In both these sources, frying is synonymous with deep frying.

Notes from the underbelly

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I realized that in my first post didn't address the original question at all. By slow, I thought you meant low heat, but you clearly said you meant not a lot of motion.

Honestly, I think people still call this sauté. It's not the classical definition, but it's essentially the same cooking process. We talk about sautéed steaks and chicken cutlets; the cooking is still done by high heat in just enough oil to fill the gaps between the food and the pan. But large pieces that essentially have two sides are more sensibly cooked by turning than tossing.

I think you're getting into subtleties of approach ... like when it's better to toss often vs. letting something brown for a stretch and then tossing. I think it's fundamentally still sauté.

Notes from the underbelly

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How did I ever get this old without having a nervous breakdown over the word "saute?" If I had to question the meaning or worry about the distinction between "saute over a low flame," "saute gently," "pan-fry" or "toss in a shallow pan with butter" every time I read a recipe I would blow my head off.

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If I had to question the meaning or worry about the distinction between "saute over a low flame," "saute gently," "pan-fry" or "toss in a shallow pan with butter" every time I read a recipe I would blow my head off.

So technically speaking, what's the difference between blowing one's head off and blowing one's brains out?

sorry.

Notes from the underbelly

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