To the uninitiated, a saute pan will look much like any other kind of pan. However, if you know what makes them special, you will be able to get the most out of this unique and vital piece of cookware. Here is everything that you need to know about saute pans and how to use them properly.
- What. Simply put, a saute pan is a piece of cookware that has been specifically designed to, well, saute food items. Sauteing food is a way of cooking through the use of dry-heat. This means that you use a very, very hot pan and a small amount of fat (or grease) to cook food really quickly. This usually means that the food will be browned, often with a caramelized outer shell.
- Design. While many people may think that frying pans and saute pans are the same, they couldn't be more different. In the simplest terms, a saute pan will have a wide flat bottom, one long handle, one short handle, a lid, and typically shallow straight sides. Surprisingly on a saute pan every single aspect of its overall design plays an important role. The flat bottom helps distribute the heat evenly, which is important when sauteing, so that you have evenly cooked food. The straight sides help keep any liquids from spilling or boiling over, while also keeping the food inside the pan when "jumping."
- Size. Unlike other kinds of cookware, the size of a saute pan is specified in quarts, not inches. Typically the smallest saute pan that you will need will be one quart and the largest will be seven quarts. Since there is no definitive size for a saute pan, it's generally a good idea to have more than one in your home. That way you can choose the proper one for your needs. For most homes, I would recommend having both a one quart and a three quart saute pan, which should be more than enough to cover your cooking needs.
- Material. Like most other kinds of cookware, you can get a saute pan in just about every kind of material imaginable. Due to how easy they are to keep clean, a very popular version to have in the home are the models with a nonstick coating. However, if you want something that has a high rate of conductivity, which is a must when sauteing, then the preferred models are made from copper. There is just one problem with copper though, and that is it is a fairly difficult metal to keep shiny and clean.
- How to use. The best way to use a saute pan is to begin by allowing it to heat up, though you don't want it to overheat. Once it has reached the proper temperature, add a small amount of grease, fat, or oil to allow proper cooking. Next, add the items you will be cooking. Be careful as you do this to make sure that you do not get burned or that you don't over crowd the pan. If you over crowd the pan, it will lower the temperature and thereby take longer to cook. While cooking the food in a saute pan, you will need to keep it moving. Traditionally, this is done by tossing (otherwise known as "jumping") the food. However, this only really works with smaller pieces of food like vegetables and smaller meats.