Lesson 16: How to Saute

Sautéing is probably the most widely referenced, but improperly labeled cooking technique. When people say that something is sautéed, they actually mean that it has been pan fried or stir fried. But the common phrase that people understand is to refer to this food item as having been sautéed. By definition, a sauté is where you have a thinly sliced item that you cook in a sauté pan with a minimal amount of oil over medium-high to high heat and you flip the item no more than twice. If you add additional oil to the pan, you are now pan frying. If you do not add additional oil, but jostle and move the ingredients rapidly and often, you are stir frying. Sound confusing? It really isn’t.

Let’s use a pork chop as an example. To properly sauté a pork chop, you add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large sauté pan. Bring it to a medium-high heat. When the pan is heated, place the pork chop into the oil on the pan and allow to cook until 50% finished. At this point, you flip the pork chop and allow it to finish cooking on the other side. This produces a large amount of browning on the pork chop, because the surface of the meat will be exposed to the heat source (dry, direct heat). This creates a large amount of the savory browning compound found in the Maillard reaction. This is what defines and is desired in sautéing.

But, we are new cooks. So we will not be cooking at a high heat, because we will burn everything! Remember what I taught you earlier? You can obtain the same results at a lower heat as at a high heat. It simply takes a little longer. Inside of our practice recipes, I will teach you the intricacies of the sauté technique.

Equipment Needed for Sauté Practice Recipes:
chef’s knife
butter knife
cutting board
large mixing bowl
medium mixing bowl
measuring cups
measuring spoons
large whisk
large high-sided sauté pan
medium sauté pan
high heat spatula
high heat flipper
metal tongs

Saute Recipes:

Adult Grilled Cheese

Crepes

Omelets

Classic Denver Omelet

Potato Omelet

Spinach and Feta Omelet

Pancakes

Uncle Lee’s Pork Chops


Lesson 15: How to Pan Fry

How to Pan Fry

Pan frying is more similar to deep fat frying than it is to sautéing or stir frying. A pan fry is where you cook food in at least ½” of oil. Th is oil typically covers about half of the food you are cooking. If the food is completely submerged in oil, it becomes a deep fat fry. I typically pan fry chicken fingers, breaded pork chops, and other foods that I want to fry quickly without the hassle of storing a gallon of used cooking oil. Never fill your pan more than half way with cooking oil.

Your oil could catch on fire if it is over filled, or if it is exposed to an open flame. Use extreme caution when pan frying and be very careful.

You want to heat the oil in the pan when the pan is cool. You do not ever want to heat an empty pan, because it will warp the pan. Th e ideal temperature to pan fry is at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. You can achieve this with a medium-heat on a regular sized burner. Pan frying can be extremely messy. If you are not careful, it could also burn you. Although it may seem counter intuitive, when you place items into a hot cooking oil, you want to hold onto the item until the very last second and then release it into the oil. Th is reduces splashing and helps to eliminate burns on your forearms. When placing food into the hot oil, we also want to take care not to overload the oil by putting too many items in at once. Th e food is much cooler than the oil. If you are not careful, the food can significantly decrease the temperature of the oil, which results in much longer cooking times. Also, overloading the pan can cause the oil to spill out of the pan. Th is could cause a fire.

Cooking foods in hot oil increases its crispiness by reducing the water content of the food while also allowing the structure to remain in tact. Th e reason fried food crunches is because the water is missing but the breading material remains in a dehydrated state. Always make certain to allow any excess oil to drain back into the pan before placing the finished pan fried item on paper to cool and release excess grease.

Breading Techniques

Breading is broken up into 2 major techniques.

1 Dredging
Dredging is where you take a piece of meat and cover it in starch (like wheat fl our). Th en
submerge it in an egg wash. Next, return to the starch to be re-covered. Last, place into
the pan to cook.

2 Battering
Battering is a wet technique. You take whatever food item that you intend to fry. Dip it
into the batter. And immediately, place into the pan to cook.

Dredging can only be used on meats and other proteins. Whereas, anything can be battered. This is why you can have fried zucchini in a thin batter breading. When you intend to bread anything, you must first decide what you would like the end texture to be and how you would like it to taste. This brings us to our next piece of the puzzle which is all about breading materials.

“Great Job! Keep up the good work.”

Breading Materials for Dredging and Battering

There are 3 main breading materials that are used to bread an item.

1 Wheat flour
Wheat flour is the most common in American cooking. It creates a softer, more sheet-like crust. Think about fried chicken and how the chunks of breading fall off in big sheets of crunchy breading. Flour also does a very good job of holding onto seasonings that you mix into the breading. Flour also has a very mild taste that is barely noticeable.

2 Bread crumbs
Bread crumbs come in a variety of shape, sizes, colors, and flavors. The two most commonly used are Italian bread crumbs and Panko. Many home cooks will also crush up corn flakes. I would consider corn flakes a bread crumb style breading. Bread crumbs do best in a single layer and in applications where they are not applied too heavily. When bread crumbs are eaten they tend to fall apart into smaller chunks, about the size of peas.

3 Cornstarch
Cornstarch is a fabulous breading for super crunchy applications. Of all the breading materials, it makes what is possibly the hardest surface. This surface is perfect for absorbing sauces. Cornstarch is typically used in Chinese food, like General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken. I love to mix cornstarch with wheat flour, as it helps to create a better crunch while maintaining the typical flavor of wheat flour breading. The only major draw back to cornstarch is that it does not have very much flavor on its own, and therefore must be mixed with other breading or covered in sauce before serving. Now that we have the basics of our breading choices covered, let’s discuss the how to actually do it part.

How to Properly Dredge
Breading, aka dredging, food is incredibly personal and a culinary technique surrounded by a lot of superstition. Proper dredging requires several steps and 3 key pieces to function.

The 3 key pieces to dredging are:

1 Protein
Protein can be any piece of meat that you desire to have pan fried. Typically after being breaded, these pieces of meat are referred to as fritters, if they have previously been pounded flat. I recommend seasoning the meat with salt and pepper and storing them  in the refrigerator the night before you intend on cooking this protein. As we learned in Roundness of Flavor, salt is a natural flavor amplifier. In addition to this, it is the only known flavor or seasoning to work its way through the entirety of a piece of meat. By pounding our protein with a meat mallet before we bread them, we guarantee 2 things:
1 Proper adhesion of the breading
2 A more tender final product

2 Binders
Just like a binder for school, the binder for dredging works to hold everything together.

The two best binders are:
1 Egg wash
Egg wash is consisted of 1 part egg to 2-4 parts water. This mixture is scrambled together to create an egg wash solution. This is the binder that I most often use, simply because of its ease and convenience to my personal natural cooking and eating style. I happen to carry eggs and water at all points in time, but rarely carry butter milk.

2 Butter milk
Butter milk is a tangy, spoiled milk product that is an incredibly useful binder. It naturally imparts its own unique tangy flavor, which as we have learned lightens the
weight of a finished product.

3 Starch/Breading
The function of starch is to provide a unique crispy crunch, a different flavor, and an interesting texture to a piece of meat than would be normally had. This unique eating experience keeps things interesting and let’s be honest... breading is pretty delicious! As I had discussed earlier in this chapter, breading can be made with different types of starches. I highly recommend experimenting with different mixtures to find the one that you like best.

Here are some of mine:
Fried chicken: 3 parts flour to 1 part cornstarch
Scaloppine: 1 part flour to 1 part cornstarch to 1 part breadcrumbs
Chicken fried steak: 4 parts flour to 1 part cornstarch

Because your breading is your external flavor, you may want to consider seasoning your breading.

Take caution though, if you salt your meat first, do NOT salt your breading. Learn from my mistakes! On that thought, I have found that spices hold up better in the fryer than herbs do, because herbs tend to be more delicate in flavor. A great work around is to apply seasoning after the food has been fried sufficiently.

All dredging has to posses those 3 items to function correctly. Th e end goal is to adhere your breading to your meat. But by nature, the starch is not naturally going to stick without a little modification to both the protein and the breading.

Steps of Dredging

1 The first thing we need to do is enhance the natural stickiness of our protein. The best way to do this is using a meat mallet to tenderize our protein. This will increase the concentration and exposure of sticky proteins found within our meat and will promote adherence of our breading.

2 After thoroughly pummeling your meat into submission, we want to allow the meat to rest and dry it off with a paper towel. Pat it dry to reduce the surface moisture. By reducing the surface moisture, our breading will adhere better to the meat as we cook. Moisture turns to steam during cooking. Th is expansion of steam during cooking can force the breading off of the proteins. Let’s be honest. Nobody wants half breaded fried chicken!

3 After the meat has been allowed to rest for 30 minutes and sufficiently patted dry, we are going to place the meat into our breading and thoroughly cover the surface.

4 Remove the meat from the breading and lightly shake to remove any excess.

5 Now, place the meat into an egg wash made of one part egg to three parts water. The diluted egg mixture acts as a binder for the second layer of breading. This creates a secondary adhesion layer and allows all of the layers to stick to both the protein and themselves. You may also use butter milk as your binder.

6 Return your meat to your breading and thoroughly cover to ensure the moisture has been thoroughly absorbed by new dry breading.

7 Once again, shake the excess breading from the meat and pan fry until the meat has been thoroughly cooked. Take care to flip this meat only once as messing with it too much will cause destruction of the breading.

Battering is incredibly simple in comparison to dredging. Th e applied information is the same, but the end product and the batter/breading are a little different. Because batter is liquid you can change the final density of the breading with leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda. You can also batter just about anything. Commonly battered items are sweet and sour chicken, General Tso’s chicken, shrimp tempura, fried zucchini, and mozzarella sticks. Batter may be constructed out of virtually anything as long as it contains starch, binder, and liquid. Most often your starch will be wheat fl our or cornstarch. Your binder will be eggs. And your liquid could be water, beer, vodka, milk, or buttermilk. These will then be mixed together to create a batter just like cakes, pancakes, or muffins. To create a complex batter, you will want to utilize a middle bread crumb step. In this step, you will dip your item into the batter. Then, you will roll the item in bread crumbs and either apply a second layer of batter to seal everything together or you will immediately drop the item in the fryer.

4 Step Simple Battering

1 Mix your batter.
2 Prepare your ingredients and make certain they are close to room temperature.
3 Submerge your item fully into the batter.
4 Immediately transfer into your hot oil and pan fry until fully cooked.

6 Step Complex Battering

1 Mix your batter.
2 Prepare your ingredients and make certain they are close to room temperature.
3 Dip your item into the batter and immediately transfer into your bread crumbs.
4 Roll your item into the bread crumbs until all surfaces are covered.
5 Return to batter ensuring entire item is covered.
6 Delicately drop item into hot oil and cook until fully cooked.

A Few Important Batter Tips

1 It is preferable for the batter to be fully submerged when frying. If this is not possible and pan frying is your only option, place the battered item into the hot oil. Allow to cook for 30 seconds and then immediately flip the item so that the outside of the batter can set properly and not run off when pan frying. You may also carefully and lightly use tongs to move hot oil onto the raw batter so that it will set properly.

2 Remember that batter is sticky and that you should place items into the hot oil slowly and separately to keep them from sticking together.


Lesson 14: How to Stir Fry

How to Stir Fry

A stir fry is probably the easiest form of cooking that one can begin with. They are technically unchallenging, incredibly forgiving, and are very easy to make changes to as you cook. As the name suggests, you physically stir the ingredients in the pan as they are being fried by a light amount of oil. This constant movement allows the ingredients to heat evenly, brown on all surfaces, and keeps the food from burning because of an even distribution of heat.

Most people associate stir fry with Chinese food. But, this is only partially correct. Chinese food is made with a technique that would be better classified as a Chinese fry. Stir fries may be made with any variety of ingredients and is limited only to your imagination.

I typically use a stir frying technique when I am creating the vegetable and stock bases for my sauces and soups. A stir fry may be cooked any where from a low-heat to a high-heat. You may also use any thickness of ingredients that you choose. But for best results, keep the ingredients within the bite size range.

How to Use the Sauté Pan
The most important technique to know with a sauté pan is the wrist flip. A wrist flip is where you flip the ingredients in a pan, solely by moving the pan forwards and then backwards. This causes the ingredients to move to the front of the pan, fly up and out of the pan, and then back down into the back of the pan. Most commonly this is associated with sautéing, but is primarily used in the stir fry technique. Visually this technique is incredibly impressive. But, it does take some practice even
though it is very easy to master.

Note: This can only be done with a sauté pan that has rounded edges.

1 Firmly grasp the handle of your sauté pan.

2 Lightly raise the rear of the pan and lower ever so slightly the front of the pan. Take care to keep the pan over your heat source.

3 Move your wrist forwards with medium force, about 6 inches.

4 Lift the front of the pan at the end of the 6 inch extension.

5 Continue to lift the pan up, about 3 inches.

6 As you raise the pan, pull your arm back firmly to the original position.

7 Catch your ingredients as they fall back down into the pan.

Th is motion is not a forwards and backwards motion. It is almost the exact same motion that a trains wheels make as they are rotated. Th ink about the drive arm on a steam train. It doesn’t go forwards and backwards. It moves in a circular direction. Th is techniques uses that same “chug-a-chug-a” motion to move the pan. If you move your arm statically forwards and backwards, you will either end up with a huge mess or achieve nothing at all. The flipping action is in the raising of the front
of the pan. As your arm moves forward, it gives your ingredients forward velocity. By raising the pan at the end of the stroke, it changes the forward momentum into vertical momentum. This causes the ingredients to leave the pan, become airborne, and end up flipped and back into the pan. Most importantly, this technique does not require a large amount of force on your part. Applying too much force will end up with ingredients on your ceiling.

Mastery of this technique is mandatory, as its use is extremely common in many applications. Th is includes pancakes, omelets, and many other applications.

“It’s okay! Try Again!”

Your homework is to practice this technique in real life. Take a larger low-sided sauté pan and place 2 tablespoons of dry rice into it. Practice moving the rice around the pan and then slowly work up your confidence in the wrist motion by practicing what I have just taught you. Rice is the best medium to learn on because it is completely unforgiving. If you flip too hard, you will have rice on your floor. If you flip too soft, you will have rice on your floor. If you throw your arm forward
without lifting at the end, you will have rice on your floor. Basically, you are going to have a gigantic mess. So, make sure to have a broom handy. Practice this technique every day until you are extremely comfortable with it. It will not only bring you in tune with the technique, but it will harmonize the sauté pan as an extension of your own arm. This is the end goal of cooking. You need to feel like each piece of equipment is an extension of your own body. And when you feel like this, you will naturally develop an intuition and exceed the expectations that you could of ever had in your cooking proficiency.

Equipment Needed for Stir Fry Practice Recipes:
chef’s knife
medium size cutting board
large mixing bowl
small mixing bowl
measuring spoons
measuring cups
small sauté pan
large sauté pan
high heat spatula
colander
aluminum foil
rice cooker (optional)

Stir Fry Recipes

Savory Vegetable Starters

Beef and Broccoli

Fancy Instant Shrimp Ramen

Mapo Tofu

Teriyaki Chicken with Carmelized Onions and Peppers


Lesson 13: How to Use a Saute Pan

How to Use a Saute Pan

For me, the sauté pan is an indispensable cooking utensil. You can prepare virtually anything in it. Sauté pans come in many sizes and shapes. Sauté pans are also known as skillets or frying pans. But for our purposes, we will call them sauté pans. The answer is just about anything you like.

I personally recommend that you own at least

2 sauté pans:
14” high-sided sauté pan with a lid
8” low-sided sauté pan with curved edges

Before we go any further, we need to discuss the idea of applied heat.
“So what can you do with the saute pan?”

As we learned in a previous lesson, heat is applied in 2 fashions:

1 Directly
Direct heat is where the heat is conducted directly onto the food. In a sauté pan, you place the pan on the burner. The burner heats the pan, which then heats the food. This is a direct form of heating.

2 Indirectly
Indirect heat is where the ambient temperature of the container or environment heats the food. This is the way that an oven operates. The air inside of the oven becomes hot, which then heats the cookware, which then heats the food.

This is very important to know because direct and indirect heating sources produce different results. Direct cooking methods tend to be hotter and faster. Whereas, indirect cooking methods tend to be slower and lower in temperature. In the end both cook the food, but their final product will have a different texture and consistency based on the cooking method.

These applications have 2 defining characteristics:

1 Dry heat
Dry heat is any form of cooking where water is not used as a cooking medium. Th is includes anything where the food is submerged in oil or fat. Dry heat is defined by the removal of moisture from the food products that you are cooking. When we use dry heat, we are removing moisture from the food while we cook it.

2 Moist heat
Moist heat is any cooking application where the moisture inside the food product, or water has been added, and is used as the cooking medium. This includes wine, juices, broths, stocks, milk, or anything that adds liquid water; no matter what it has suspended inside of it. Moist heat adds moisture to food as you cook it.

Dry heat tends to produce products that have stiffer or crunchy textures. This is because dry cooking techniques cook the moisture out of the food. The absence of moisture creates these crunchy textures. Whereas, moist heat creates products that are softer and more tender. As you will discover on your cooking journey, you will very often use multiple forms of heat with varying characteristics
to produce the results that you are searching for.

A perfect example is the manor in which I create soups. First, I stir fry all of my solid ingredients until they develop a nice brown color. Then, I transfer them to my spaghetti pot and add the liquid ingredients. Then, I bring this to a boil and taste the seasonings along the way. In this example, I use a direct, dry heat (stir frying). Then, I finish the recipe with a direct, moist heat (boiling).

Now that we have this basic information out of the way, I’m going to teach you the different techniques that you can use inside of a sauté pan and supply you with some recipes to practice these techniques.

The cooking techniques that you will learn with the sauté pan are as follows:

Stir Fry
A Stir Fry is a very easy technique to use inside of a sauté pan. It utilizes a direct, dry heat to quickly cook meats, veggies, and starches. Even though it is a very simple technique, it allows for a variety of savory and delicious dishes to be created. Stir fry uses a rapid agitation (a quick stirring motion) of the ingredients to cook them evenly and quickly.

Pan Fry
Pan Fry is another simple sauté pan technique that utilizes a direct, dry heat to cook. A pan fry is typically used in conjunction with breaded items on which you want to create a crispy crust. Even though the oil used in a pan fry is a liquid, it does not constitute a moist heat. Remember, moist heat is created when you are cooking the food in a water based liquid.

Sauté
Sauté is the technique that the sauté pan is named for. Sauté uses a direct, dry heat and distinguishes itself from the stir fry by simply flipping the food being cooked no more than twice. Where stir fry uses a rapid agitation, sauté is a patient technique where each side is allowed to brown and then is flipped.

Quick Stew
A Quick Stew is our first hybrid cooking technique. Quick stewing begins with a direct, dry heat similar to a stir fry. Then it ends with a direct, moist heat. You begin by stir frying the ingredients. Then, you add liquid and a lid to the top of the sauté pan to allow the moist heat to soften and tenderize the food you are cooking. This creates a savory and tender dish very quickly.

Quick Sauces
Quick Sauces are made just like the quick stew, but with more liquid and a slow boiling process to allow the excess moisture to evaporate. This evaporation, or reduction, creates even more concentrated flavors. The longer a sauce is allowed to simmer, the more integrated the flavors become. Quick Sauces utilize a dry direct heat followed by a moist direct heat.