Home Chef How-To: Each week, we’ll bring you handy tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your Home Chef experience and your culinary journey. Baffled by how to “chiffonade” basil? Confused by cooking quinoa? No worries; we’ll demystify traditional and modern cooking terms and techniques so you can have the finesse of a pro in no time.
Do What to My Onion?
Cook with Home Chef long enough, and you’ll notice a few verbs that pop up in our recipe cards over and over. Sure, you can use the context clues method (“______onion in pan over medium high heat” “Umm, guess I’ll plop? the onion in the pan now…”). Better option?
Explore a few stovetop techniques with me right now, and cook with confidence. Let’s start with the technique you’ve probably heard most often: Sautéing.
When you sauté food, you are essentially caramelizing the natural sugars to draw out the food’s flavor through browning it (literally, cooking it until it’s brown).
- What you’ll need: Just enough oil or other fat to coat the surface of the frying pan.
- Temperature: Medium-high heat.
- Chop Prep: Slice into thin pieces, mince, or dice.
- Into the Pan: in a single layer with no overlapping, leaving the pan uncovered.
- Move it: Frequently, either by stirring or shimmying the pan to avoid burning.
- Use This Technique With: Thin cuts of meat or ground meat, root vegetables, onions, garlic.
Sometimes, it’s better to keep things “clean & clear,” and since they don’t make face wash for veggies, try this next technique: Sweating.
Sweating is sauteing’s less vigorous cousin. The goal here is to soften the food and release flavor without losing moisture. You want to get a translucent shine and avoid browning. Often, sweating is followed by further preparation, such as adding sweated onions into a boiling soup.
- What You’ll Need: Even less oil than with sauteing–just enough to hold the food in place.
- Temperature: Medium-low heat.
- Chop Prep: Often finely diced to ensure even heating.
- Into the Pan: in a single layer, this time covering the pan to hold in moisture.
- Move It: Flip the pieces periodically to ensure even heating, but don’t overdo it.
- Use This Technique With: Veggies, especially onions and garlic.
Hold up! Don’t clean that pan yet! Once you’ve finished sauteing, you can start our next technique: Deglazing.
Deglazing is the delightful encore to sautéing in which the oils and browned matter left in the pan are used to create sumptuous gravies and sauces.
After you remove the food and drain any excess fat from the pan, you’ll notice little brown pieces sticking to the bottom. These are caramelized deposits of fats, sugars, and proteins from the sautéed food, and that, my friends, is where the flavor lives.
- Add To the Pan: A solvent liquid, such as chicken or vegetable stock, wine, or juice.
- How Much: Just enough to cover the bottom of the pan, about ¼” deep.
- Temperature: Medium-high heat.
- Tools: A wooden spatula is best for scraping up the brown bits.
- Get It Together: Mix the brown matter into the liquid as it comes to a boil.
- Timing: Once liquid begins boiling, make sure you’ve scraped up all the brown matter, stir everything together for a few seconds, then remove the pan from heat.
That’s it! In just seconds, you’ve got the perfect complement to your sauteed dish!
Now, sally forth and impress your friends and family with your culinary vocabulary. In my book, we’re all entitled to a little showing off now and then.