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What does it mean to saute?

The word sauté actually comes from the French sauter, “to jump”. The jumping describes the constant motion of the food in the pan, which is caused by constant stirring and/or shaking the pan.

Sautéing usually requires only a small amount of oil (or butter) in a very hot pan, an environment in which keeping things moving is a top priority. (James Beard called sautéing a "fast, deft procedure.")

Though it's possible to sauté in just about any type of pan, the true sauté pan is wide and usually a couple of inches deep, with straight sides. Sauté pans are made pretty large to prevent the food from overcrowding, which can lead to too much moisture staying in the pan. If there is too much food in the pan, the moisture released will start to create steam, which interacts with the oil and leads to sticking.

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