How to sauté vegetables
Sautéing vegetables is a great basic cooking technique to have at your disposal. Once you get the basics down, you’ll be able to use it to make a quick side dish at any meal – no matter what veggies you happen to have on hand.
Tools You’ll Need for Sautéing Veggies
You’ll simply need fresh vegetables of your choice, a small amount of cooking fat, seasonings, a skillet with a lid, and a knife, and cutting board. What type of vegetables will work? Really, just about any that you can think of. Below is a list of some vegetables that I’ve sautéed before, with ideas on how you can cut/prep them for sautéing them. One important note – when cutting the vegetables, remember two important points – first, the smaller the cut, the quicker they will cook, and two, to cook evenly, make sure you chop the vegetables into a uniform size. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if there is a lot of difference between the size of the pieces of veggies, you risk undercooking some, or burning others. A mandoline or food processor is a good tool for getting even size, but you’ll add setup and cleanup time that you won’t with a simple knife cut. I generally tend to use these types of tools when I’m making extra-large portions, or want something to be extra-beautiful, such as something on display for entertaining guests, for example. For most everyday meals, a cutting board and a knife are all I use/need to cut the veggies.
How to prep different vegetables for sauteing
bell pepper (any color) – cut in strips, or dice
broccoli – cut into flowerettes, can also cut larger flowerettes into smaller pieces
Brussels sprouts – can leave smaller ones whole, or cut in half, or shave with mandoline
cabbage – cut into strips, or use mandoline or large-holder grater to cut coleslaw-style
carrots – cut into coins, dice, or grate – baby carrots can be left whole
cauliflower – cut into flowerettes, can also cut larger flowerettes into smaller pieces
celery – dice
endive – cut into rounds down the length of the vegetable
green beans – leave whole or cut in half lengthwise
mushrooms – leave smaller ones whole, slice or dice larger ones
onion – slice in thin rounds or dice
radishes (including daikon) – slice into rounds
spinach – leave baby leaves whole, chop regular spinach leaves into pieces or strips, discarding stems
sweet potato – dice or grate
swiss chard – leave baby leaves whole, chop regular chard leaves into pieces or strips, discarding stems
white potato – dice or grate
winter squash (such as butternut) – dice or grate
zucchini or summer squash – cut in rounds, strips, or dice
Of course, you can combine any vegetables that you want. Just be aware that some vegetables will take longer to cook than others, so you may need to add denser vegetables first, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc., and more easily cooked vegetables when those have had a chance to cook some.
Once your veggies are washed and cut/prepped, melt your cooking fat into your skillet. Your choices are many here – try good quality olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, almond oil, if you want to go with an oil. You can also use butter or ghee, or if you have some available – lard, beef tallow, or duck fat from high quality organic sources. Throw your veggies in the skillet and toss them around to get them coated with the fat. Turn the heat to a medium level if it’s not already, and cover the skillet. You’ll want to check on your veggies in just a few minutes, as you don’t want to leave the lid on long. Putting the lid on will create steam to start to soften the veggies, but if you leave it on too long, they’ll get soggy, and you will lose the ability to crisp them up any. The time it takes will depend on the veggie and how big the pieces are, but if you poke a piece with a fork and it’s starting to soften, it’s time to take the lid off.
Once the lid is off, stir frequently to prevent scorching. You can add seasoning now, or wait until after you’re done sautéing – it’s a matter of personal preference. If you’re using fresh garlic, you may want to add while you’re still cooking, so it can have time to soften and mellow. Seasoning can be as easy as fresh ground black pepper and sea salt, or you can add any type of herbs and spices, fresh, or dried, that you wish. Have fun experimenting!! Sauté until you get the doneness you want – some people like crisper, less brown, and some people prefer softer and browner.
That’s it! Enjoy trying new vegetable combinations, seasonings, and cooking fats, and you’ll never run out of interesting vegetable side dishes!! Coming in future articles, I’ll give you some simple recipes for sauté combinations that I’ve enjoyed, and will talk more about the best types of skillets to have on hand for these tasks.