Sautéing is a cooking method where one quickly cooks food in a small amount of oil or fat in a pan over medium to high heat. The oil or fat choosen should have a high enough smoke point to avoid burning (peanut oil is an excellent choice, while non-clarified butter would be a poor choice). Food is chopped, sliced, diced, or minced finely to facilitate fast cooking. The food in the pan should frequently be in motion, either through stirring or shaking the pan back and forth to flip the food. While the food is sautéing, it will make a sizzling sound. The food will brown, but the texture and moisture of the food will be mostly preserved.
Sautéing is different from searing, as searing is a cooking technique to brown only the surface of the food, while sautéing involves cooking the food fully.
The term sauté comes from the French verb, sauter, which means ‘to jump’, referring to the way the food jumps when the cook shakes the pan.
Ironically, a sauté pan is not the best vessel for sautéing because of its straight sides. A fry pan or skillet with sloped slides is better as it facilitates flipping the food when the cook shakes the pan.