To sauté food means to cook it rapidly, employing a modest amount of fat, in a shallow pan on high heat; it is considered a cornerstone technique of any viable kitchen. The word is derived from “sauter,” a French term meaning “to jump.” Nowadays, many consider a sauté anything cooked on a range at high heat. Traditionally, the pan is shaken during a sauté, causing food to “jump.” This movement prevents sticking and encourages cooking on all sides; a similar effect can be achieved through stirring.
One can use a frying pan to sauté, but a sauté pan, with its slightly flared or straight sides and long handle, allows for stirring or shaking without spilling the contents. These pans are mid-height, so while they reduce splattering, they are easily accessible with tongs. They are available in a wide range of materials, such as stainless steel, cast iron, and aluminum; it is most important to choose one that it is heavy and sturdy and promotes even cooking.