The art of the oil-free sauté

I finally figured this out! It took me too long to find a method of sautéing without oil that still results in that lovely caramelization that tastes so good! Most people, when they water-sauté, put the liquid in the pan along with whatever they’re sautéing. This is used most often with onions & garlic. With garlic, it’s kind of okay, but, for me, it results in some pretty nasty onions. My method is not complicated and it doesn’t require any special ingredients. Here it is, step-by-step:

  1. Heat up your pan before using it, just to make the process go faster. I use a heat level of about 6 or 7.
  2. Add onions (or whatever) and cook them dry. Make sure they’re well-spread-out over the surface of the pan.
  3. They’ll start to be a little sticky, and you won’t be able to move them around too much because they’ll get a bit stuck to the bottom of the pan. That’s okay!!!
  4. Watch them closely, and when they’re nice and brown, but before they start to burn, turn off the heat and quickly add a little water or vegetable bouillon to the pan (I use one of those small-sized ladles that holds about 50 ml, or less than 1/4 c.).
  5. This allows you to deglaze – use a wooden spoon to scrape off all the brown stuff and bits of onion, etc., stuck to the bottom of the pan. The liquid just lifts everything off and re-integrates it, so that you’re not leaving the lovely caramelization on the bottom of the pan.
  6. If you use the right amount of liquid, you’ll be left with a sauté that’s nice and moist, but not wet. If it’s too wet, just keep it on a low heat until some of the liquid has evaporated.

This results in sautéed onions that smell like sautéed onions, rather than the metallic smell I get from sautéing them in the liquid. It does work far better with fresh vegetables because of all the liquid that comes out of frozen vegetables, but is possible with both – you just have to wait for the initial melted water to evaporate.


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