The Art of Saute, Part Two

By BOB ZIMORINO

On the road to learn to sauté, we covered these four rules last week. You can refer back to The Art of Sauté, Part One for a refresher.

Rule 1:

Mise en place – yes the words are French but the exercise is universal. Literally it means “put in place”.

Rule 2:

Veggies are chopped in similar sizes.

Rule 3:

Meats are lightly pounded to give them a similar thickness and size.

Rule 4:

Blended oils and butter are essential to sauté.

Now, onward and upward:

Rule 5:

Use the right equipment. What is the right equipment? You ask. It starts with a sauté pan. A ten-inch sauté pan is perfect for one or two meals. A 14-inch works with well for three or four meals. I love cast iron, but also like the classic restaurant style aluminum alloy pans. They are available from restaurant supply houses.

A classic aluminum alloy frying pan, Bob's favorite.

Take note of the construction of this pan. Three heavy duty rivets hold the handle on. The pan is thick, not just on the bottom, but it is the same thickness throughout providing quick, even heat conduction.

Double bottom pans are usually just that, two bottoms glued together which sometimes come apart after repeated use. The other problem with these pans is that the sides are too thin and sauces and other foods sometimes burn.

I personally am not a fan of stainless steel sauté pans but I do know some folks swear by them. I also don’t like non-stick pans for anything other than eggs and egg products. They should be used with rubber and plastic spatulas only, as metal will scratch the non-stick surface causing it to flake which negates the non-stick promise and can get in your food.

The aluminum alloy pans are between $10 and $24. I have a 6”, 10”, and 14” and have had them for many, many years, much the same as my cast iron pans. The only negative is the handles (also true of cast iron) can get very hot. There are rubber grips designed for these pans and I do recommend them.

Next up are knives. The standard knife for what seems like forever is the chef’s knife.

Bob Zimorino shows off the components of a good chef's knife.

You don’t need a giant chef’s knife. An eight-inch blade is more than adequate. Note the knife in the picture. The blade is either forged steel or stamped steel and runs all the way through the handle (forged steel was the state of the art for many years, but some of the higher-end brands have now gone to stamped blades made from high quality steel). This is referred to as a full tang.

These days many use a totally enclosed or cast resin handle. Three rivets run through both sides of the handle and right the through the tang of the blade making the transition between the bolster and the handle smooth and seamless. Cast handles don’t have the rivets. You want hard steel for your knives and a full tang rather than a half tang.

The bolster is there for two reasons. It serves as somewhat of a finger guard and also adds balance between the blade and the handle. In addition to hard steel, balance is, in my opinion, just as important. If the knife is right, there is a balance point right in front of where I hold it with my thumb and forefinger.

These days the Santoku has become the chef’s knife of choice.

A santoku knife.

The biggest difference is a series of indentations along the blade edge that keeps the food that you are chopping from sticking to the blade. I have and use both a santoku and a standard chef’s knife.

Henckel and Wustoff are two very popular and very good knife companies. They produce some very good knives, however don’t overlook MAC, Global, Shun, and Tojiro.

The common myth is that if the knife is too sharp you will cut yourself. Actually, in most cases, the opposite is true. Dull knives bounce off of food rather than slice cleanly through.

To me the worst knives out there are produced by Cutco. They are often and at least originally very sharp but the blades are thin and the balance is awful. Spend a little cash and get yourself a couple of decent knives. My three knives of choice are either a standard chef’s knife or santoku, a paring knife, and a serrated knife. While I have a full set of knives, 90% of the work that I do, I use these three knives.

I can’t show you on paper how to sharpen a knife but there are videos out there that can. Never grind them. You will surely ruin them. The bevel is the part of the blade that you sharpen. Grinding wears the bevel down to nothing quickly and renders the knife unusable.

Next up: Cutting boards.

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Read Bob’s previous blogs in this series: The Art of Sauté, Part OneBig Louie and the Dinner Crew, and Phoenix Part IV: Who Was the Original Bobby?.

Visit the “Taste It” archive or check out Bob’s recipes.

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Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a musician with the popular local band Mudfoot and the Dirty Soles, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime.