To Saute or sweat your vegetables? Knowing the difference is important cooking info!
Most cooks know how to saute vegetables, or do they?
What exactly is the difference between sauteing or sweating your vegetables?
Sweating vegetables is quite similar to sauteing them, in that you take vegetables that have been chopped fine and cook them in oil or fat. The main difference in the two is the heat applied.
Sauteing should be done over a medium high heat, since the purpose is to slightly brown the vegetables.
Sweating should be done with a slightly lower heat (sometimes with the lid on), because you don’t want the vegetables to brown
Remember to stir often!
When sauteing vegetables, you don’t want to stir too often, as you do want them to brown. In sweating, you DO stir often.
So why sweat vegetables?
Sweating generally involves the aromatic vegetables, which are onions, garlic, peppers, celery, shallots and carrots. Also included in this group (though not technically vegetables) are ginger and mushrooms, along with a whole variety of herbs and spices.
Here is a whole article about aromatics.
Sweating helps build flavors, and the aromatics are all about flavor.
Sweating vegetables is pretty much always an initial step in a longer cooking process.
Many chefs swear by unsalted butter for the fat used in sweating, though I tend to use a combination of unsalted butter and olive oil. (Occasionally I substitute safflower oil for the olive oil, if what I am cooking could be easily overwhelmed by too many flavors. This is rare, however.)
Some chefs prefer to add a bit of white wine when sweating aromatics.
There are chefs who add a big pinch of salt before sweating, as they claim it helps to quicken the process. I don’t do this, as I’m a very low salt chef.
Please don’t get me started on if the lid should be on or off, and when.
I personally put the lid on if I know I will be busy with other tasks, and don’t think I can keep the vegetables moving around enough not to brown them. Putting a lid on adds moisture that will help with the non-browning. If you use this method, just remember to lower the heat even more.