I have taught many cooking and kitchen technique classes over the years. One of the most common mistakes a lot of new cooks make is not using the sauté pan to its full potential.
Let’s start with the basics – sautéing onions. Chop, dice, slice – whatever it is – spread them out in the pan; not in a pile in the middle of the pan. (See first photo.) Pans are designed to distribute heat throughout the bottom of the pan and on some types – up the sides. spreading the vegetables (in this case onion) over the entire bottom of the pan will insure 1) even cooking, 2) quicker softening and browning, and 3) less chance of scorching bottom of pan.
Now make sure you don’t have the heat on high…and don’t turn it all the way down to low…there are many degrees of heat other than “high” and “off”! An average saute with onions in a pan as above with a few tablespoons of olive oil works well on medium-high.
Now stay close to the pan and move things around a bit every few minutes. Within 5-8 minutes, your onions will be perfect – now. Walla! you are ready for anything now; wine, tomatoes, garlic, broth for soup, cream etc… Have fun in the kitchen! kathleen