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Old 07-23-2011, 10:42 PM   #1
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Saute vs. Stir-fry

What is the basic difference between saute and stir-fry? I put romano green beans in a pan with heated olive oil and sesame seeds. I added a little water while cooking and the pan smoked & sputtered a bit. How much oil/heat should I use for cooking veggies in a frying/saute pan?

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Old 07-23-2011, 11:02 PM   #2
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The primary difference to me is the amount of heat.

When I saute something, I melt butter into the pan and after adding the items to cook, I gently simmer it while stirring it easy until it's cooked to the desired consistency and could be 5-30 minutes.

When I stir fry, I use as much heat as I can, about 4 tablespoons of high temp cooking oil and move the food rapidly to mix and cook evenly without burning. The cooking part only lasts 60-90 seconds.
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Old 07-23-2011, 11:56 PM   #3
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Honestly, I thought the only difference was stir-fry was an English word (well, compound word) and saute was not. Now I'm curious if there's an actual difference in the definitions.
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Old 07-24-2011, 12:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesong View Post
What is the basic difference between saute and stir-fry? I put romano green beans in a pan with heated olive oil and sesame seeds. I added a little water while cooking and the pan smoked & sputtered a bit. How much oil/heat should I use for cooking veggies in a frying/saute pan?
If the oil was already hot you're going to get at least a little sputter adding water to it. Normally if I need to add water (or other water based liquid) to something I'm cooking in oil I remove it from the heat, add the water and cover with a lid and then return to the heat. I leave the lid on until the worst of the sputtering is done and then remove it and continue stirring the contents. The pan probably smoked a little because some of the splatters likely hit the burner under it.

Usually you want just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. As for heat, that depends on what kind of veggies you're using and end outcome you're looking for (texture, browned). In general you can use a medium low to medium heat and they'll turn out well. If you want the veggies still crisp but hot you can use a little more oil and a higher heat with less time. For softer veggies, especially if they are dense like carrots, stick to medium low and add just a little water with a lid on the pan. For browning veggies I usually use a medium heat and no water.

Also, if you are using high heat make sure you are using an oil that can handle it. Off the top of my head I know you can use peanut oil for higher heat cooking, but I'm not sure beyond that. I'd have to look it up.
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Old 07-24-2011, 01:24 AM   #5
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Stir fry also is synonymous with wok cookery, and a true honest to goodness strit fry IS done via wok.

The hand hammered woks are the best bang for the buck, last generations, and really handle a LOT of cooking requirements. Super thin bottom for the best/hottest heat, tapered sides with increasing thickness for parking items, different temp zones, a good wok(and a good cleaver)can be all some folks need for a set up.

Saute is more of an in-place, slightly tossed type oh high heat searing, whereas stir fry is an active, things are getting tossed around, fast, super fast kinda thing.
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Old 07-24-2011, 01:50 AM   #6
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I watched this question on a super slo-mo, hi-tech, world's deadliest cooking warrior episode on TV. Stir-fry seals/fries the surface of the protein/vegetable on the bottom of the wok while allowing the heat of its edges to cook their interior. Saute doesn't sear. Both are delicious, but the former has a "fried bite."
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Old 07-24-2011, 02:26 AM   #7
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Well I thought Sauteing was frying food till soft without colour on a lower heat. Stirfrying is done on a high heat and the ingredients must still have some crunch and some colour.
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Old 07-24-2011, 06:10 AM   #8
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Yes I think people have the right idea of the two. I was thinking along the same lines of it just being a temperature difference.
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Old 07-24-2011, 09:12 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Snip 13 View Post
Well I thought Sauteing was frying food till soft without colour on a lower heat. Stirfrying is done on a high heat and the ingredients must still have some crunch and some colour.

Cooking food in fat over lower heat without color is called sweating. Doing it over high heat and browning around the wdges is sautéing.
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Old 07-24-2011, 10:23 AM   #10
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I thought sweating was crowding the food to the point it steamed.
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