Sweating, Sauteing, and Caramelizing Vegetables


Mandatory Credit: Gloria Cabada-Leman

We will be taking a look at some different cooking techniques and what the difference is between them.

More from Cooking Techniques

Today we will be looking at the difference between sweating vegetables versus sauteing vegetables and we will also look at caramelizing onions as well.  Small subtle changes can yield a huge change in flavor depending on which one of these techniques you use.

First we will look at sweating vegetables.  Now when you see that you have to sweat a vegetable in your recipe this does not mean to fire up your treadmill and get that vegetable moving. It is also not a typo.  To sweat a vegetable you will be slowly cooking it at a low temperature.  To start you will add either butter or oil to your pan and set at a low temp.  Add your vegetables and while stirring occasionally, you will be sweating the vegetables.  For onions you will cook until they are translucent.  Other vegetables will be cooked until softened.

Caramelizing onions is the next technique that we will look at.  To Caramelize onions you are bringing out he natural sugars in the onions and adding a sweet aspect to your foods that you normally wouldn’t find with an onion.  At a higher temperature than what you would use to sweat a vegetable, you will again add either butter or oil to you pan and cook the onions, stirring occasionally until they are lightly browned.  You will smell the sweetness in the air.  Use in French Onion Soup or even on top of a steak.  The options are endless.

The final technique that we will look at is that of sauteing vegetables.  Sauteing a vegetable is when you quickly cook the vegetable at a high heat to provide for a more concentrated flavor.  The concentrated flavor comes from the quickly evaporated water that is already contained in the vegetable.  For this you will again use either butter or oil in your pan. For this I would recommend oil as it has more tolerance to t heat the butter does and wont burn as quickly.  At a high temp place the vegetables in a preheated pan with oil.  You will immediately hear a sizzling sound and that is the difference between sweating and sauteing a vegetable. The sound will tell you which one is occurring. A sauteing vegetable will have no sound.  Cook vegetables until they are cooked through or translucent but don’t burn them.

Happy Cooking!