They are both ways of frying food in a little oil over a medium-high heat. In shallow frying, the food is turned with a palette knife or egg slice; in sauteing, the pan - which is sometimes covered - is shaken so the food 'jumps' (the French verb sauter means to leap). Both are quick cooking methods suitable for small, tender pieces of meat and other foods.
Bacon and eggs, steak, sausages and veal and chicken schnitzel are all shallow fried, for example. However, a mixture of diced vegetables is sauteed in a covered pan to develop flavor in the first stage of making a vegetable soup, while chicken breast can be sauteed with onions in a special saute pan, then wine, stock and cream are added and simmered to produce chicken saute.
The fat you use for frying or sauteing food is important, as its flavor will affect the taste. Olive oil, butter, lard and beef or bacon dripping all add their particular flavor to fried foods; canola, corn, peanut, safflower and most other vegetable oils have relatively little flavor. When choosing a fat, remember that some of them can be heated to much higher temperatures than others before they start to break down and burn. For example, dripping and lard can withstand more heat than butter or margarine, while clarified butter can be heated to a higher temperature than untreated butter. Copha, which is solidified coconut oil, must be melted very slowly on a low heat to avoid breaking down and burning.
All fats tend to break down if they are heated too long, causing them to smoke and give an unpleasant flavor to any food that is fried in them.
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