Oil-free Sautée & Developing Flavor

The Chile Bean Chili recipe video and instructional photos shows how to sautée without oil and develop flavor. This oil-free sautée technique can be applied to many other sauce dishes and soups that start with the aromatic vegetables onion and garlic or mirepoix.

Enameled cast iron braiser pan with onions sauteeing and grated garlic

Start the Oil-free Sautée with the Onions

Heating the pan to medium-high heat is key and if a little sticking occurs, this is a good thing. The pan should be well heated before sauteeing the onions. You can test the pan by placing a few pieces of onion in the pan. If the onion pieces start to color quickly and jump the pan is ready for the diced onions. Once the onions are added to the pan, spread the onions to make a single layer and let them pick up color before stirring. This stage brings out the natural sugars and builds the flavor. Continue to stir the onions as needed, as they pick up color.

Next comes the Grated Garlic

About 3–5 minutes later,  the grated garlic can be added to the center of the pan. The garlic isn’t sautéed. Instead the grated garlic is pushed down on the pan surface with the edges of a wooden spatula to form a layer which will start to caramelize and stick to the pan bottom. This is good. The liquid that comes after the dried spices if using will lift the garlic and release that mellow golden flavor into the sauce. This step is called deglazing.

Toasting the Spices

For some dishes toasting the spices really adds an extra layer of flavor, expecially true for chilies and curries. To toast the spices, clear an area of the pan and sprinkle in the dried spices. Allow spices to just start to smoke, then stir into the onion and garlic mixture. Add a lttile broth, do release te spices and onion mix to release from the pan surface (deglaze again). Continue with the rest of the ingredients to make the sauce. Cooking without oil is  no more difficult than using oil to develop deeper flavors. We just need to get comfortable with the sticking part and deglazing to release, which is really what develops deeper flavor, not the oil.

The Cookware

Heavy stainless steel clad pans, like All-Clad, and enameled cast iron pans (like Le Creuset) both work well with this technique. Stainless steel cookware cooks faster than enameled cast iron.

Tools Used in this Recipe

  • cutting board
  • kitchen scissors
  • hand blender and blender cup (stick blender)
  • chef knife
  • 1 cup size jar with lid
  • grater
  • heavy bottom braiser pan or dutch oven (tri-clad and enameled cast iron cookware work great for this type of dish)
  • flat cooking spatula
  • flexible spatula or spoon