Recipes often call for one of these two techniques. They are often confused and even when I was starting out I certainly was guilty of interchanging them.
Sweating involves a oil / fat and low-medium heat on the burner in a Sauté Pan.
Sweating something (usually diced garlic, onions, or Mirepoix) is commonly called out to release flavors. Sometimes you need heat to coax the flavors out of the ingredients. I often do this with olive oil and various ingredients.
Two things to look out for:
- Never let the oil you are using smoke
- Never brown the things in the pan. You want the onions to be clear
Sautéing involves and oil / fat on high heat on the burner in a Sauté Pan.
The goal here is to brown things (caramelize) them in the pan to add a different set of flavors to the meal. This is done with meat, vegetables, or many other items.
Couple things to help here:
- If your just starting out use a oil with a higher smoke point like Canola. You do not want the oil to breakdown due to the heat and create nasty things. (for Olive oil this is between 365° and 420°F)
- If you do use olive oil make sure to use medium heat for it.
- Don’t Burn the items you’re putting in the pan. Once garlic is black from cooking it doesn’t come back and you’ll have to start over.