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trouble sweating vegetables

its kinda hit or miss with onions and really hard on heartier vegs like carrots. how do you sweat your veggies? i know low heat..i've done this but i usually find them showing a little char after 5 minutes. i wonder if i shouldn't stir the veggies when i throw them in there at first. i have a feeling that stirring them reduces the amount of oil in contact with the food and pan. does this cause burning. should i possibly use more oil or how about an oil with a lower smoke point than extra virgin olive.

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  1. I actually stir quite often when sweating aromatics.

    And, it still sounds like the heat in your pan is still too high, esp. if your veggies are showing char after 5 minutes.

    Since you will be sweating the vegetables over very low heat, you can use a fat with a low smoking point like butter or extra virgin olive oil.

    1. What ipsedixit said. And most of the time the pan is covered.

      1. i put a lid on my veggies when sweating- the moisture limits burning and allows the flavor to be leached out of veggies, not locked in.

        Also i recommend a heavier pan, if you have one...cheap pots (i.e. the dreaded Revereware) have a tendency to scorch no matter how low you go.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sixelagogo

          old revereware was better and heavier. i have several pieces that i routinely use. but for sweating, i use my all-round non-stick chicken fryer pan, at medium low, with neutral or evoo. stirring every now and then.

          1. Smoke point extra virgin olive oil 320° - 375° F. depending on quality.
            Butter smokes around 350° F.

            Turn down the heat if your veg is browning.

            Being hygroscopic, salt will help pull the moisture from the vegetables you are sweating. Covering the pan with a lid will help keep the moisture in the pan, that's where we want it. Lacking a lid for the pan, aluminum foil can be put right on top of whatever it is your sweating.

            Most of all... Take your time and don't sweat it.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Demented

              Ha! Demented said don't sweat it!

              I use low heat and ignorance. Yup- try to ignore them (they are boring and take a while so this is easy to do) and let them get all shvitzy under the lid or no lid, either way. I don't move them around too much, they don't char unless I try and do like 1/2 an onion in a big hurry- then it's not happening, they will pick up color (not a big deal to me).

              1. re: Boccone Dolce

                LOL, I was sure someone would get it!

                Good point, put the pan on low heat and walk away.

                1. re: Demented

                  >>>>I was sure someone would get it<<<<

                  d -- you're surprised?

                  1. re: Demented

                    Pan on low, heavy pan, stir just a couple of times, a little salt but I don't use a lid. But very low is a key and stir when you first put them into cover everything. You should have to use that much oil. I mix butter and olive but again low. And all veggies should be cut in similar sizes.

              2. "i wonder if i shouldn't stir the veggies when i throw them in there at first. i have a feeling that stirring them reduces the amount of oil in contact with the food and pan."

                yes, stir the stuff as soon as it hits the pan. coating each piece with oil will help prevent burning. very low heat. salt. i don't like a lid because that makes it more like steaming.

                btw, it's an unnecessary expense to sautee with extra virgin. as you've noted it's got a pretty low smoke point and most of the fruitiness cooks off. use it as a finisher, not a cooking medium.

                1. i heat a heavy pan of vegetables stove-top and then pop them in a low oven to sweat.

                  1. If I am in a hurry, I will add a teaspoon of water and cover to start, then finish with the top off.

                    1. Sweating is with the lid on. Hence, the word sweat. Low heat and the lid on.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: sarah galvin

                        i've seen tv chefs sweating veggies without the lids -- including real chefs like jacques and lidia. am i wrong?

                        i sweat in a sauna. without my lid. ;-).

                        btw, folks, look at the ads to the right of this thread -- "sponsored links"
                        "stop excessive sweating!" LOL!

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Those guys are cooking on burners that will go low enough you could almost lay a sheet of paper on it safely! Heavy pans, too. If you have a good heavy pot and an iron flame-tamer (assuming you're using gas) you can safely slow-cook a pot of onions in butter down to a fine caramelized half-melted perfection. You do NOT want to keep poking at it or stirring, but you do need to keep an eye on it.

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            i should probably mention that i use a glass top stove. its lowest setting is not very low at all.

                          2. re: alkapal

                            restaurant cooks don't use lids. the stoves get hotter more quickly than does a home stove; a lid is something else to keep track of and get washed.

                            i don't like a lid when i'm sweating or reducing. rather than evaporating it, which is what the process is supposed to do, it adds water. it's closer to steaming than sweating. yeah, there IS a difference. i also like being able to watch it out of the corner of my eye. a lid means i stop paying attention.

                            1. re: sarah galvin

                              Harold McGee says sweating is "underfrying" to "develop and concentrate flavors". Concentrating flavors generally involves evaporating or "sweating" the moisture out of the vegetables. Adding a lid or a bit of water initially is just a cheat to get the cell walls to soften, making the rest of the process a bit quicker.

                            2. My research shows both - lid on (traditional) or lid off. I find it is easier to not brown if I leave the lid on. If I want to reduce it after sweating, then I take the lid off.