Sauteing Turkey

Sautéing is a cooking process using high heat that quickly browns and sears food in a small quantity of oil in a skillet. It is actually the same process as searing except that sautéing completely cooks the meat and searing is simply a means to brown the meat so that the cooking process can be completed with another method. Sautéing is best suited for thinly sliced turkey cutlets obtained from the breast.

Sautéing requires high heat, so it is best to use cooking oil that will not burn or smoke at high temperatures, such as olive oil, corn oil, or canola oil. Butter can be used, but it burns easily with high heat, so it is best to use it in combination with a bit of oil.


The turkey slices used for sautéing should not be more than ½ inch thick. The slices can also be pounded to flatten and tenderize them in order to shorten the cooking time. The turkey should be patted with paper towels in order to remove excess moisture, which helps the meat brown more quickly. The slices can be seasoned in any way that is desired before they are placed in the pan.

In order to sauté turkey cutlets properly, the skillet must be preheated on the stove. Medium-high heat is sufficient to warm the pan to the proper temperature. The oil is then added and allowed to heat before the turkey is placed into the pan. (Do not place the meat into the pan if the pan and oil are not heated. This causes the meat to absorb the oil and stick to the pan. Always preheat the skillet first.) A nonstick pan or a well-seasoned iron skillet may not require as much oil.

The oil should be allowed to become hot, but not so hot that it begins to smoke. The oil should sizzle when the turkey slice hits the pan. If the oil doesn't sizzle, it is an indication that the pan and oil are not hot enough.

A tongs or spatula should be used to turn the meat. Never use a fork because piercing the turkey with a fork may allow juices to escape, which will decrease the tenderness and flavor of the turkey.
It is best to turn the cutlets in the pan only once to achieve the best results.


Sautéed turkey may be served with a sauce made from the pan drippings. The turkey is removed from the pan and is covered to keep it warm. A small amount of liquid is added to the pan in order to loosen the flavorful caramelized bits that have stuck to the pan during cooking. This is known as deglazing. After the liquid has reduced to about half the original volume, other herbs and spices are added, depending on the type of sauce desired. Some sauces require that cream or butter be added in order to create a smoother flavor and texture. Most sauces require only 2 or 3 minutes to complete and are served with the sautéed turkey immediately so that the optimum flavor of the turkey and sauce can be enjoyed.

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