Why You Should Never Sauté Vegetables With Meat

We're all about minimizing the minutes you spend over the stove, but there are just some instances where it pays off to take your time. When you're making a stovetop dish with meat and veggies, like one-skillet chicken cacciatore or spicy beef stir fry, it's tempting to want to throw everything in the pan together and let it cook all at once. But for optimal flavors and textures, make sure to sauté your veggies after your meat.

Why? Any ingredients that initially go in the pan will soak up whatever oil you're cooking with. This is great for meat — in fact, we want our meat to brown so that the Maillard reaction can occur, which is when sugars and amino acids react to create delicious flavors and smells. But if you add the veggies in alongside it, they'll soak up plenty of oil too and become soggy. This is especially true of mushrooms and eggplant, which are particularly porous and will likely absorb oil right away. So for a crisper flavor and texture, wait until your beef or pork is done cooking to sauté your veggies.

Let your meat absorb oil, not your veggies

The other issue with sautéing meat and veggies together is that the latter contains a good amount of water, especially if you're using frozen ones. If you start out cooking everything at the same time, your vegetables may release their water into the pan, which can disrupt the Maillard reaction. This is also why it's important to make sure your meat is dry before cooking it. If your pan does get too wet, you can try straining the water out and resume cooking — but you can avoid this altogether by waiting to cook your veggies.

That's not to say you have to whip out an entirely different pan — in fact, it's completely okay to cook your meat and veggies in the same skillet, you'll just need to do so in batches. Cook the meat first to get that caramelization, then take it out and add in your veggies. The veggies will absorb all of the meaty flavors and scrape up all the delicious bits it left behind. In the end, you'll get caramelized, flavorful meat and tender, not mushy veggies.