Suppose I cook a curry and add oil and water at the beginning, if during cooking all the pots water evaporates the food burns.
when I saute same meal without adding any water I notice the food doesn't burn.

The way I see it is when cooking the former method once all the water evaporates it turns to sauteing since the meat oil and added oil are still there, only the water has gone, therefore it shouldn't burn just like sauteing. However after boiled water evaporates despite oil from meat and added oil it does burn.

Can somebody explain why it burns in first method but not second?

  • 4
    You just haven't left the "sauteed" food on the stove long enough... or you're not explaining it clearly. I don't think I understand what you mean by "boiling" vs "sauteeing", though... can you give a more precise account of what you're doing in the two versions of the recipe? – Catija Sep 14 '17 at 23:56

The premise is false. If you overcook food when sauteeing it will definitely burn.

I can think of a few reasons why you might not notice this:

  • You typically boil on high heat, so when you run out of water, things burn rapidly.
  • Boiling softens things, possibly to the point of having lots of little bits broken off in the water, so when you do run out of water, there's a lot more food in contact with the hot pan, and thus again, you can burn more food more quickly. When you sautee, you usually have more solid, whole pieces of food with only smaller parts in contact with the pan, so it takes a lot more to burn.
  • When sauteeing, you're more likely to be stirring.
  • When sauteeing, you're more likely to be paying attention and stop in time.
  • It may, perhaps, also be a factor that oils float - so when food is in the process of being boiled dry, the food may touch the bottom - and stick and begin to burn from direct contact - before the last of the water evaporates and the oil reaches the bottom of the pot. Small quantities of water don't prevent sticking nearly as well as oil, so unless one is very diligent with stirring there may be some sticking and burning before the oil can come into play. – Megha Sep 16 '17 at 22:31
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    Also, sauteeing is typically done one some kind of nonstick or semi-nonstick surface, so catastrophic "burning" (seizing to the cookware and carbonizing completely) is less likely to happen... – rackandboneman Sep 17 '17 at 9:39

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