They asked me to make Bourbon Chicken for the Beer Bourbon BBQ Festival this year. The mistake they made was asking me to send the recipe. They should know better than to ask the guy famous for burning recipes to write something down.

That’s just the point, I don’t use recipes. Bourbon Chicken could be White Wine Chicken or Tequila Chicken using the same basic cooking method. Knowing how to saute allows you to create simple and quick dishes using the ingredients you desire. All you have to do is duplicate the basic procedure:

1) Pan Hot First – Perhaps the biggest mistake home cooks make. They don’t heat the pan first. Sprinkle a little water on the pan from your fingertips. If the water sizzles, it’s hot enough to cook

2) Add Fat – You’re not deep-frying nor pan-frying, please don’t fill the pan half way with oil. The fat in a saute method is meant to transfer the heat, so just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

3) Fat Hot – Heat the fat until a point just before it’s going to smoke. You can tell this because it changes from being perfectly smooth and glassy in the pan to getting ripples as it starts to heat.

4) Protein Product – This is where you add chicken, beef, shrimp, fish, pork, tofu, sausage, or anything you can make up. It doesn’t matter what this protein product is, that’s why the method is so flexible.

5) Cook 75/25 – Cook the protein product 75 percent on the first side and 25 percent on the second. If you flip it too early, you lose the visual indicators of whether it’s cooking or not.

6) Aromatics – Remove the protein product to a plate and add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, peppers or any other vegetable you’d like. They’ll build flavors along with the left over bits from the protein product.

7) Deglaze With A Cold Liquid – Any cold liquid will drop the temperature of the pan quickly and dramatically, releasing the fond from the bottom of the pan and changing the heat to a moist cooking method.

8 ) Return the Protein Product – If you’d like to finish cooking the protein product in a moist fashion along with the deglazing liquid, it will help retain moisture and combine flavors.

9) Reduce or Thicken – You’ve got a flavorful pan sauce working, but it won’t stick to food. You need to either let it reduce by evaporation, add something that’s thicker than the sauce like goat cheese or tomato paste, or thicken with roux or slurry to make a great sauce.

I chose to use this method to create Bourbon Chicken. You could just as easily use the same procedure to make Tequila Beef or Red Wine Shrimp. Actually, I could mention at least 10 new dishes you can create from the simple 9 step process of basic saute.

See Bourbon Chicken prepared in a live cooking demonstration