Sauteing requires that the pieces of food are cut small (bite sized) and cooked using a shallow saute pan. "Saute" means "to dance". The food in the pan is tossed rapidly while it cooks. Sauteing requires a relatively high heat and little oil.
Deep frying is done with bigger pieces of food in a deep vat of oil. The food is fully immersed in very hot fat (350 F-425 F) using an oil with a very high smoke point. Deep frying is also typically done with breaded, floured or battered pieces of food, while sauted food is not. Deep fried food is also very caramelized (browned) while sauteed food is sometimes not browned (as when sauteing vegetables).
Deep frying is actually closer to pan frying. Pan frying requires more oil than sauteing and is done in a shallow pan. The food is sometimes breaded or floured and allowed to brown (caramelize) on one side and then flipped when golden brown. Pan frying does not involve the rapid movement of food and the pieces of food are larger than sauteed food.
Sauteing is very similar to stir-frying, which uses high heat, rapid movement, either a grill or a wok, small pieces of food and little oil.
Pan frying, deep frying, stir-frying and sauteing are all methods of "dry-heat" cooking.
culinary school graduate
· 1 decade ago