With the holidays fast approaching, traditions may have you doing a little extra meal planning and preparing. With many dishes that require oven use, you may be planning to employ your stovetop. Understanding a little food science behind your cooking method of choice can go a long way in helping you plate a delicious meal. Cooktops afford us the options to pan-fry, sauté and sear foods. These cooking methods differ in their use of fat and heat. Pan-frying uses enough fat to partially submerge the food item being cooked. To cook it through, medium heat is used and one side at a time is cooked. Examples of items that are pan-fried include skin-on chicken thighs and latkes. Sautéing cooks food just until tender in a thin layer of fat over medium-high heat. Shrimp, mushrooms and leafy greens are items that sauté particularly well. Searing gives foods a caramelized outside while not completely cooking the inside. Oftentimes, recipes call for a pan sear, followed by an additional cooking method such as baking.