Deglazing is the technical term for creating a pan sauce from those brown bits of meat and fat residues left in the bottom of the pan after sautéing or frying meat. You can also deglaze your roasting pan in the same way after roasting a piece of meat.
Many of us probably deglaze a pan regularly without being aware of what it is actually called. If you add stock to a pan of sautéed onions, or water to a roasting pan for gravy, then you are already in principle deglazing.
In this post, I look in more detail about what deglazing actually is and why this is a great way to make a rich sauce with minimal fuss. I also provide a step by step tutorial on how to deglaze a pan to make an easy mushroom sauce which is suitable for serving on most meats.
The juices and drippings left in the bottom of the pan from frying or sautéing meats such as steak or pork, or oven roasting a piece of meat, are called fond in the US. The French word for ‘bottom’; fond not only contains meat juices, but the fat from the meat and if the meat has been marinated, then the fond will also contain the caramelized starches from the marinade.
By adding liquid to the pan to deglaze it, the umami and rich flavors of the fond are absorbed into the pan sauce and then restored to the meat where they originally came from.
In other countries, the fond is known as ‘sucs’ from the French word ‘sucre’ or sugar and the name fond is then given to the sauce that has been made by deglazing the sucs. However, to keep it simple, we will be referring to what is left in the bottom of the pan after cooking meat as the fond.
The important thing to note is that the fond should look moist and shiny and if you smell it, it should still smell like the meat, fish or whatever else you have sautéed. If the bits at the bottom of the pan are dry and black – burnt – then this should not be deglazed as the sauce will taste burnt.
Deglazing also removes the need for having to scrub the pan after cooking. Once the fond has been absorbed into the pan sauce, the pan will much easier to clean.
Deglazing as a technique developed in the seventeenth century alongside roux-making. While roux is for opaque and thicker sauces, deglazing is better for clear pan sauces. Around the middle of the twentieth century, there was a shift from the rich classic French sauces and instead many chefs began to focus on the flavors of the food, rather than using heavier sauces to hide these flavors. With this shift away from ‘Cuisine Classique’, came the increase in the use of pan sauces.
Types of Pans Suitable for Deglazing
A stainless steel, carbon steel or well-seasoned cast iron stovetop or roasting pan is suitable for most deglazing. Non-stick pans are unsuitable for deglazing as food should not stick to the coating, and if you do find food stuck to the bottom of a non-stick pan, then you may want to consider investing in a new one as the non-stick coating is breaking down.
If you want to make an acidic sauce, then be careful with using well-seasoned cast iron as the acid may remove some of the seasoning from the pan. Instead, you may want to keep with steel.
What Sauces Can Be Made by Deglazing?
Almost any type of sauce or gravy can be made by deglazing. Stocks are a popular option, as are gravies. A tomato-based sauce can also be a safe bet, as well as a red wine, white wine or beer sauce. Vinegars or fruit juices can also be used as the liquid in a pan sauce.
It is important to choose a sauce that will complement your final dish, so if you are unsure, then it may be better to stick to a gravy. Avoid using plain water as your liquid in your pan sauce - although this has been known in the past in Avant Garde recipes – water will add very little flavor to the final dish.
Just some terms that you may come across in recipes include a fond brun or brown stock, a fond blanc is a white stock, and a vegetable stock is fond de vegetal.
Dairy can be more difficult to work with in pan sauces due to the risk of it curdling. If you want to make a cream sauce, then as in the tutorial below, it is easier to deglaze the pan first with water or stock before adding your cream as the sauce is finished.
If you are making soup or other liquid-based dishes, then you may want to deglaze while you still have the main ingredients in the pan. This should be done just before you add the extra liquid to the pan to simmer. If you do keep meat in the pan, then ensure the pan has a large enough capacity to minimize splashing while deglazing.
Shallots and garlic are popular ingredients in pan sauces to add aroma as well as flavor. Fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme are suitable, and you can even add spices, mustard or even relish for extra flavor. For steaks, why not try a red wine, tarragon and mushroom sauce, or for pork, a white wine, garlic and thyme sauce? A white wine pan sauce is also ideal for fish and for Italian-style dishes, with of course a little basil and oregano in it.
You can create Asian-style sauces with the use of spices and fresh ginger, and you can even add some peanut butter to create a fusion sauce.
Always expect to add up to twice the amount of liquid to the pan as you need for the finished sauce or gravy as the steam produced during deglazing evaporates a fair amount away and it is this reduction that concentrates the flavors in the sauce.
Pro tip: Avoid seasoning during deglazing; instead, wait until the pan sauce is finished and ready to serve.
What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial
The tutorial below details step by step instructions to deglaze a pan to make a basic and easy mushroom sauce that can be served over meats.
Feel free to add herbs or adapt the recipe as you like to suit your tastes. This recipe below will make enough pan sauce to give four people one to two tablespoons of sauce with the meat.
Kitchen Tools Needed to Deglaze A Pan
- Sauce pan or roasting dish for deglazing – In this tutorial, I am using a pan that has had pork sautéed in it.
- Whisk, spatula and/or wooden spoon – Use whatever you prefer for sautéing and for mixing the sauce. I usually use a spatula for sautéing with and a metal whisk for the sauce, but I do keep the spatula handy for the sauce just in case!
- Measuring cup – One cup capacity minimum for the stock.
- Garlic mincer – If you do not have a mincer then crush the garlic clove with the flat of your knife and the heel of your hand.
- Knife and cutting board – for cutting the mushrooms and finely mincing the shallot.
Ingredients Needed to Deglaze A Pan
- One cup of fresh meat stock – Home stock is usually better than store-bought stock, so try to keep some back when cooking meats. Stock can be frozen if not needed straight away. The stock you use for deglazing will need to reduce to around half a cup total volume.
- Butter – around half an ounce for sautéing the mushrooms, onion and garlic with. Adding a little butter will also help thicken the sauce.
- One small shallot – finely diced
- Sliced or diced mushrooms - around an ounce will be enough
- Fresh cream – half to one tablespoon will be needed to finish the sauce. This is optional.
You will also need seasonings to taste. You can keep with just salt and pepper, or add herbs, mustard or other condiments as desired. Just remember that the more a sauce is reduced the more intense its flavor will become.
Step by Step Instructions
Before you deglaze the pan, remove the meat from it and place somewhere to rest, or if required, to keep warm while you are making your pan sauce. This is one of the main advantages of making pan sauces, allowing you to make the sauce in the time that would otherwise be used for the meat to rest before serving.
If there is an excessive amount of fat left in the pan, then drain it off. If you can see any burnt bits of food in the bottom of the pan, remove them at this point.
Before you start deglazing, the bottom of your pan should look something like this:
Step 1: Prepare ingredients for sauce
Measure out your stock and slice/dice or mince the onion, garlic and mushrooms for the pan sauce and place to one side for the moment.
Step 2: Sauté shallot and mushrooms
Add the butter, minced shallot and mushrooms to the pan. Sauté on medium high heat for a couple of minutes only.
Step 3: Add garlic
Add the minced garlic and sauté for another minute or so. Be careful not to let the garlic burn at this point, be prepared to keep stirring.
Step 4: Add stock
Make sure the burner is medium-high and add the cup of stock. Keep the burner at a medium-high heat, or lower to medium if required.
One the stock is added, this will stop the fond in the bottom of the pan from browning any further as the temperature suddenly drops. As the liquid begins to move into the gaps between the food particles and the pan’s surface it will start to dislodge the food and as the liquid starts to boil, this will also help remove the fond from the bottom of the pan.
Pro Tip: If using alcohol for a sauce, to reduce the risk of a flare-up, always decant the alcohol into a cup first and remove the pan from the burner before pouring the alcohol from the cup into the pan.
Step 5: Whisk
Using your whisk, spoon or spatula, whisk or stir the liquid while scraping the bottom of the pan to help release the fond. If you are struggling to release the fond with your whisk, then the spoon or spatula will be useful here.
Step 6: Turn off heat
Once consistency has become slightly syrupy then turn off the burner. The sauce will have also darkened in color by this point and as long as it does not look or smell burnt, it is fine.
Pro Tip: If you are unsure if the sauce is thick enough, dip a metal spoon into it. If the sauce is thick enough to coat the spoon – it’s fine.
Pro Tip: The volume of the liquid in a pan sauce will usually need to reduce by half, but as this can depend on what other ingredients are added to the sauce, you may want to rely on when the consistency is ok, rather than the volume.
Step 6: Taste and season
Once turned off, taste the sauce and add any seasoning as required. Finish by adding the cream.
If you prefer to add cold butter at the end to thicken the sauce and add silkiness to the finish, then you should add very cold butter and whisk well. This technique is also called Monter au Buerre or ‘mounting the sauce’.
Step 7: Serve
The sauce is now ready to serve. Pan sauces should be kept warm and served straight away on the meat. They will not allow standing around or even reheating like a gravy will.
You will also notice that the bottom of the pan is now clear of any frond.
Pro Tip: If you want to deglaze as a way to clean your pan rather than make a sauce, then just add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and follow steps 1 to 6, using just plain water. Once the fond has lifted from the bottom of the pan, then set the pan aside to cool. You can then drain the liquid off and give the pan a quick wash.
I really hope you have enjoyed my step by step tutorial on how to deglaze a pan to make an easy mushroom sauce. I’ve also briefly talked about how you can use the deglazing technique for easier washing up.As always, I would love to hear any of your tried and tested tips around deglazing a pan and if you have enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends!