How to Make a Pan Sauce in 4 Simple Steps

January 19, 2018

Psst: Hate dishes? Love a lil’ something extra on your rice or potatoes? Then it’s time to start making pan sauces (if you aren’t already!).

Pan sauces, as the name suggests, are made in the exact same pan you’ve used to sauté shrimp, sear a steak, or brown some onions. After cooking your meat, fish, or vegetables, those little leftover particles stuck to your pan’s bottom—called the fond—transform into a silk smooth sauce in a process called deglazing. Deglazing isn't nearly as intimidating as it sounds—it simply means using liquid to release those little bits of concentrated flavor from the pan.

No matter what flavors you’re looking for, pan sauces follow a pretty simple formula. In their newest book, The Art of the Perfect Sauce: 75 Recipes to Take Your Dishes from Ordinary to Extraordinary, writers Lorilynn Bauer and Ramin Ganeshram share the four-step process to perfect pan sauces, no matter what ingredient you use:

  1. Sauté aromatics such as onion, garlic, shallot, chives or leeks in the grease remaining in or added to your frying pan.
  2. Deglaze the pan using an acidic liquid. Wine is usually used, but vinegar and citrus juices may be used as well.
  3. Add stock to the pan along with any additional flavoring agents such as herbs, dried fruits or spices other than salt. Reduce the mixture until there are bubbles across the surface of the pan and the sauce reaches the nappé stage (meaning it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon).
  4. Add butter to the pan and swirl to melt. This gives the sauce a sheen and velvety texture. If you are straining your sauce, add the butter afterward.

Really—it's that straightforward. So, the next time you sauté salmon or roast a chicken, save yourself some scrubbing and transform the brown bits into silky sauce. And if you're looking for some inspiration, here are some saucy ways to kick dinner into high gear.

What's your favorite sauce? Share your recipes and tips in the comments below!

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.