When you cook food in a pan, bits of whatever you’re cooking tend to stick to the bottom, whether they’re burnt-on pieces of meat or veggies, or dried liquids. These burnt bits may seem like just another job for the dishwasher, but they’re actually the most flavourful thing in the pan - a condensed, caramelised essence of all your ingredients. Sometimes referred to as ‘fond’ or ‘sucs’, these tasty burnt bits can be used to make a sauce for your meat, or to add depth of flavour to soups.
Deglazing simply means pouring a liquid into the pan to help loosen the fond. Many different liquids can be used for deglazing, from wine and spirits to stock or fruit juices. The liquid and the fond will form the base of your sauce or soup, so it’s important to choose a liquid that complements the other flavours in the dish.
How to deglaze a pan
To deglaze your pan, follow this simple step-by-step guide.
Step 1. If you are cooking meat, pour away any excess fat, as this will make your sauce greasy and may cause it to split.
Step 2. Pour a little of your chosen liquid into the pan. If using alcohol, remove from the heat while pouring to avoid flames. Use just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
Step 3. Bring to the boil while scraping at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula.
Step 4. Boil for a few seconds, until you have dislodged all the fond from the bottom of the pan.
Step 5. Use the liquid and fond to make sauce or soup.
Why is alcohol used for deglazing?
Using a small amount of alcohol in your cooking is a great way to ramp up the flavour intensity. Alcohol bonds with both fat and water molecules, which allows it to carry flavours and aromas in a way that other liquids can’t. Be careful not to overdo it though. If you use too much, the flavour of the alcohol itself will take over, instead of it acting as a vehicle for your other flavours. For best results, alcohol should make up no more than 1% of the dish.
What can you deglaze with?
When it comes to deglazing liquids, there are plenty of options. In terms of alcohol, you can use wine, beer, cider, fortified wines such as sherry or port, or spirits. White wine is often used to complement white meat, and red wine for red meat, while a neutral spirit like vodka can be used as a carrier for the existing flavours without adding any notes of its own.
Aside from alcohol, you can use stock, vinegar, soy sauce, fruit juices, or the liquid used to boil pasta or veggies to deglaze your pan. Some recipes will call for more than one liquid, with wine and stock being a popular combination.
There are some liquids that are not suited to deglazing, however. Plain water won’t carry the other flavours like alcohol can, and will add no flavour of its own, while dairy products such as milk or cream may curdle. If you want to make a creamy sauce, the best option is to deglaze using another liquid, and stir in the cream, milk or yoghurt at the last minute.
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