Deglazing a pan is the first step in making a number of sauces (particularly pan sauces), and a cooking technique that every home chef should know how to do.  The process of deglazing uses a liquid to “free-up” or pull off crystallized bits of protein, called fond, from the bottom of the pan. 

As you cook food, especially meats, little bits of sugar and protein will stick to the pan and caramelize, which develops and deepens their flavor.  Those bits, the fond, occur when you sear any piece of meat or fish, but can also develop with vegetables, and can do a lot to add flavor to a pan sauce.

Check out this video demonstration, where I deglaze a pan using a bit of sherry vinegar.

How to deglaze

  • To deglaze your pan, remove the food that you’ve been cooking and set aside (for meat it’s great to do this while the meat rests)
  • The pan needs to be hot, deglazing a cold pan will be difficult
  • Take a look at how much oil/fat is left in the pan, you’ll want to remove most of the fat, but it does not need to be totally dry
  • Add enough liquid (your deglazing liquid) to the pan to coat the bottom of the pan by about a quarter to half an inch at least, but you can add more if you’d like to make more sauce.
  • Using a wooden spoon (I don’t like to use metal) scrape the bottom of the pan to help loosen the fond and dissolve it into the liquid – if the pan is hot it should not take much pressure to loosen the fond
  • Let your liquid reduce and you can make your sauce

What can you deglaze with?

Well, you have a lot of options.  Most commonly, I end up using wine, either red or white (don’t use cooking wine – use something you’d like to drink).  Wine has its own great flavor that it brings to a sauce and by adding it to the pan first; you give it a chance to reduce and to cook off the alcohol.

But you don’t have to use wine if you don’t want to, or don’t have it handy.  You can use stock, fruit juice, water, or anything else.  What you should do is think through what kind of sauce you want to make, and then find a liquid that will support your sauce. 

Check out some of the ideas on the site for various pan sauces, and next time you’ve got some fond, don’t let it go to waste.