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What Is a Pan Sauce?
After sautéing meat or vegetables, you’ll likely notice some excess cooking fat and brown bits of food left behind on the bottom of the pan. These bits are not something to be washed or wiped off. On the contrary, they are the foundation of a delicious and easy pan sauce for chicken breasts, pork chops, steak, or any other protein you choose.
How to Choose the Right Pan for Your Sauce
The drippings that make a delicious pan sauce possible come from meat and vegetables sticking to the pan during searing or browning. For this reason, you should avoid using a nonstick skillet to sauté your dish. Instead, use a stainless steel or cast iron skillet, which will encourage more browning.
How to Make a Pan Sauce
After removing your meat or vegetables, place your sauté pan back over medium heat on your stove top (medium high heat will blister the flavors). To deepen the flavor of your pan sauce, add chopped aromatics and fresh herbs of your choice to the skillet. (Chef Gordon Ramsay uses shallots, garlic, and thyme to make a pan sauce for his Chicken Suprême recipe.) Add more oil as necessary and sauté until the herbs are fragrant and the aromatics are softened and caramelized.
Next, it’s time to release the flavors at the bottom of your skillet. Set your stove top heat to low and deglaze your pan with a liquid of your choice. You can use any flavorful liquid for deglazing, including red or white wine, chicken broth, beef stock, lemon juice, even brandy. After adding your liquid, use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently scrape the brown bits from the bottom of your pan.
If you are deglazing a hot pan with brandy or other spirits, a word of caution: high-proof alcohols can ignite over your stove top’s flame to create a flambé. Professional chefs use flambé to burn off excess alcohol quickly from a dish. If you are uncomfortable with this technique, consider using wine or beer to deglaze your pan instead.
How to Finish Your Pan Sauce
Once you’ve deglazed your pan, allow your pan sauce to simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. For a richer, silkier pan sauce, stir in a few more pats of butter or a splash of cream. Once you’ve achieved the right thickness, you can drizzle your pan sauce over your dish as is, or strain off your herbs and aromatics for a smoother texture.
4 Recipes With Pan Sauces
- Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Chicken Suprême and Pan Sauce
- Chef Thomas Keller’s Prime Rib
- Chef Thomas Keller’s Perfect Pan-Seared Beef Sirloin Steak
- Chef Wolfgang Puck’s Pepper Steak with Red Wine Sauce
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