Deglazing: An Exciting and Useful Culinary Trick

What is deglazing?
Deglazing a pan with red wine. Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

To deglaze a pan means adding liquid such as stock or wine to a pan to loosen and dissolve food particles (called fond) that are stuck to the bottom. The flavorful mixture produced by deglazing can then be used to make a sauce.

Deglazing is one of those fantastic cooking words and also one of the most satisfying techniques for the new cook to learn because it's one where you really feel like you're doing something.

So much of cooking turns out to be: put the steak on the grill and don't touch it. Or put the roast in the oven and don't open the door. Or let the sauce reduce for 20 minutes while you drink a glass of wine.

Sure, there are techniques like making risotto that involve stirring, but standing over a hot stove stirring continuously for 20 minutes is somehow less glamorous than it seems in the movies.

For that quick hit of culinary excitement, there's flambe and then there's deglazing.

What is Deglazing?

One reason is that everyone loves the sound of a big sizzle. And that's exactly what you get when you deglaze.

But also, the results are instantaneous. Moreover, it connotes sorcery, alchemy. It's so satisfying to know that the crusty bits at the bottom of the pan, bits you might've scraped off into the sink in your less enlightened days, are now so desirable that they even have a French name: fond.

So, what's happening is you are loosening the flavorful fond from the bottom of the pan. You're doing this because you want to use those bits to add flavor to your sauce.

You can achieve this loosening with mere water, but of course you wouldn't, because water doesn't have any flavor. Instead you'll use wine, or stock, juice or even beer.

As for the actual scraping, a wooden spoon with a straight edge is the perfect tool.

The scenario is, you've just roasted a piece of meat in a pan in the oven, or maybe sauteed it in a skillet. Pour in a cup of wine, let it sizzle and steam and while it does so, scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan.

Once you have loosened the fond, reduce liquid in the pan for a while and then use it as the basis for making a sauce or simply season it and serve it as a simple pan sauce.

In a typical example, a pork chop might be pan-fried along with aromatic vegetables like carrots, celery and onions. The pork chop is removed from the pan, leaving the vegetables and the fond at the bottom of the pan as a result of cooking.