To deglaze a pan means adding liquid such as stock or wine to a pan to loosen and dissolve food particles that are stuck to the bottom after cooking or searing. 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 involves 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 flambé, and then there's deglazing.
Why Should You Be Deglazing?
One easy reason is that everyone loves the sound of a big sizzle while cooking—that's exactly what you get when you deglaze a pan.
The results of deglazing are instantaneous. 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, however, water is not recommended because water doesn't have any flavor. The best results are when you use wine, stock, juice or even beer.
As for the actual scraping, a wooden spoon with a straight edge is the perfect tool. Use the spoon to gently scrape along the entire bottom of the pan. The hot liquid along with the gentle scraping of the spoon will loosen all of the cooked bits and pieces.
How to Deglaze a Pan
Deglazing works best if you have just roasted a piece of meat in a pan in the oven, or maybe sautéed it in a skillet. Pour a cup of wine into the pan or skillet, let it sizzle and steam and while it does so, scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan until they are all incorporated into the liquid.
Once you have loosened the fond, reduce liquid in the pan by half and then use it as the basis for making a sauce or simply season it with salt and pepper 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. Pour one cup of liquid into the pan and begin to deglaze the pan. All of the cooked meat and vegetable bits will loosen and incorporate into the sauce for a tasty topping to your meal.