How to Deglaze

January 3, 2012 § 5 Comments

One of my all-time, hands down favorite cooking techniques is deglazing. When executed properly, it allows you to add layers and layers of flavor, and is an exciting transition between dry and wet cooking methods. If it sounds like an exaggeration to say it’s exciting, remember this when your are pouring wine into a hot pan, as it bubbles and reduces almost immediately, giving off a cloud of steam. It’s fantastic spectacle, and absolutely delicious.

If you cook with a steel or iron pan – to phrase it awkwardly, a non non-stick pan – you’ll probably notice how bits of meat and vegetables stick to the bottom of the pan and turn brown. Now, anytime food is turning brown, it’s getting richer and deeper in flavor. So, what you have down at the bottom of that pan is flavor. Well, it’s actually called fond.

As long as it is brown and not black or burnt, fond is a flavor goldmine, and all you need to do is starting excavating.You can do this with just about any liquid – wine, stock, water, juice, etc. This process of adding liquid to release fond from the pan is deglazing. (Don’t deglaze with dairy. It will just scorch.) Wine and stocks are most common. Once you deglaze the pan, use a wooden spoon to scrape the fond from the bottom of the pan.

So, how do you know when you are ready to deglaze? Let’s assume you are in the middle of cooking some vegetables for yourself. You’re try to develop fond in the pan. First off, you want to have a medium to medium high temperature. Higher temperature always gives you more browning. Second, you don’t want to have too much oil in the pan. Too much oil means that you’re frying the vegetables, not sweating or sauteeing. Third, I’ve found it helps to add some seasoning to the pan right before deglazing. Add some salt, pepper or spices to your vegetables and toss around. Some of this seasoning will start to brown.

It’s time to deglaze. You can use pretty much anything, but wine is the most common first addition. You always want to make sure that wine gets cooked for a sufficient period of time so that the alcohol evaporates. (Otherwise, your pasta tastes like hot wine. No good.) Stocks are also a great addition. Both will concentrate their flavor as they reduce.

How far do you reduce this sauce? It depends on what you want to do with it. You can reduce it until it coats your vegetables. You can toss in some cooked pasta and reduce until it lightly coats the pasta. You can leave it slightly runny and use it as a gravy over potatoes or rice. You could even add more stock and use this as the beginning of a soup. It’s really up to you.

James’ Bonus Tip:
If you want to add tomatoes, fresh or canned, to your vegetables, you can use them to deglaze. There is enough liquid in tomatoes to release fond from the pan. Add the tomatoes before any other liquid, and you can cook the tomatoes until this liquid evaporates. The concentrated tomato pulp will start to develop another layer of fond on the bottom of the pan, after which you can deglaze a second time with wine or stock. Double deglaze! Whoooaa!

Here is a recipe where you can deglaze:
Vegetable Barley Soup

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