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Want Restaurant Flavor at Home? You Need a Pan Sauce

a chef pours wine into a pan to deglaze it and create a pan sauce
DenisProduction.com/Shutterstock

Wondering why your home-cooked meals are lacking the abundance of flavor you get at a restaurant? Take a note from the experts and follow these steps to create a heavenly sauce for your next meal.

Restaurant chefs have knowledge and experience that most others don’t, but what if you could learn a simple technique that chefs use, and apply it to your cooking? Pan sauce is one of the best tricks you can use to create a delectable delight.

What is a Pan Sauce?

Split chicken entree with pan sauce, thyme and a lemon.
Emilee Unterkoefler

A pan sauce is a reduction made by searing your choice of meat, deglazing your pan to pull up all the yummy brown bits, and adding various ingredients to create a creamy and delicious sauce.

Tools Needed to Make a Pan Sauce

You’ll need the proper tools to make a pan sauce accurately. Below are two examples of what you will need.

A Cast-Iron or Stainless-Steel Skillet

Do not use a nonstick pan, because you want the juices and bits of the meat to stick. This is crucial for making a pan sauce. A cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet will work great for this, and Le Creuset is an excellent choice for this cooking method.

A Wooden Scraping Spoon

A wooden scraping spoon works wonders when deglazing your pan. You must have a durable utensil that will effortlessly remove the bits from the bottom of your skillet.

Ingredients Needed to Make a Pan Sauce

Ingredients for a pan sauce, including shallots, garlic, lemon, butter and thyme.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Below is a list of what you will need to make a flavorsome pan sauce.

Choice of Meat

Before making your pan sauce, select either chicken, pork, or steak in any variety. When your meat is seared, you are allowing the natural flavors to extract and become the base of your sauce, so every sauce has a unique character.

Aromatics

Aromatics are a blend of herbs, spices, and vegetables heated in butter or other fats. The intense flavors and aromas of these ingredients are released when cooked in the fat. Some examples of aromatics that you can use are shallots, onion, cloves of garlic, or celery.

Liquid for Deglazing

Deglazing means taking a cold liquid and adding it to a hot pan to remove the bits that stick to the bottom. You can use broth, white wine, red wine, or even beer.

Other Flavorful Ingredients

One of the lasts parts of a pan sauce is adding a few extra ingredients. You can add lemon zest, fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary, heavy cream, or even a Dijon mustard. Adding a few tablespoons of cold butter adds to the richness of your sauce.

Steps to Making a Pan Sauce

In this example (as pictured below), split chicken is being seared to create a tasty pan sauce to accompany it.

Sear the Meat

Seared split chicken.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Heat your pan at med-high heat, and add neutral cooking oil like avocado oil or vegetable oil. Add salt and pepper to both sides of your chicken, and sear it for about two-three minutes on each side before removing it from the pan. Put your chicken in a separate pan, and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bottom of your pan becomes coated with fond, which is concentrated flavor from the chicken. This fond mixed with the liquid and other ingredients will create your sauce.

Add the Aromatics

Turn your heat down to medium. Add a few tablespoons of minced shallots, and a few cloves of minced garlic. Cook the shallots and garlic until they begin to sweat. This should not take any longer than one minute.

Deglaze Your Pan

Reduction of a pan sauce
Emilee Unterkoefler

Add about a half cup of your liquid of choice. In this example, white wine is used and cooked down until it reduces to about half the original amount of liquid.

Reducing the wine allows for the raw alcohol taste to come out, and thickens the liquid into a creamy sauce. To know your pan sauce reduced enough, take your wooden spoon and scrape it across one side of the pan to another. If the sauce takes some time to come back together, it has reduced enough.

Add Your Butter and Extra flavor

Add a couple of tablespoons of cold butter to your pan. Swirl the butter into the pan until you reach a smooth consistency. At this time, you can add in some other flavor-boosting ingredients.

A splash of heavy cream, a few sprigs of thyme, and lemon juice were added in this example. Finish your chicken with some freshly cracked pepper, and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable meal.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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