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Deglazing a pan is a simple method for creating excellent, flavorful sauces and gravies with little effort. After you have browned meat or poultry in the oven, or sauteed meat in a pan, there will be a number of brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, as well as the juices and fat that came off the meat while it was cooking. If the bits have become blackened, it will not be possible to deglaze the pan, but if they are simply browned and caramelized, you are ready to begin.
The brown bits in the bottom of the pan are very flavorful, and are also known as "fond." The basic process to deglaze a pan involves pouring a cold liquid into the hot pan, which will release all the fond; it will then dissolve into the liquid and become a delicious sauce. There are a few different schools of thought regarding the best way to deglaze a pan, but it is often recommended that one remove the fat from the bottom of the pan first. It may be poured or scooped out.
When the fat is removed, the pan is placed over medium high heat so the fond does not burn. The liquid you choose is then poured into the pan, which should then quickly boil, releasing the brown bits on the bottom of the pan; most experts recommend using cold liquid, and some recommend boiling the liquid first, though either method can be effective when trying to deglaze the pan. Stir those bits into the liquid using a spatula or slotted spoon until they are completely dissolved. Water is the simplest liquid to use, but others include red or white wine, beer, cognac, chicken or beef stock, or vinegar, among others. Once everything is dissolved, the heat may then be turned down so it does not burn.
It is not a good idea to use dairy products to deglaze a pan, however. This can quickly curdle and become very unappetizing. In addition, be careful when using alcohol, and stand back if the pan is very hot to avoid any potential flare-ups. Once the pan has been deglazed, you can use the sauce you've created independently, or you may add additional ingredients to create a thicker sauce. For instance, you may add corn starch to thicken the sauce for gravy, or ingredients such as onions or garlic for additional flavor; in addition, it may be helpful to strain the sauce before serving to remove any remaining bits.
Using any kind of liquid stock is great for deglazing a pan. It's my favorite way to do it. It's also a good way to help onions cook a little faster, if you add a little liquid to the hot pan. It will steam up, but seems to help the onions along, so that's what I frequently do.
It's rare when I'm making any kind of meat dish that I don't deglaze the pan. You just get so much more flavor into the food when you do it. I swear by it!
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