Deglazing is a cooking technique which involves introducing a liquid to a used pan to extract pieces of food which may have become stuck to the pan during the cooking process. Most typically, it is employed when sauteing food, although pans for roasts and similar dishes can be deglazed as well. The resulting rich, flavorful liquid may be used as a sauce or the base for a sauce which usually accompanies the food cooked in the same pan. In addition to being an efficient way to remove detritus from the bottom of a pan, deglazing is also a great way to make a quick, flavorful sauce.
To deglaze a pan, the chef starts by cooking something in it. Chicken cutlets, for example, might be sauteed in a pan with seasonings and oil or butter. After the cooked food has been removed, the pan is returned to the heat and a liquid such as stock, wine, or water is poured in. As the liquid is gently heated, a spatula or wooden spoon can be dragged along the bottom of the pan to bring up chunks which may be stuck to it. When the entire pan has been deglazed, the cook may pour the resulting liquid over the food, add spices, thicken it with flour, or use it as the base of a more complex sauce.
Both meat and vegetable dishes can be deglazed. Deglazing can also be used during the cooking process, as might be the case during a stir fry. Using a liquid to deglaze the pan halfway through the cooking process will change the ultimate flavor and texture of the food, and will also reduce the amount of oil which needs to be used. Some people also use the technique when they make soups and stews, sautèing a mixture of fresh vegetables in the same pan they cook the soup in, and deglazing the pan before they add water and other soup ingredients.
When fatty foods have been cooked, an acidic deglazing liquid can cut the fat in the sauce so that it does not seem as heavy or cloying. Lemon juice and wine can both be used for this purpose. For less fatty foods, any type of deglazing liquid can be used to blend with the vegetable or meat juices. When deglazing a pan, try briefly sweating onions, garlic, or shallots in the pan before adding the liquid, to make a sauce with more flavor and texture.