How to Make a Quick and Easy Pan Sauce
Fast, delicious, and easy, a pan sauce is versatile too!
Sometimes you just need a quick idea for dinner. Enter pan sauce. A pan sauce is quick to make and is one of the most flexible sauces in your kitchen. Once you know the basics the variations are almost endless.
The basis for a pan sauce is the fond or browned bits of charred protein in the bottom of the pan the meat was just cooked in. Now, as long as we’re talking about cooking meats, and before we get to pan sauce, I’ll give you a couple of tips. Always sear the meat presentation side down first, then flip it over to the side that will be touching the plate and finish cooking it in a 375 F (190C) to 400F (204C) degree oven.
By presentation side, I mean the side of the meat that will be facing the person eating said meat. Cooking with the presentation side down first lets you get a nice good looking sear on the meat for the visual appeal. Finishing the cooking in the oven provides an even, surrounding heat for thorough cooking.
Back to pan sauce. Other than the meat you’re cooking you need a few more things…at least for the pan sauce we’re discussing now. I’ll talk variations in a minute. I always start with white wine to deglaze the pan, one or two tablespoons of butter, half and half creamer, or heavy cream, salt, and pepper, and a flavor enhancer. A tablespoon of Dijon mustard would be great. Since we always have some type of jam around I’ll often use jam. That’s all you need so let’s get cooking.
Preheat your oven to 400F (240C). Get your pan really hot then add some oil to coat the pan. Season the meat with salt and pepper then lay it in the pan to sear. Don’t go poking it or turning it over to check on it. Just leave it alone for three or four minutes. The meat will stick to the pan as it creates the fond and poking it or picking it up isn’t useful. While you’re waiting season the top side. When the proper sear has occurred the meat will release by itself. Now you can flip it over and put it in the oven to finish cooking.
Once the meat is cooked, 7 to 10 minutes or to your liking, remove it from the oven, put it on a plate and cover to let rest. Heat the pan on the stove top until the juices start to sizzle then add the white wine to deglaze the fond. Fond is very important because it’s full of flavor and color. Deglazing releases the fond from the pan and begins to liquefy it so it can release the goodness from within. While deglazing you should be scraping the bottom of the pan to help release the tasty bits. I usually deglaze with white wine for the acidity. It provides balance to the sauce and brightens flavors.
Next add your pan sauce base, in this case, cream or coffee creamer, and let it simmer to reduce a little. Keep scraping the pan then add the Dijon or jam and stir to incorporate. Now add the butter to the pan and stir to melt. Butter is important for the nice velvety finish it gives the pan sauce. Cook for a few minutes more to make sure the sauce is good and hot, season with salt and pepper to taste and guess what? You’re done. Pan sauce complete except for the part where you consume it. I’m sure you can figure that part out without me.
The pan you use should be a good quality, heavy pan for heat retention. Cast iron is a good choice or something like Calphalon cookware. My preference is cast iron like this cast iron skillet from Lodge. A wooden spatula is helpful also. The flat edge is soft enough not to scrape the metal pan but hard enough to scrape the fond. (The links above are affiliate links to Amazon. Click here to see the statement required, paragraph six.)
Pan Sauce Variations
For me a pan sauce has two functions; make a tasty sauce and don’t let the fond go to waste. The variations are almost as endless as the various ingredients you can add. The basics of a pan sauce are simple:
- a liquid like wine or some type of stock to deglaze
- a flavor enhancer like mustard, jam, minced garlic, shallot, or onion (all optional)
- butter to finish the sauce
- someone to share the goodness with
Some Good Combinations
- Mustard/cream mix for pork or chicken.
- Deglaze with apple brandy or apple juice, add cream and some coarsely crushed peppercorns and voila – Au Poivre sauce
- Deglaze with chicken stock and add some herbs of your choice
- Fish might be great with a ginger beer deglaze
- Beef and stout beer with cream. Need I say more?
Let your imagination run wild. If you want to thicken the sauce more use a one-to-one ratio of corn starch to cold water mixed well to get rid of any lumps. Just add one or two tablespoons to the pan sauce and bring it to a rapid boil. You could also use a beurre manie or one-to-one mix of softened butter and all purpose flour. One or two knobs of beurre manie will do the trick also.
Pan Sauce TV
Well, sort of. Have a look to see how easy it is.
Now go do something interesting and tell us about it!