What Is Deglazing and How Do You Deglaze a Pan? Follow This Easy Step-By-Step Guide

updated Jun 4, 2024
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A great braise, a perfect pan sauce, a flavorful beef stew, even simple weeknight dinners like pan-fried chicken thighs or pork chops can all be seriously improved by a single cooking technique: deglazing. This fancy-sounding technique isn’t as hard as you might think and once you master it, you will have the first building block for super-flavorful broths, gravies, sauces, braises, and more. In other words, this is a foundational cooking technique you definitely want in your back pocket — as a bonus, it also makes washing your pans easier. 

What Is Deglazing?

Deglazing is the process of adding liquid to a hot pan to remove the sucs or fond —  the brown flavorful bits stuck to a pan when you cook at high temperature — explains Shawn Matijevich, lead chef for Online Culinary Arts & Food Operations at the Institute of Culinary Education. “[Deglazing] allows you to harness all of that extra flavor that you would otherwise scrub off and pour down the sink,” says Matijevich. Those browned bits are a treasure trove of flavor and should be used to their full potential.

You should deglaze any time you are building a dish around a flavorful liquid, like making a soup or preparing a braise, or after you’ve finished cooking in order to make a sauce, say when you’ve cooked a steak.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Can You Deglaze Without Wine? 

Yes! You can deglaze with just about any liquid. Wine is very common for deglazing, but vermouth, dry sherry, broth, and stock are also commonly used liquids. Wine is a classic for deglazing because it adds a wonderful flavor to pan sauces for steaks and red meats.

If you are making a soup or stew that will include broth or stock, you can simply deglaze with a small amount of it. And if you are looking for a neutral flavor (or adding lots of aromatics), water is just fine for deglazing. Citrus juices, like lemon and orange, red and white wine vinegars, and apple cider are great options for deglazing, too.

Can You Deglaze in a Nonstick Pan?

When deciding on a skillet or pot you plan on deglazing in, it’s important to keep in mind the goal at hand. “You want things to stick. It is how we develop flavor,” says Matijevich. To achieve the best results, you should use stainless steel, aluminum, or cast-iron cookware for deglazing, explains Matijevich. The chemical makeup of these pans allows them to latch onto food to help them stick which, when it comes to deglazing, is a good thing.

Either way, though, you should avoid using a nonstick pan for a recipe that calls for deglazing – this type of vessel goes against the main principle of deglazing. If the ingredients don’t stick, then they won’t caramelize and you lose all of that extra flavor.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How Do You Deglaze A Pan?

Sauté or roast meat, then remove it from the pan, leaving the browned bits.

After sautéing or roasting a piece of meat, fish, or vegetables, remove it from the pan and pour off any extra fat. There will be little bits of food stuck to the bottom; usually quite cooked. These little caramelized bits come from the juices of the meat or the sugar in the vegetables and are packed with flavor, and only need a liquid, such as wine, stock, or juice to release their flavors.

It’s worth noting is that you don’t need meat, poultry, or fish to successfully deglaze a pan – you can deglaze a pan with just vegetables, too. According to Matijevich, one of the best examples of this is in dishes like French onion soup. “The color comes from the caramelization of the onions,” he explains. “The trick is really to keep the heat at medium because the sugars in vegetables burn quite easily.” The fond at the bottom of a pan will look dark in color, but it shouldn’t be scorched. There’s a difference in the flavor of a caramelized fond and a burnt one.

Add a small amount of liquid, such as wine or stock. 

To deglaze, after you’ve removed your meat, fish, or vegetables from the pan, and poured off excess fat, pour in a quarter cup or so of liquid (enough to cover the bottom of the pan by ¼ inch or less). You can simply leave the pan on the heat before adding the liquid if you are using a sturdy stainless steel or cast iron, but for flimsier pans and enamelware, Matijevich advises letting the pan cool slightly before adding the liquid to avoid warping or damaging the pan. 

Boil the liquid in the pan and stir vigorously.

With the pan on medium to medium-high heat, scrape the bottom with a wooden or silicone spoon or spatula vigorously as the liquid comes to a boil.  Let the liquid boil briefly, until it’s reduced but not completely evaporated. As it boils, continue to stir until you’ve released all those tasty browned bits from the pan. If you are deglazing with wine or alcohol, be sure to continue cooking until the alcohol has cooked off — you can tell this has happened when the liquid becomes syrupy, and the alcohol smell has disappeared (it should smell sweet and mellow).  

How to Deglaze, A Step-by-Step Guide

Below, we outline how to deglaze with steaks, but this basic technique works for any protein, as well as vegetables.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

1. Heat the pan.

Add a couple tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil to a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high. Season two 8- to-12-ounce (at least 1-inch-thick) New York strip steaks generously with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper on each side.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

2. Sear the steak.

Carefully lay the steaks in the skillet. Let the steaks cook in the hot oil, undisturbed, about 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare. You can also insert an instant-read thermometer into the side of the steak to the center until the thermometer reads about 130˚ to 140˚ F.

3. Remove the steaks from the pan.

Remove the seared steaks to a cutting board and let rest, at least 5 minutes. Pour off any extra oil and fat from the skillet. You should be left with a good amount of browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

4. Add liquid.

Pour about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of red wine into the hot skillet. The skillet will smoke a bit at first.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

5. Simmer.

Let the wine simmer and bubble for a few minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to release the browned bits.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

6. Reduce.

Continue to simmer the mixture until it reduces and thickens and the alcohol aroma has dissipated, a few more minutes.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

7. Serve.

Once the sauce is reduced, drizzle it over the meat and serve.

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