How To Make a Pan Sauce from Steak Drippings
Your perfectly cooked steak is waiting to be carved and you glance at the now-empty pan from cooking your steak. Luxe browned bits of steak drippings cling to the pan. Perhaps there’s a little bit of butter and some fragrant herbs left in the pan, too. It seems like a true tragedy to waste any of the wonderful mess.
Pan sauces are designed to turn the browned bits in the bottom of a pan, lovingly known as fond, into a base for making sauce or gravy for the cooked meat. You can turn that pan of drippings into a tasty sauce for your steaks with a little broth or wine, a few aromatics, mustard, and a pat of cold butter.
How To Make a Pan Sauce
Building a pan sauce happens in four quick steps. It is best to have your ingredients ready before building the sauce.
- Deglaze the pan: Returning the pan to the heat will help loosen the fond stuck to the pan, and then adding wine or stock will deglaze the pan.
- Reduce: Cooking down the wine or stock creates a rich base and boosts the flavor.
- Add an emulsifier: A dab of mustard readies the sauce for the fat that will be added to thicken the sauce.
- Add fat: Adding cold butter to a pan sauce is called “mounting the sauce” or Monter au Buerre, a classic French technique for thickening a pan sauce. The trick to this magic is to use very cold butter and whisk vigorously.
Type of Mustard To Use As An Emulsifier
Amping Up the Flavor of a Classic Pan Sauce
Once you’ve mastered this basic technique, feel free to play with the ingredients to make a myriad of other sauces. Use onions or garlic in place of the shallot here (or even capers, which pair exceedingly well with fish). Use fresh-squeezed juice, in whole or as part of the deglazing liquid, or substitute red wine for a more robust sauce. Use grainy or fiery mustards for the emulsifier. Finish the sauce with aged or cultured butter and a heavy sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs to suit the finally dish.
Finish fast: Unlike gravy, pan sauces aren’t designed to linger longingly on the table. Keep the sauce warm in the pan until the steaks are sliced and then serve with the sauce immediately.
Makesabout 1/2 cup
Drippings from 1 to 2 pan-fried steaks
- 1 teaspoon
fresh thyme leaves
small shallot, minced
- 1/2 cup
dry white wine or broth
- 1 teaspoon
- 1 tablespoon
cold unsalted butter
Cast iron skillet
Measuring cup and measuring spoons
Drain the fat, but don't clean the pan: While your steaks are resting, pour off the fat from cooking and any aromatics that were cooked with the steak, but do not wipe the pan clean.
Cook the shallot and thyme: Return the pan to medium heat and add the shallot and thyme and cook until fragrant and the shallot has softened.
Deglaze the pan: Add the wine or broth and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or whisk. Cook until the liquid reduces slightly, about 1 minute.
Add the mustard and butter: Whisk in the mustard and remove the pan from the heat. Vigorously whisk in the cold butter until thickened.
Serve: Slice the steak and serve with the pan sauce.