How to Deglaze a Pan

What is deglazing? This easy, versatile method brings more flavor to your food. Here's how to deglaze a pan to unlock better sauces, soups, and stews.

Dutch Oven with Caramelized Onions Mixed with a Wooden Spoon, and Next to It, a Bottle of White Wine for How to Deglaze a Pan

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Say you're searing some chicken thighs in a pan. Several minutes later, you remove the chicken, skin crispy and deeply golden-brown, and inspect the remains in the pan. There's likely a residual layer of oil surrounded by browned, caramelized bits. Those bits, also known as fond, carry multitudes of flavor. The problem is, they're stuck to the pan. 

So how do you get those glorious bits off the pan? The key is deglazing. And it's easier than you think!

What Is Deglazing?

Deglazing is a cooking technique that involves adding liquid to a pan to remove bits of food, called fond, stuck to the bottom. Deglazing commonly happens after searing a piece of meat, but can also occur after sauteeing aromatics or even tomato paste. After cooking a steak, you can add some beef broth to deglaze the pan. Or maybe you add a splash of wine to the browned meat when making a ragu. All of these dishes involve deglazing in some way or another. 

When you add a liquid to a hot pan, it allows you to easily scrape up the fond into the liquid, where it dissolves to make a flavorful sauce. 

Close-up of the Dutch Oven with Caramelized Onions

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

What Liquids Can I Use to Deglaze a Pan?

This technique is incredibly versatile. You can use just about any liquid to deglaze a pan. The flavor simply needs to be compatible with the finished dish. Here are a few examples.

  • Alcohol (Wine, Beer, Cider, or Vodka): Wine is the most classic liquid used for this technique, from pan sauces to stews. Beer and cider are also worthy options, imparting unique flavors to sauces. Vodka is another choice, commonly used in pasta alla vodka.  
  • Stock: Use a broth to deglaze the pan if you want to omit alcohol or make a dish taste meaty (using chicken or beef broth) or vegetal (using vegetable broth). 
  • Juices or Sodas: For a sweeter flavoring, try apple cider, orange juice, or even Coca-Cola. These are all great options for braised meats. 
  • Water: If you don't have any of the above options handy, you can always use water. Water can dilute existing flavors, however, so you may need to adjust seasonings. 

Are There Any Liquids I Shouldn't Use to Deglaze a Pan?

Dairy products are risky in deglazing because they can easily curdle. In general, you should stay away from milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream. 

Items to Use to Deglaze a Pan (L to R): Can of Beer, Can of Tomato Puree, Pyrex Measuring Cup of Stock, Bottle of White Wine, Glass of Red Wine, and a Box of Mushroom Broth for How to Deglaze a Pan

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

How to Deglaze a Pan

  1. First, you'll need something to deglaze, whether it's the fond left from cooking a piece of chicken, a cut of steak, or tomato paste.

  2. Next, slowly add the deglazing liquid while the pan is still hot. Be careful here, as the liquid can generate a lot of hot steam.

  3. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bits of fond stuck to the pan to loosen them. 

  4. Bring the liquid in the pan to a boil, then reduce to a simmer to concentrate the flavor. If cooking any alcohol, make sure that the alcohol fully evaporates. Continue simmering the liquid until it reaches the desired consistency. 

Simple Tip!

Sometimes, especially when cooking meat, the fond that sticks to the bottom of the pan can burn. If you think that's the case, try tasting a bit of the fond. If it does indeed taste burnt, you'll want to throw it out. Otherwise, the burnt bits will cause your sauce to taste bitter. In the future, try reducing the heat or cooking it for less time to prevent this from happening. 

Dutch Oven with Caramelized Onions Mixed with a Wooden Spoon for How to Deglaze a Pan

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Recipes That Use the Deglazing Technique