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Jun 17, 2009 01:09 PM

Pan Sauce

I know this may be a pretty remedial question but I'd like to hear peoples favorite pan sauces. I'm getting better at making them but I'm really experimenting and sometimes they just don't come out very good.

I have two nice rib eyes that I'll be cooking tonight and would like some tips for a good one for that. I've also done some pan sauces for pork chops, fish, chicken, etc., so while steak is on the menu for tonight, I'd also be interested in hearing your good pan sauce recipes for other types of foods.

I've searched this site but nothing specific comes up. Thanks!

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  1. I do this too, adding wine or vinegar or stock to deglaze, adding butter, sometimes cream plus seasonings. I'm no expert but sometimes the sauces come out beautiful, sometimes ugly, though nearly always delicious. Would love tips!

    13 Replies
    1. re: scuzzo

      I think that's what most folks do. Just experiment. I've never done a cream sauce and I think I might like that. I think I'm going to try this one for tonight. I happen to have all that on hand so we'll see what happens

      red wine
      beef broth
      heavy cream
      Dijon mustard
      chives for garnish

      1. re: Rocky Road

        Too much for me in this mix. Don't like cream and red wine and butter is too much. A simple red wine sauce with some butter, garlic, shallots and maybe dijon would be fine. Or a cream sauce with chives and dijon would be good, but too much with all for me.

        Just my opinion.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          Well, yeah, I thought so too. I like your ideas better. Will modify for tonight.

        2. re: Rocky Road

          If you don't like the taste/flavor of beef this would be fine....On the other hand if you love the taste/flavor of beef...then maybe just a simple compound butter would suffice.


          1. re: Uncle Bob

            I love beef and eat it all the time with nothing more than salt and pepper. At the moment I'm just interested in perfecting some basic pan sauces for different items including beef.

            1. re: Rocky Road

              Ah! OK ...Then I suggest less is best. De-glaze with with wine (Red & Dry for beef)...Reduce by 1/2...Add some stock/broth (beef) again reduce by 1/2...Turn off the heat and swirl in a couple pats of butter...A little parsley maybe?

              Have Fun!

              1. re: Uncle Bob

                I suspect a possible reason my sauces are not coming out like I would hope is perhaps I'm not reducing enough. I'm not getting that sort of powerful punch that comes from concentration. Thanks for the tips.

                1. re: Uncle Bob

                  Agree - a simple sauce of a reduction of wine and stock, adding some butter, and you're done.

                  Although I also enjoy a cognac cream sauce - I've used this recipe several times at Christmas and love it! (Although my notes for the recipe note that the reduction time needed is WAY more than 20 minutes for the amount of "thin liquid" you're attempting to reduce.)


                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Never had to reduce that much 5 minutes tops for me. Maybe different recipes. Many hundreds of versions out there and many techniques that for sure.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      2 cups of liquid is reduced in 5 minutes? That's then at a temp that's WAY more than a "simmer" as called for in the recipe.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        I may use less broth or wine and yes, I use a higher temp. It has always worked.

                        But as you know, tons of recipes and tons of methods my best friend who owned a restaurant did it this way, so I did, it has always worked, but respect other recipes with out methods. There are so many variations.

                        1. re: kchurchill5

                          My comment re: the reduction time was specifically referring to the 20 minutes in the recipe I linked for the cognac sauce...and that recipe calls for a total of 2 cups of liquid. Even boiling, I don't see how that can be done in 5 minutes - perhaps it can, but I'd think the flavor depth you get from a slower reduction wouldn't be reached.

                          Your comment says "never had to reduce that much 5 minutes tops for me." Does that means you're not spending that much TIME on reduction or not reducing that quantity of liquid? The way I'm reading your follow-up post, you're essentially par-boiling a much, much smaller quantity of the liquid if you're reducing the amount of liquid in 5 minutes or less.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Linda W, I'm lost a bit and I'm sorry. I never spend that much time. Maybe 5 or a bit longer. With just what is in the pan and what I am serving depends on how much of the liquid to add to the pan. I have used 2 cups but I have never simmered, I usually cook a bit hotter but maybe my sauces are thinner. I may have used mushrooms, shallots, a thickening agent, cream. Some times fresh peppers, even spinach, this changes the sauce and how thick one may want it. Never cooked a sauce over 5 maybe 10 tops.

                            But as I said, hundreds of recipes, hundreds of methods. There is no right or wrong.

        3. There are hundreds from using red wines, cab, merlot, brandies, cream, stocks herbs. To me 3-4 ingredients in a sauce in plenty. Sometimes more including herbs but usually something to deglaze, a base sauce and then a flavor and seasoning.

          But as many sauces as there are, there are hundreds of recipes too.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kchurchill5

            I've not had a lot of experience with wine, most of my non- wine sauces turn to out too much like gravy, and while I love gravy, I don't want it on a steak. I've also tried some balsamic recipes and those are coming out too strong for me. I'll try the different wine types you've suggested. thanks

            1. re: Rocky Road

              deglaze 1/2 cup wine per bits, then let reduce, then add maybe shallots or a little garlic or mushrooms then add broth. This will work both for chicken and beef. Then let cook again another few minutes. You will have a nice light sauce with not too much flavor. Cut the alcohol in half if too strong by all means. A few fresh herbs and if you want a dash of cream. A light cream sauce without being gravy.

          2. Shallots, miso paste, red wine
            REduce and strain if so inclined.
            I rarely strain it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jchulley

              I like the idea of miso. Thanks for that.

              1. re: jchulley

                The miso is great forgot that, I don't use it often but a nice flavor.

              2. But why do the sauces sometimes separate and sometimes hold together? What am I doing wrong?

                5 Replies
                1. re: scuzzo

                  Heat, combination of ingredients in certain orders can cause it. Older creams can curdle. What have you had problems with?

                  Bringing sauces with cream to a boil can break. I don't add cream to boiling sauces. I add lemon usually at the end of a sauce once removed from the heat.

                  1. re: kchurchill5

                    If I'm using butter or cream in a pan sauce, I always swirl it in at the very end, off the heat, after I've done all the reducing/taste-testing. No breaking, and it renders a nice, silky sauce. Something I learned in a cooking class eons ago and just do on automatic pilot.

                    Simple pan sauces, such as those discussed in this thread, are one of those kitchen "tricks" that, with minimal effort, can really turn something rather ordinary into something special. And, as others have noted, it's an ideal area for home cooks to cut loose and experiment. Since you've already removed your steak or chop or whatever from the pan, you can't ruin dinner if the sauce doesn't turn out as you'd hoped. Your meat may be plainer than you'd intended, but as long as it's not over- or under-cooked, you've still got something nice to eat.

                    1. re: Old Spice

                      Well put. That's really why I'm trying so hard to make a few good ones. I agree these types of sauces can turn something from ordinary to special.

                      I seem to be doing a lot better with the non-beef pan sauces. I've made some really good ones, but just can't get the beef one down. Like tonight, I did a little red wine sauce with butter in the end, but I think I put too much dijion. It was ok, but not great.

                      I'll just keep practicing so I'm happy with all the little tips everyone is providing.

                      I once saw an Iron Chef episode w/Flay and one judge said something like, "the sauce for the steak does not mask the flavor of the beef but compliments and highlights it" or something to that effect. That's what I'm trying to learn how to do. I'm eating a lot of good stuff with all the

                    2. re: kchurchill5

                      Me also, I have had this conversation before, cream breaks for me when I boil it. Someone said "No way you can boil cream" well not me.
                      Its tricky, and I usually will add a pat of butter or throw several knobs in. I love the glossy richness.

                      As far as reducing wine, I don't really like to reduce it too far, it gets a funky taste to me. I just like to burn the alchohol taste off, then I start building the sauce.
                      The same goes with any reduction. I've tried and and tried, they get way too salty, and then I end up adding water. Sorry I don't get he point. Nice pan sauces can take merely a few minutes.

                      Reduce your alchohol and broth,and shallot I boil it too) strain the shallot out, back in the pot, then I lower the heat, add cream gradually, let it cook for a tad longer. Then add butter, a little at a time, it will begin to thicken and get creamy, then add roquerfort, not too much. Nice. Any fresh herbs need to be finely minced, and added last minute. Great on a filet or the steak of your dreams.

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        Yes, you can boil cream, just have to be careful. I don't do a high boil, but a slow boil, yes you can. I try not to, but have and it does work

                        I don't reduce too far. 5 minutes to simmer is plenty for me. It reduces quite a bit and the flavor gets intense but you don't need long drawn out reductions. 5 minutes from the time I saute the shallots or garlic, etc and then add the wine is plenty for me.

                        More than 5 maybe 6 minutes is plenty for a sauce. I agree.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      That's a good basic article for me to get the foundation going. Thanks for posting it.

                      1. re: Rocky Road

                        One of many sauces are so complex but can be very simple and some simpler are better.

                        Instance, when I make fish. A simple white wine when the fish are pan seared to deglaze, maybe 1/4 cup, then 1/4 cup broth, a little butter and dill, s/p. Not creamy just a glaze, a simple sauce. Grouper, tilapia, cod, haddock

                        Chicken white wine to deglaze, broth, then butter, capers, parsley and then a couple of lemon slices and lemon juice. great over chicken breasts

                        Creamy sherry and mushroom sauce. deglaze with sherry wine, then add sliced mushroom and shallots a little broth and cook until soft, just a couple of minutes. Add cream and fresh tarragon, s/p and just. Again not like grazy but a nice sauce. This is great over pork chops, chicken and pork loin

                        Same goes for red wine and beef broths. You can also make a pan sauce with a little honey dijon, and broth over pork for something sweeter. Don't be stuck with savory dressings.

                        Wine like a white wine to deglaze, then a little chicken broth, then a little current jelly, some fresh rosemary and garlic is great over pork tenderloin. Amazing flavor and so simple. You can also add some shallots to the sauce. It is like a semi thick au jus absolutely great. Also is wonderful over a nice side of wild rice it compliments the entire meal.

                        1. re: kchurchill5

                          Yes, yes, yes! I've actually done versions of your first two (slightly different) over chicken and fish. I like the sound of your cream sauce I was sort of aiming for something along those lines for tonight. I've never done a cream pan sauce so that intrigued me originally but I think I'm going to do the light wine sauce you mentioned before for tonight.

                          1. re: Rocky Road

                            Have fun, basically it is just try. I tried hundreds before I get really what I love and I constantly try new ones. And don't be disappointed if a sauce breaks. I had one break on me 2 weeks ago for dinner. Been making the same sauce for years. It broke, maybe too high heat, maybe bad cream. No idea, so don't get frustrated if you have one that doesn't work. It happens to everyone. Be patient and have fun. Remember, deglaze, base, seasoning and then flavor. But it sounds like you will do just fine

                            1. re: kchurchill5

                              Just to update, I made a great pan sauce today for a pork tenderloin. If you remember, I was really interested in making a cream type sauce because I'd never tried it.

                              I seared the pork tenderloin, added shallots and garlic to the pan with two pats of butter, then about a half cup of white wine, reduced to half, then about half a cup of cream (was worried at first) but that all was well. Finished with butter and Dijon.

                              As many of you have suggested I did not measure most things. I went by a recipe but did it all by taste. The recipe called for more Dijon, cream, and wine than I put, but who cares. It was very good. Thanks for everyone's help.

                              The main thing I learned was to get the base and then taste. Experiment.


                              1. re: Rocky Road

                                Sometimes you have to "play with your food" to get it to a point where making it seems instinctive - you just know what works. Sounds like you done good! :-)

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  I, too, tinker with sauces and generally use, instead of stock, Better Than Bouillon bases or the handy Trader Joe's packets of concentrated chicken or beef base. They are the size of a ketchup packet and have better flavor than BTB, IMO. Very convenient amount for adding to sauces and gravies. Add as much water, wine, or juice as you like. Cream cheese can be subbed for cream and will thicken a too-thin sauce. Apple cider or orange juice are good with pork and chicken. A splash of balsamic vinegar at the end is usually effective if your pan sauce still seems to need a little boost. Never tried it, but I hear that a dash of Thai fish sauce ads umami depth without standing out as fishy. I recently got some dehydrated ingredients from, including shallots and sour cream. These yield excellent results and are practical for me, since I tend to have things in the fridge that I don't use promptly enough.