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When the recipe says, "Simmer until liquid is reduced by about half..."

...how do you know when you've reached that point? I generally take a ruler, stick it into the pot to measure the depth of the sauce, then simmer until it's about half that depth. But surely there are other ways. How do you typically do it?

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  1. Most of the time, I measure the liquid before I start simmering then guessimate that the amount reduced is about right.

        1. re: foodieX2

          Definitely me as well. I just eyeball it and taste it.

          1. re: chefathome

            Me, too. If it's very shallow, I might tip the pan to see better how much it might measure, otherwise, I make a note of how high up on the side it is. Tasting for concentration is key, too.

      1. All of those tips and I'm looking for the actual consistency of the reduction. The back of the spoon coat or a syrupy consistency depending on the type of reduction. If the point is to concentrate flavors or develop a syrup or glaze the spoon coat test works.

        1. I guess at it. Or simply decide that it's ready when I'm bored watching it reduce.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Harters

            Ha! Boredom is what usually gets me cooking.

          2. Disposable wooden chopsticks were made for this! I dip it in the pot, remove and make a mark at the starting point. Very easy to see how much as reduced this way.

            4 Replies
            1. re: meatn3

              Mostly I taste test, but this chopstick idea is excellent.

              1. re: meatn3

                I use a skewer.

                I stick it into the full volume of liquid in the pan, remove it, then eyeball halfway down the wet part of the skewer, and bend the skewer at that point. That marks the level where I want to end up. To check how far along the reduction is, I straighten out the skewer, and stick it back into the liquid to see if the level is close to the mark or not.

                I only do this when when it's important I get it right -- like when I'm reducing a large quantity of cheap balsamic to make a balsamic reduction I keep in a squirt bottle. I reduce to a third of the original volume for that.

                1. re: meatn3

                  I LIKE that idea! Or even a bamboo skewer.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    I have some cookware with dark interiors which makes judging depth tricky. For much of my cooking this isn't necessary but it is handy for the times you need more precision!

                    I tried to get my Chinese take-out place not to give me chopsticks, soy sauce, etc. It morphed into "no sauce" and my order was delivered meat & veg. with no sauce...After that I gave up and am happy to be able to put the chopsticks to a good use!

                2. I go by thickness or the coating of the back of a spoon.....

                  1. If you use the appropriate size pan it should be easy. Reduced by half is half and should show you it it is reduced by half. If it's a Dutch oven type and you have to reduce by half. Just keep an eye on it. This chopstick stuff is a bunch of nonsense if you ask me. I try not to over think this type of kitchen Dilemma.

                    1. Your sauces will thicken, fruits and jams and milk pudding concoctions will coat the back of a spoon. Hope this helps.

                        1. I mostly do it by eyeballs (just estimate). In reality, most recipes are based on estimations anyway. It isn't like the author tried to reduced by a factor of 1.5, 2, and 3, and found out that 2-fold is better than the others.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                            I look in the pot, see how far it comes up on the pot side, then cook until it's half that height. I don't worry about being precise or exact.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              +2 -- it's just not that exact a science -- so I go by estimation and by looking at the sauce -- is it thickened a little? Is it beginning to look like sauce? And I taste--- which is usually the final test.

                            2. I dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the liquid I'm reducing, note the depth and mark half that with a scratch of my fingernail, or just make a mental note of what half the depth is. Actually I only do this when the reduced quantity is integral to the finished dish, otherwise I eyeball it. Like making balsamic vinegar glaze, in which case the vinegar stains the handle end so it's easy to tell when the vinegar is half reduced.

                              1. Unless you are doing some aggressive stirring there is usually a residule ring around the pot from where the liquid started out. It easy to judge from there when you've reached half

                                1. If it's a not a large amount of liquid, I pour it into my pyrex measuring cup and boil it down in the microwave. I use Rose Levy Berenbaum's apple pie recipe, which calls for macerating the apples with sugar and boiling down the exuded juices and this method works great, and I don't have to worry about burning the liquid.