Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jun 13, 2013 02:43 AM

Reduction order of a sauce really matter?

A lot of pan sauces typically say,after cooking the meat or chicken to deglaze the pan with wine, reduce by X amount then add other liquid usually stock. Then usually reduce again.

Since all you are doing is evaporating water and burning off alcohol and concentrating flavors, dose it really matter which one goes in first if you reduce to the same quantity at the end?

In other words, how is a cup of wine reduced down to 1/4 add any more flavor then the same cup reduced to 1/2 cup? You could say well its more concentrated, but not if you are adding another liquid which dilutes it back up.

I just cant get this conceptually right in my head. I am sure there is a good reason.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Your adding another liquid, stock, with a different flavor profile. Wine for intensity and depth of the fruit and stock for adding the flavor like chic or beef in addition to adding liquid volume to the sauce.

    1. You'll burn off more alcohol if you reduce the alcohol first then add stock.

      3 Replies
      1. re: joonjoon

        You need the alcohol to dissolve flavor components in the fond or whatever is temaining in your pan which is why it's added first

        Alcohol dissolves flavor components that water can't. That's a big reason why it's called for in pan sauces.

        1. re: joonjoon

          This is why the order is what it is. You reduce the wine and eliminate most of the alcohol. You can smell it evaporating. If you did the reverse, the flavor of the alcohol would be more pronounced. Less alcohol will evaporate if you add a large amount of liquid before reducing the wine. That's the chemistry.

          1. re: Bkeats

            It's not about evaporating the alcohol. It's about allowing the alcohol to do its magic without dilution.

        2. Deglazing a really hot skillet with wine can burn the sugars in wine (same with stock) so a little water first to dissolve the fond and cool off the pan before adding the vino. Also, as noted elsewhere, some flavor components (esters, I think) are soluble in alcohol, not water, so reducing the alcohol more slowly gives it a chance to do its work.

          1. Kenji over at SeriousEats did a whole food lab on this very question (and sauce reduction in general). He goes into the science behind why it is better to first reduce the alcohol and then add additional liquid such as stock, water, etc.


            1 Reply
            1. re: kmcarr

              I read this article a while ago and now always add wine and let it simmer and then any other liquid.

            2. Additionally, you end up with a sauce that is not only more concentrated with more complex flavors, often it is not so watery (especially if you make an emulsion by gradually whisking in cold butter).