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Making a pan reduction sauce

I know the main way of making a sauce out of some pan meat residue is to first deglaze with either white or red wine (depending on the protein you're using), however, I want to make sure the sauce i make is nice and thick (like a gravy). But that would require me making a roux.

My question is - can i do both without disaster? Was thinking i first deglaze with wine (just a bit), then add butter, let it melt and then add flour? Will this work?

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  1. This may just be semantics, but I think what you really want is "gravy" rather than "sauce." There must be a gazillion versions but here's one that popped up on a quick google:


    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      ha, well i wanted something in between a sauce and a gravy (a grauce? sravy?)

    2. You can thicken your pan sauce with a cornstarch slurry or xanthan gum.

      1. You're close. Sure you can use a roux. Just one thing: Make the roux separately. I follow Escoffiers method. Six parts flour to five parts clarified butter. Very low heat to keep the roux white. Brown roux and red wine makes for a 'muddy' looking sauce. The slight difference in these ingredients really do make a difference. So does using clarified butter b/c milk solids in table butter can scorch plus the taste the milk solids impart are not always welcome. If you are making a small amount of sauce just use 1/2t measurements for the roux. You are looking for a 'sandy' texture for the roux. Next part is very important. Make sure the roux is good and cold before adding it to the deglazed liquid. Stir stir stir!
        Classically you would add ALL the deglazed liquid into a pot containing the little ball of cold roux at once. Then stir like mad. (Not dribbling it in otherwise you could end up with a paste needing extra hot liquid in a hurry. But that's risky unless you know how much roux to deglazed liquid. So just add the cold roux a bit at a time while constantly stirring until you have the consistency you like. Lap with a pat of cold clarified butter.
        Hope that helps.

        1. Would it work - yes . . . but there could be better ways.

          If you want this type of "sauce/gravy" I'd probably add the butter, then flour, then deglaze to make sure the raw flour taste cooks out and you don't get random flour clumps.

          Another option is a "beurre manie". For some magical reason, kneading together butter and flour eliminates the raw flour flavor and stops clumping. So you would knead together butter and flour (equal proportions), deglaze with wine/stock/whatever you want in your sauce - then whisk in the butter/flour mixture to thicken.

          Some really rich pan sauces are made with home-made stocks (store bought will never do this for you). But deglazed with wine, then stock added and allowed to reduce. As the homemade stock reduces it thickens naturally.

          Lastly, another option is the one the freaks most home cooks out when they "learn the secrets" of those restaurant sauces - finished with lots of butter. Deglaze, add some stock if needed, reduce heat - swirl in butter to finish (sometimes lots of butter but oh so good and thick).

          If you're trying to recreate a specific sauce you've had, the other thing to keep in mind is that any of the "flour" solutions result in a "cloudy" sauce. The clear sauces are more typically reduced stocks and or butter thickened (though using something like arrowroot can get you a clear sauce, though slightly different in texture)

          6 Replies
          1. re: thimes

            thanks so much! this is super helpful!

            1. re: thimes

              follow up question. in your note about the 'homemade stock thickening naturally' - are you basically saying that I don't need a roux to make it a thick sauce? that was sort of the underlying question, I suppose.

              1. re: cryssy

                If you don't use a roux or some other thickening agent what you'll end up with is some wine and deglazing liquid. To make it 'gravy like' enough feed a fly you'll need a lot of it reduced. If making a roux is too much trouble go buy a can of gravy.

                1. re: cryssy

                  Depending on what you are making the gravy or sauce from, the thickening agent may be already in the drippings. Did you brown a chicken breast that was coated with flour? If so, you can just deglaze with the wine, bring up to a high temp, then lower and let thicken. (As in Marsala) Same with stew meat. I use Wondra (superfine flour) for thickening when necessary. Sprinkle it in a bit at a time, whisk furiously to combine, no clumps, no raw flour taste.

                  1. re: cryssy

                    I think it all depends on what a "thick sauce" really means - I know side stepping a little. Without knowing the criteria for a "thick sauce" it is hard to answer.

                    Can you make a sauce based on pan drippings and essentially a "demi-glace" (term used loosely) finished with butter - yes - will it be "thick" enough to not seem like broth and be recognized as a sauce - yes - will it be as thick as a flour based gravy - no.

                    There is a great sauce that I learned years ago (Eric Ripert - just to give credit where credit is due) which is essentially reduced sherry vinegar and port, finished by swirling in a fair amount of butter. It makes a very excellent sauce. You can spoon it around a plate like a sauce. It has no flour, no starch, no stock but it gets it thickness from the butter (and reduced port which thickens because of sugar content I'm pretty sure but don't quote me on that one) - so yes there are lots of ways to make a sauce without starch (or stocks) but they will never be as thick as a starch thickened gravy.

                    So it isn't a super simple answer.

                  2. re: thimes

                    Another option - sprinkle Wondra instantized flour, which does not clump, into the deglazed liquid. In this case, butter or other added fats are optional.

                    By the way, deglazing with wine is good because alcohol enables flavor compounds to be tasted which would not be detected without interaction with alcohol. The flavors remain even after the alcohol evaporates. Beer and other alcohols will serve the same function. But you can certainly deglaze with other liquids, anything from water to juice to broth to dairy.

                  3. I will usually make a slurry of tapioca starch or arrowroot and a little stock or wine from the fridge and dump that in. Less effort than flour, and it provides a less cloudy sauce.

                    1. My basic gravy is 2T of pan drippings (sometimes needs to be supplemented) with 2T of flour. Roux-it and then add 2C of stock. S&P. Super easy and always successful and good.

                      1. If you are careful with your heat and your pan residue isn't too liquidy, you can probably just build the roux on top of the drippings. Throw in a couple of pats of butter, let them melt, then add the flour and cook it for a minute. You'll probably end up scraping up most of the fond by doing this anyway, and whatever you don't get will come up when you add the liquid to turn the sauce into gravy.

                        However, if you want to use wine, that's another ball of wax. You'll want the wine to have some time in contact with the hot pan, so the alcohol evaporates - otherwise you'll end up with a sauce that tastes of raw wine.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: biondanonima

                          this was what my original plan was. Thanks!

                          1. re: biondanonima

                            I do what you describe for "gravy." Tonight I'll do a little pan sauce for fish and will use a little white wine. Different animals as far as I'm concerned.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              There are some differences in the finished dish depending on whether you use corn starch/arrowroot(genuine)/tapioca flower/potato flower. IMO the last one I'd use in a 'gravy' is arrowroot. It will make the 'gravy' appear slimy/shiny/watery.
                              When I make a 'gravy' I want it to be silky and smooth but not 'see-through' like arrowroot makes.
                              I'll stick with Escoffier's roux.

                          2. If you do want a 'reduction sauce', one way to do it is to add your wine to the pan drippings, cook that down till it's almost gone, then add cream and cook a bit to thicken it up. Add a little butter, and you're good to go.

                            1. I just spotted this topic, and thimes has excellently captured the key principles and options. Ought to be permanently posted as an FAQ somewhere.

                              Don't get stuck on habits like roux, there is much more to the world of good pan sauces. Beurre manie is good to know about, but especially the flourless sauce options. And you don't need cream. It has its place, it was habitually used in past generations, but its natural sweetness can deaden flavors somewhat.

                              Not just Gault, Millau, & Co. with their fashionable "nouvelle cuisine" a few decades ago, but G. A. Escoffier, late in his career (post- "Guide Culinaire"), and even A. B. L. Grimod de la Reynière (almost 200 years ago), advocated moving away from sauces thickened by starches. It is liberating. Many a memorable restaurant sauce was built on a pan reduction with wine(s) and/or stock (homemade! unsalted!!!) cooked down until syrupy, then good (fresh! unsalted!) butter swirled in.

                              But thimes has already said this here, better.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: eatzalot

                                i think of flour in "sauces" as either very old school or lazy.

                                roux has its place in dishes like gumbo, but it's not something better chefs use much anymore.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  I agree that the use of a roux in sauces isn't as fashionable as it used to be. I would however be careful of using the term "better chefs". "Better chefs" know when and when not to use a simple reduction or a roux.
                                  Dishes with a 'Sauce Batarde', Sauce Espagnole, Sauce Bechamel, Sauce au Beurre etc are hardly made by "lazy" chefs. The opposite is true IMO.
                                  When you order the 'Truite Saumonee Froide sur Mousse de Tomatoes' the chef had better have added the 'Sauce Veloute'! LOL

                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                    I wish more people made Sauce Espagnole. It is my favourite thing in the world and not for the light of heart. Flour used as a shortcut might be considered lazy but when it is present to add depth of flavour and consistency it is wonderful. A turkey gravy is far better than a turkey'jus', IMHO.

                                    1. re: DowntownJosie

                                      Espagnole or Spanish sauce (IIRC, when Anne of Austria married into the French monarchy she brought Spanish cooks, whence that name) is thickened with dextrin -- the whole point of making roux or otherwise cooking starch in fat. Roux has become familiar in US cooking culture, but the principles behind it less so.

                                      Dextrin is a cheap, easily available vegetable gum, obtained by cooking starch in fat or otherwise, without water. (Dextrin also is the traditional base for postage-stamp and envelope gum.) Other, pricier, vegetable gums become fashionable, but dextrin remains ubiquitous.

                                      The interesting intersection here with Espagnole is that dextrin is a close cousin to gelatine in its effect on sauces. So reduced meat stocks, with their concentrated natural gelatine, when combined with butter in flourless reduction sauces, have similar texture to Espagnole (which itself also contains some gelatine and butter).

                                      Flour is a commonplace, but BY NO MEANS necessary, source of the starch, hence dextrin, in a roux. In fact, while some people who cite him are unaware of this, Escoffier himself in the Guide Culinaire preferred purer vegetable starches. Wheat flour's additional nitrogenous components (gluten, etc.), valuable for making bread, become insoluble impurities in dextrin sauces, whose removal is part of the ritualized skimming in Espagnole recipes.

                                      You can easily make your own dextrin in bulk from any dry starches like flour or, preferably, corn or potato starch:


                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                        Thank you. I think I am more confused. I thought I liked the science of cooking but this might be a bit intense for me. I am impressed.

                                    2. re: Puffin3

                                      i said it has its place, did i not?

                                      but when was the last time you saw "sauce batarde" on a menu?

                                2. Agree with all the foregoing posts. My choice varies between roux for heavier dishes, corn starch or xanthan for lighter dishes and a translucent sauce, or Wondra flour which is somewhere between the two.

                                  1. In my experience, pan sauces do not use flour, roux, etc.,
                                    for thickening - that is accomplished through reduction and
                                    the addition of butter. There are two drawbacks to this
                                    method - 1) it can take some time and 2) reducing
                                    concentrates the salt in commercial stocks rendering the
                                    final sauce too salty. When I was in my "pan sauce"
                                    phase, I made my own salt-free stocks, reduced them to
                                    a demi-glace and froze them in ice cube trays so I could throw a few into the pan after deglazing. Some work
                                    involved but we always felt it was worth the effort and using
                                    the demi-glace cut the reduction time for the finished sauce.
                                    There are some commercial demi-glaces like More than
                                    Gourmet available.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ferventfoodie

                                      Stocks already salted are essentially useless for any reduction, which is why I and other serious home cooks I know (not to mention professionals) have long reserved the salt, if any, for the finished dish, and made and kept only unsalted stocks.

                                      In my obsessive tests over recent decades, which have included absolutely every available commercial stock and "demi-glace base" (the latter incidentally often built, yet again, on dextrin, see earlier "Espagnole" post above, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9238... ) since 1980 or so, the best commercial UNsalted meat stocks widely available in the US, by far, have been Kitchen Basics brand (KB), sold in aseptic ("brick") cartons at room temperature.

                                      To make strong meat stock for home use, I save all scraps and bones from cooked or raw poultry and pork, frozen, tightly sealed in ziploc to exclude air. Once I have enough scraps, I cover the frozen scraps with KB unsalted chicken stock (appropriate vegetable scraps an optional addition, but not fundamental) and simmer very gently at least eight hours, often overnight. Strained, this yields a strong double stock with ample gelatine, all unsalted except for any incidental seasonings on the scraps. Can be kept frozen in portions, sealed, for years. Absent KB starter stock, I use water.

                                      A serious batch of bones and other scraps, processed this way and with the liquid strained out, can yield a "second pressing" of lighter but still useful gelatined stock by adding more water or starter stock and simmering again, preferably longer like 24-36 hours (per an old chefs' ritual once written up by one of the famous ones, Diat I think). That extracts most of the remaining flavor and gelatine.

                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                        I'm with you on all you say. I do have one question though. I have this notion that 'the first pressing' if you wish, of the scraps should be simmered for perhaps only a hour or so then set aside yielding a 'brighter' albeit 'thinner' flavor which is then reduced. Then cold water is added and a 'second pressing' of the scraps is simmered for, as you prescribe, a much longer time simmered.
                                        I may have read about this many years ago.
                                        What do you think?
                                        Regarding 'dextrin' I'll point out that the whole point in making a roux is to use only 'dextrin and fat. That's why using clarified butter is so important. Using 'table butter' only adds water to the party and essentially ruins any roux. Same with driving off any moisture in the flour.

                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                          Table butter is an issue in a roux at least as much for its other, milk-related trace content (the stuff that browns in "brown butter") as for moisture. Powdered starches also naturally contain some water, it comes off early while making roux (it's what foams), or when roasting starch to dextrin (more in my 2010 "Roux on the Fly" topic linked earlier).

                                          You can extract meat scraps as briefly or as long as you like. Brief extractions preserve some of the subtler volatile aromas, but bring out much less gelatine. Since I am interested in making things like soups and reduction sauces, which will be cooked further anyway, I do a longer extraction. It still ends up with significant flavor subtleties, e.g. the roasted flavors in roast chicken or turkey scraps.

                                          None of this is a matter of ritual or received dogma (from Escoffier or anyone else), it is a bunch of principles that anyone can and should experiment with if they are interested.