On Monday I briefly mentioned deglazing, but I didn’t really talk about what it was or why you’d do it. Deglazing is a technique for removing dried, burnt bits of food from the bottom of a pot or pan. The process is fairly simple. You take a small amount of liquid (half a cup or more) to the pan while it’s still hot to boil those pieces off along with scraping with a metal or wooden utensil. Eventually you’ll be left with a dark, somewhat thick “juice” and a slightly cleaner pan.
This may seem a bit odd for someone who’s never heard of it. Ordinarily, we associate burning with bad taste and something to be avoided. Deglazing, however, has the effect of extracting strong flavor from this otherwise-useless cooking by-product. They often serve as the foundation for gravies and pan sauces; a thinner kind of sauce (those bits are often called “fonds”, French for “base” or “foundation”). They can add a stronger presence of flavor richness.
Deglazing is often done after sauteing or searing beef or chicken in non-non-stick pan (is there a better way to say that?). You can’t really get much deglazing with non-stick, unfortunately, or it wouldn’t really be doing its job. Next time you’re watching a cooking show, check out the hardware. Many chefs value this culinary ambrosia and therefore prefer non-stick. Roasting pans are also excellent candidates for this, albeit a bit more difficult to work with. Any liquid can be used, though the most common choices are water, stock and wine. Of course, if the liquid has flavor it will effect the end result of your sauce base, so take a moment before making your decision. Often, for example, you’ll see red wine being used with beef-based dishes.
So, next time you’re looking down at a blacked pan in disgust, remember the power of deglazing!