A pan sauce feels like something you might see on a restaurant menu, but it’s actually super easy to make at home! Simple and fast, in the time it takes your steak or chicken to rest, you can turn those drippings into a delicious sauce, no restaurant expertise is required!
What is a Pan Sauce?
Oh how I love a pan sauce! It’s an easy way to ensure that none of the fond (crunchy pan drippings) from seared meat go to waste. Even better…it gives us a way of making that same meat even more amazing with a sauce. Deglaze with liquid – which can be wine, broth, or stock (or a combination). Finish with a little butter to make things rich and crazy delicious.
If you prefer your sauce a bit thicker and creamier, whisk in a little flour and it will get the job done. Spoon that over your steak and try not to dive right in – I dare you.
Restaurant-worthy in minutes
Always take the opportunity to make a pan sauce whenever you’ve cooked something that leaves caramelized bits (called fond) in the pan. Typically, you’d make a it to go with something you’ve just seared, like a steak, chicken thighs, or pork chops, chicken. Whenever you’re searing, a pan sauce should follow.
Many recipes that call for a seared piece of meat will include instructions for a pan sauce, but you don’t need a formal recipe to do so. I’ll walk you through the basic steps below.
Don’t be intimidated by the list of steps – they are super simple. After you’ve made a few pan sauces, you’ll be able to do it from memory and it will become second nature. One of my favorite skills I learned in culinary school was how to make a pan sauce and I’ve made them religiously ever since.
1/4 cup wine* (can replace with stock or broth, if desired)
3/4 cup chicken/beef/vegetable broth, plus extra as needed
2 tablespoons butter or heavy cream
1 teaspoon all purpose flour* (use only if trying to thicken sauce)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Remove the meat from the pan or skillet: Once you’ve finished using your pan to cook the meat, transfer the cooked food to a separate surface. Do not clean the pan. If there’s any left, pour off all but a tablespoon or so of oil or rendered fat from the pan.
Sauté a shallot or ½ an onion (optional): Add enough oil to the pan to make about 1 tablespoon of total fat when combined with the pan drippings. Set the pan over medium-high heat and sauté the shallots until they’ve softened and turned golden, 2 to 3 minutes. If you don’t have (or don’t like!) shallots, you can skip this step and still make a great pan sauce; the shallots deepen the overall flavor of the sauce. Also, see the variations below for more ideas for adding flavor at this stage.
Pour in the wine, broth, or stock: With the pan on medium-high heat, add the liquid. As it simmers, scrape up any crispy browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the liquid by about half: The pan should start to look dry, but just barely.
Pour in additional stock or broth: Pour the stock into the pan and let it come to a simmer.
Reduce the liquid for about 3 to 5 minutes. Again, you don’t need to be precise here; it’s ok to guesstimate. Tilt the pan every so often to gauge how much liquid has evaporated and when it’s reduced by about half, you’re good.
Stir in the butter or cream: Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the butter or cream. Whisk gently until the butter has completely melted.
Whisk in the flour or cornsatarch (optional): For a thicker, creamier sauce, whisk in the cornstarch. Don’t forget to whisk the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water first; this helps prevents clumps. Let the sauce simmer for another few seconds, until thickened.
Taste and adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle the pan sauce over your dish and enjoy! Pan sauces are at their very best when used right away
Looking for more simple weeknight recipes? Check out Recipe Club.