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Simple Pan Sauce

  • Author: Kelsey Nixon


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or pan drippings)
  • 1 whole shallot, minced (optional)

  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Reduce the liquid by about half: The pan should start to look dry, but just barely.

  5. Pour in additional stock or broth: Pour the stock into the pan and let it come to a simmer.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper to taste.

  10. Drizzle the pan sauce over your dish and enjoy! Pan sauces are at their very best when used right away