Saturday, July 10, 2010

How to Deglaze a Pan

While I’m no food expert, or even a great cook, I do enjoy a good gravy, and I HATE to waste food! Deglazing is not only a delicious but economical way to pick a pan clean. This process involves using the bits of meat and juices that remain in the bottom of a cooking pan to create tasty and natural gravy. The techniques involved in deglazing can be as simple or as extravagant as you want. While I’m still a novice at the technique, here are a few things I’ve picked up so far that you might be interested in hearing.

Let’s start with the basics. Some of the best gravy I’ve ever tasted has been completely natural, using only the bits of meat, skin, and juices left from a cooked bird or a roast. Adding a little water during the cooking process can help to ensure that there is enough juice to work with and that the bits of meat that have adhered to the bottom of the pan are moist. Water can also be added once the meat has been removed and the gravy gently brought to a boil.

Health nuts out there may recommend attempting to remove any fat or bits of meat from the mixture before serving. In many cases though, dishes such as duck, goose or large roasts are most often prepared around the holidays and one should be ready to indulge. However, if you are adamant about watching your waistline, then straining out all the good stuff is always an option. The remaining gravy will probably still have more natural flavor than store bought, although it may not be quite as thick.

There are plenty of variations to deglazing a pan. Some people like to add a stock of some sort, possibly beef, chicken, fish or vegetable. Still others choose to flavor with wine, cider, brandy, or assorted fruit juice or alcohol. As a safety side note, if you decide to use straight alcohol, make sure to remove the pan from an open flame before adding. One might also select from a variety of herbs and seasonings including, garlic, salt, basil, oregano, fennel, rosemary, etc. or any combination thereof.

Smaller dishes, such as filets and cutlets, and all types of meats including fish, chicken, steak, pork, and even vegetables can be deglazed. One trick to deglazing just about anything is making sure you use a pan in which bits of meat will adhere to the bottom.
This can ensure you have a little something to work with for your deglazing process. Another key element in the deglazing process is ensuring that you don’t overcook the meat, thus evaporating the meat’s juices and oils, which are essential to producing the flavor rich stock with which to make your gravy. Sometimes, giving the meat a slight basting while still cooking, will ensure some of the meat’s juices seep to the bottom of the pan.

If, upon checking the status of your gravy while heating, you find it is not thick enough for your liking, there are several options. One of these options consists of using a mixture of fat from the drippings of the meat and butter as a thickener. Another is to use butter mixed with flour. Probably the most effective technique though, is mixing a little cornstarch with a bit of cold water and stirring it into the gravy until you have the consistency you are looking for. If your gravy becomes lumpy, you can always toss it in the blender or hit is with the hand mixer when no one is looking. Your gravy is then ready either to be served in a separate serving dish for individual portions or drizzled over the meat itself, thus enhancing the overall flavor of the meal.

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