What It Means To 'Deglaze' Your Pan's 'Fond'

Deglazing your pan's fond is an instruction that might stump the casual home cook while whipping up a recipe. However, it's quite an easy thing to do once you decipher exactly what it means.

Fond is a French term meaning "stock" or "base," and is the technical word for the delicious brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan after you saute an ingredient. It can be the caramelized drippings left behind by onions or the remnants of the Maillard reaction after pan-searing a juicy steak. Even though fond can resemble burnt food stuck to the bottom of your pan, it's best not to discard it, as it's the perfect starting point for a tasty pan sauce or flavorful stock.


Now that you know what fond is, how do you deglaze it? Deglazing is a technique that involves pouring liquid — usually wine, broth, or even water — to your still-hot pan and using a utensil to chip away the fond from the bottom. These bits act as flavor boosters as they swirl and melt into the liquid.

Building a flavorful fond

Although deglazing your pan's fond doesn't require much skill in and of itself, building a flavorful fond to begin with does take a bit of know how. The first step is to use the right cookware. Because the development of an ideal stuck-on fond hinges on the Maillard reaction, it's essential that your ingredients achieve a deep browning. A nonstick coating can interrupt that reaction, so it's best to opt for cast iron pans or stainless steel cookware.


Another tip to achieving a flavorful fond, especially when you're cooking with smaller bits of meat or trimmings, is to add a bit of liquid to your pan. We're not talking about deglazing — remember, that comes later — but actually adding a little water or broth in with the ingredient and bringing everything to a simmer until the liquid evaporates. Doing so will wrench out every last bit of fat and moisture from whatever it is you're cooking. This process encourages a nice browning that rivals the searing method.

Deglaze like a champ

Once your proteins, vegetables, or aromatics are cooked and your fond has developed, it's time to deglaze. It's a fairly straightforward process but there are some best practices to keep in mind to get it just right.


First is the temperature of the pan: In order for the process to work its magic, it's essential that your pan be nice and hot. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to scrape away the fond from the bottom. The pan should smoke and sizzle a bit when you pour in the liquid.

Speaking of liquid, the type you use can have a big impact on the flavor of your final dish. Choose broth for a savory base, wine for a rich flavor, or water for a neutral option that highlights the fond's natural taste. Whatever you do, avoid using milk, cream, or any other dairy products to deglaze your pan. These liquids can curdle when exposed to the high heat. 

The last thing to do is make sure you are using a sturdy tool. It can take some elbow grease to unstick those brown bits, so it's best to go with a wooden spoon or something that will be effective without scratching the pan.