TWO Magical Red Wine Pan Sauce Recipes. For Any Meat.

Right now, at this very moment you’re going to learn how to make an easy pan sauce that you can use for chicken, pork or beef. You will be a rock star and people will revere you. Unless they are vegans. All you need is butter, broth, shallots, wine and a hunk of meat.. And honestly, the shallots are kind of optional based on whether you have any.

Medium rare steak sliced, on a pewter plate with a red wine pan sauce drizzled over top.

A basic red wine pan sauce was the thing I really wanted to know how to make when I was first learning to cook.  It takes a meal from homemade to restaurant quality in 5 minutes flat.  O.K. – maybe 7 minutes. But you get the idea; a pan sauce is fast, delicious and will disguise any piece of meat you’ve overcooked to oblivion.

I spent a few years asking people who I thought knew how to cook, how to make a delicious pan sauce. The answers went mainly like this “Oh just add some liquid to the pan and reduce it.”. Yeah, um … what kind of liquid? How much liquid? Reduce it by how much? 

For three years I walked around in a fog, with the big sad eyes of a child lost at the mall, without her mother’s credit card. There had to be a way to make a pan sauce like the ones I’d tasted in restaurants. I mean of course there was … but where WAS this magical recipe?

I’ll tell you where. It was in basically every basic cookbook in the world. 

Truth is, it’s not that much harder than adding some liquid to a pan and reducing it. 

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

Simple Pan Sauce

Ingredients:

Alcohol (wine, beer, whiskey)

Broth (beef or chicken)

Butter

A grid of simple pan sauce ingredients including red wine, chicken broth and butter.

With a super simple pan sauce all you need is a deglazing agent (your booze usually), some broth and butter.  Deglaze your pan with a little wine or beer, then add equal parts of booze and broth.  Cook until it’s reduced by half, remove from heat and stir in some butter to give the sauce a glossy, velvety finish. (don’t forget to add a bit of salt and pepper to taste)

O.K., so that’s a pan sauce for when you’re in a HUGE hurry or just don’t have the other ingredients. 


Now if you have a little more time and a few more ingredients (like seriously this will only take another 5 minutes which includes searching for the other ingredients and chopping them), you can make an even better pan sauce.

 

Better Pan Sauce

A grid of a ingredients for a more complex pan sauce including wine, broth, thyme, brown sugar, a shallot and butter.

Ingredients

Alcohol (wine, beer, whiskey)

Broth (beef or chicken)

Thyme

Brown sugar

Shallot (minced)

Butter

A pewter plate served with mashed potatoes, sliced squash and a tenderloin steak with pan sauce drizzled over it.

Method:

You’re going to take your hunk of meat and fry that sucker up in a cast iron pan. This is not negotiable. You need to start using your cast iron pans. The more you use them the more nonstick they become.

If you haven’t read my post on how to clean up and season a cast iron pan, it’ll help you overcome your cast iron fear. 

Flipping a cooking steak with tongs in a cast iron pan.

See how the steak has developed a crust? You need a hot pan to achieve that. Cast iron is perfect for that.

Once the meat is cooked you’ll cook up some shallots (which automatically makes you seem like a very legitimate cook just based on the resulting smell of your kitchen).

 

Sautéing minced shallots in steak drippings in cast iron pan.

Deglaze the bottom of your pan (which is fancy talk for using a liquid to help release the browned bits of fond (meat) stuck to the bottom of the pan). 

 

Deglazing the fond in a cast iron pan with chicken broth.

Add the rest of your ingredients and let it bubble away until it’s reduced by half. You’ll start with 1 cup total of liquid and reduce it until it’s 1/2 cup.  Obviously if you’re serving a whole party of people, you’re going to want to double or triple the recipe.

Pouring 1/2 cup of red wine into a small cast iron pan to make a sauce.

Keep an eye on it because it doesn’t take long for it to reduce. A few minutes is all it takes.

Reducing a pan sauce in a skillet.

Once it’s reduced, the important part happens. Whisking in the cold butter which gives the sauce a velvety texture due to the copious amount of fat in butter. 

Whisking butter into a pan sauce being made in a cast iron skillet.

Serve over, on and with meat. Or just eat all of the sauce out of the pan … your choice. For sure you can lick the pan, just maybe wait for it to cool off first.

 

Pan Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: French
Keyword: pan sauce
Servings: 2
Calories: 243kcal
Author: Karen Bertelsen

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil.
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth Low Sodium
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar add more or less to taste
  • 2 Tbsps. unsalted butter chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme rub the leaves between your fingers before adding to release aromatics.
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pan fry any meat (in this case tenderloin steak) in a cast iron pan. Remove the meat when it's done and do NOT clean the pan for the love of all that is holy.  Leave it. That's the fond and it's VERY important for flavour.
  • Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in skillet over medium. Add your minced shallot and cook until shallot is softened (about 2 minutes.)
  • Deglaze the bottom of the pan with a bit of broth or red wine.  Just add enough to the hot pan to release the fond stuck to the bottom of the pan. That's the good stuff with all the flavour of your meat. The deglazing agent will bubble away violently, so get ready to loosen the fond at the bottom of the pan immediately.
  • Once deglazed, add the rest of your broth, wine, thyme and brown sugar.
  • Finish by whisking in chilled butter.
  • Serve over, on and with meat. Or just eat all of the sauce out of the pan ... your choice. For sure you can lick the pan, just maybe wait for it to cool off first.

Notes

For a white wine, or beer pan sauce you can just swap out the red wine for either one.
For a whiskey sauce, instead of using 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup of wine to broth, use 1/4 cup and 3/4 cup of whiskey to broth. 
If you're missing the thyme or shallot, don't worry about it. Just soldier on!

Nutrition

Calories: 243kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 222mg | Potassium: 165mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 486IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Can this be made so it’s vegetarian?  Kind of! If you want to make a VEGETARIAN pan sauce then roast or pan fry some carrots, onions, and celery until a fond develops on the bottom of the pan then continue as the recipe states, substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

I don’t have thyme. Now what?  No problem. Just omit it. Or add other herbs like parsley, oregano or rosemary. (easy on the rosemary because it can be overpowering)

Do I have to use low sodium broth? It’s gross. Yes! You really do. When you reduce the sauce by half, you’re only evaporating the liquid. The salt stays. That means once the sauce is reduced it contains twice as much salt per spoonful as it did when you started. That’s also why unsalted butter is important.

There you go. You’re now officially ready to answer when some new cook asks you “how do you make a pan sauce”. You must add some liquid to the pan and reduce it. ;)

 

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A pan sauce! OoOOO! Fancy! Not really. It\'s just broth, wine and butter at its most basic. I\'ve got 2 recipes for you, one easy one EASIER that\'ll forever be your meat\'s best friend.

28 Comments

  1. Bronwyn David says:

    Made it. Loved it.

  2. Tori says:

    Sometimes, I put in some jam after I deglaze and before the stock. Yum.

  3. Barb says:

    I do this all the time! The hubs turns his nose up at pan sauces( he with the taste for overdone shoe leather but he’s worth it) which is okay because it makes more for me!
    I do have a concern though- your serving ware looks like it might be pewter, which is an alloy of tin and several other metals including lead, especially in older pewter.If a pewter is taking a dull grayish-black tarnish that suggests some lead. Also, it might be possible to draw a light mark with the metal like a pencil. I’d hate to lose my favourite blog!!

  4. Elaine says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Karen. I’m not much of a cook and any trick I can whip up that makes my meals look ‘fancier’ and tastier is welcome in my kitchen. I live in a condo so no longer barbecue but miss a good steak. Do you cook steaks for yourself in your skillet? I remember the great meals my mother did in her iron skillet. I have arthritic wrists and also remember the weight of hers but if I thought a steak could turn out tasty in an iron skillet, maybe I could buy a smaller (thus, lighter) pan for myself.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elaine. I cook steak in my cast iron skillet almost exclusively. Even in the summer when I could easily be barbecuing. The pan gets a much better sear and crust on the steak. :) Plus … that’s how you can do the pan sauce. The pans are heavy! But a medium sized one isn’t too bad, and there are larger ones that have handles on both sides of the pan so your one wrist isn’t taking all of the weight. ~ karen!

  5. Joanne Mercieca says:

    So, I’ve tried grilling in my cast iron pan on my gas stove and it does a nice job – my question is how on earth do you clean up all the splatter that goes all over the stove, counter, floor etc?

  6. marilyn majalca says:

    Love my cast iron! Thanks for the recipe.

  7. Carrie Anne says:

    Yummmmm!
    Just bought some beautiful porter house steaks today!
    It’s meant to be. I must give this a try but now I have to go back out for low sodium broth and dig out my Dads cast iron pans…
    Oh well,I’m sure it’ll be worth it.
    Thanks Karen😊

  8. Vikki says:

    If I could only have 1 pan in my kitchen, it would be a cast iron one. Recently, I was talked into getting an electric “glass top” range—I’ll never do that again!! The manual says I can’t use cast iron cookware on it. Now, nothing tastes as good.

    • Nicole says:

      I’ve used cast iron skillets on a glass top range for years. Just be careful because the cast iron skillets are so heavy and can easily crack the glass top.

      I also read that you can’t use a canner on a glass top range but . . . again, did it for years.

  9. Cheverly Long says:

    That’s the weirdest looking wine glass I’ve ever seen! ;) I’m really glad you added the link to the cast iron post because I’ve been having some weirdness with mine (probably all my fault).

    Also, you’ll have to let Betty know that I saw she liked my comment on your last Instagram post and I had a squealing fan girl moment that was pretty embarrassing. Apparently “reducing grown ass woman to ridiculous fits” is another tick mark off her life achievement list.

  10. LeeAnne Bloye says:

    Hi Karen,
    Two questions if I may? The directions say to put a bit of the red wine to deglaze, then add the rest. Is there a reason to add only a little at first? Would the frond not still flavour the sauce if it were all poured in at once? Or is this done to protect the pan from the shock of temp change?

    Also, thanks for doing the post about cast iron care. It was your post that made me brave enough to buy cast iron – never looking back. Kind of ruined the look of it by leaving melted (salted) butter in it for a few days. Won’t even try to explain how that happened. Don’t suppose there is a fix for that? It still works perfectly just looks a like it has a scar.

    Whoops I can’t count.

    • Margaret K. says:

      I think the instructions to just put a little liquid in are for 2 reasons. You want to be able to see the fond as you move your spatula around, so you can scrape in the right places to get it unstuck from the pan. And you don’t want a lot of extra liquid sloshing around as you scrape – just enough for the fond to float off in.
      The practice of adding liquid ingredients slowly to dry ingredients and vice versa probably doesn’t apply here, as the fond isn’t going to agglomerate in the liquid no matter how you add it.

  11. Eileen says:

    I’m definitely trying this. Thanks for having the recipe in a printable form. Very helpful.

  12. Peggy Marchesani says:

    Good one, Karen! One of my favorites de-glazers is balsamic vinegar. Try slicing your next pork tenderloin into 10-12 slices and sear it in your lovely iron skillet, and while it’s resting from a quick sear (maybe :2 / side), sauté your shallot & garlic and add a cup of balsamic, 1 ½ tsp sugar, 1 tsp fresh rosemary, 1 tsp dijon mustard, a sprinkle of thyme, and reduce it all by half. As much as I love a good piece of beef, this is heaven on a plate!

  13. Muff Hackett says:

    Another trick for making a vegetarian version is to brown mushrooms in the pan before the mirepoix step – the Miami effect from the mushrooms adds a wonderful brown flavor (and let’s face it, for my money, browned mushrooms go with anything – even a little black dress and perfect matching shoes and bag!)

  14. Coot says:

    You can covert the sauce to vegetarian by removing the chicken/beef/fish stock(as the basis for the sauce) and replacing it with vegetable stock, alongside substituting the fond for a mirepoix (A mixture of diced onions, carrots, and celery) alongside other aromatics. Id do something like this

    1. Pre heat pan to medium high, oil, saute mirepoix and a mixture of garlic/shallots, alongside other herbs, depending on the flavors you’re looking to acheive, for about 30/ forty five seconds.

    2. Deglaze your pan with some wine(Id just a white wine for a vegetarian/vegan/whatever sauce as the crisper lighter flavor will pair better, rather than a dryer red wine that mixes better with red meat and pork), cook off a good portion of the wine, until a slight bit remains.

    3. Add your veg stock, reduce liquid by half.

    4. Cut the heat and slowly stir in nickel sized chunks of butter until the sauce takes on the thickness and desired glaze.

    Optional, Strain sauce through a chinois for a clearer sauce.

    2. Deglace the mixture

  15. wanda loken says:

    Haven’t tried this yet but I am anxious to try it!!! It sounds fabulous!!

  16. pat says:

    I ate it right out of the pan. After the steak was gone. Too good!!!

  17. Dana says:

    This is delicious. I used dry thyme (because I am poor, or maybe because I spent all my money on wine…) and it turned out very good. The only thing is, how long do you simmer it before it reduces to the proper consistency. I thought mine was sauce-like enough, and then I added the butter and it was liquidy again. Thanks!

  18. Karen says:

    Misss.malone! I’m so excited you tried the pan sauce recipe! Isn’t it good? Like you said, it’s “restaurant quality”. Exactly what I’d been searching for for year. I get a bit obsessive over things like this. Which I guess is good for you and me, both! And for your man apparently. :)

  19. misss.malone says:

    We had this today with slow roasted shoulder of lamb and it was absolutly perfect;”restaurant quality”, the man said! Instead of thyme we used the rosemary though.

  20. vegeater says:

    Would this work if it were made vegetarian? Do you serve it over meat? Do you think it would be nice over roasted vegetables or mashed potatoes for a veg-option?

    hmm…I may have to give it a try…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vegeater! I KNOW this is delicious with mashed potatoes because I eat it that way all the time (along with my big hunk of meat). :) The only problem is I’m not sure how you’d make this “vegetarian” when the base of the sauce is fond from red meat and chicken stock. You could always try roasting some vegetables in a pan, using the fond from that and vegetable stock. I’m pretty sure it won’t taste anything like the original but who knows … you may invent something fantastic. And if not … well you gave it a shot!

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