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Kitchen Notes

Fond of Fond

by Christopher Allen
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The magician/chef,
was so fond of fond,
he picked up his spoon,
and set down his wand.


What do professional cooks use to form the base of many flavorful sauces, while many home cooks simply discard and wash down the drain? The answer is fond. How could two groups of people treat the same thing so differently: one as a bother, the other as a boon? A little culinary knowledge is all it takes to incorporate the wonderful substance that is fond into all your home cooking.

Oh how fond I am of fond! Fond is the highly flavorful, browned bits of meat stuck to the bottom of a pan after sautéing. It is the basis for creating a pan sauce, i.e. a sauce made in the same pan the food was cooked in. After the main item is cooked, it's removed from the pan, most of the excess fat is poured off, and any aromatics such as shallots, garlic, fresh herbs, or whole spices are added and cooked briefly. To remove the remaining fond, a process known as deglazing must take place by means of adding a liquid such as wine, stock, or water to the pan. The addition of this liquid, along with some scraping with a spoon or spatula, frees the fond stuck to the pan and forms the base of a sauce. I prefer to use wooden spoons or rubber spatulas since they won't damage any coating your pan may have.

In addition to pan sauces, fond is very important in developing rich stews and soups. When making a stew, the first step is often to brown the meat. A cast iron enamel-coated Dutch oven works incredibly well for this part. The cast iron retains heat much better than stainless steel or aluminum and the enamel coating forms a great fond that is difficult to burn and easily removed with deglazing and gentle scraping. Much of the richness and depth of flavor in a stew comes from proper fond formation, so take your time with this important step.

With all the great benefits of fond, it's hard to imagine that it would have any enemies. But, lurking inside every inexperienced or inattentive cook, dwells the potential to destroy fond, or, just as bad, to prevent from ever forming at all. Steam is fond's sworn nemesis. If a pan is not very hot when meat is added to it, the meat will not sear and brown, and fond will not develop. Instead, the juices in the meat will turn to steam and cook the meat, resulting in a pale gray color instead of an appealing golden brown. To avoid this problem, always get your cooking oil to the point of shimmering, (just below the smoking point) before adding whatever it is you wish to sear. Steam also forms when the pan is too crowded. So when browning meat never add more than one layer of meat to the pan and try to leave some space between the pieces of meat. If a pan is too crowded the meat will not sear, fond will not form on the pan, and you'll be stuck will a lackluster stew, pan-sauce, or soup. It's often necessary to brown meat in batches if the pan is too small. Lastly, once you add the item to the heated oil, refrain from moving it in the pan for at least a few minutes. This gives the meat some time to brown and the fond some time to form.

Up to this point I have discussed fond formation only as it applies to meat. Flavorful fond can form from the addition of vegetables, fruits, and even starches. My absolute favorite recipe involving fond from vegetables is the classic French onion soup. The fond that forms here is from caramelization of the natural sugars present in the onions. The onions are allowed to cook slowly for a long time. This allows all their water to evaporate. With most of the water gone, the onions, now greatly reduced in volume, slowly begin to brown, leaving a brown fond on the pan. This is then deglazed. At that point the cook can then decide to let another fond form, once the deglazing liquid has evaporated and the onions caramelize further, or add all of the liquid.

Now that you know a little about fond, it's time to put that knowledge to good use. Remember the tips described above and instantly improve your braises, stews, and sauces, all thanks to the crazy little thing called fond!


Christopher Allen describes himself as "an archaeologist of flavor". He relentlessly digs deep to discover the missing ingredient to make his dishes Smithsonian-worthy.For more throughly tested recipes with in-depth explanations, he recommends visiting cooksillustrated.com
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Written by Christopher Allen
Published on April 22, 2008 at 11:10 PM
7 comments on Fond of Fond:(Post a comment)

On April 26, 2008 at 01:29 PM, DawnsRecipes said...
Subject: Fond of Fond
Great post! Of course, now I have the urge to make French onion soup. No time this weekend, though. I have too much cooking to do for the barbecue. *sigh!* Maybe next weekend.


On May 01, 2008 at 01:31 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: now I'm fond of fond
I didn't know what "fond" was until I read this article. Now I realize what my mom was doing when she scraped the pan after browning the meat. I can't wait to make something soon with fond.

I loved the poem at the beginning! Wonder if Chris Allen has any good recipes with fond. :D


On July 01, 2008 at 04:38 AM, Harmony (guest) said...
Subject: Sweet spot of fond?
[i:594685162d]Fond of the great article! My friends are jealous of all the flavor in my pot roasts - now I know the name for the great stuff on the bottom of the pan we are all so fond of!

I get frustrated trying to find the sweet spot between [u:594685162d]steam[/u:594685162d] and [u:594685162d]grease all over the kitchen[/u:594685162d] from the spattering! I use my deepest cast iron chicken fryer (no such thing as [u:594685162d]enameled[/u:594685162d] when my dad gave it to me as a living-on-my-own present in 1974!) and even with the down-draft fan running, I always have a big mess from the grease spattering all over. Lower heat and there goes the fond up in steam :angry: !

Any ideas for improving my technique?

Fondly, Harmony[/i:594685162d]


On July 01, 2008 at 09:25 PM, Dilbert said...
Harmony -

the 'technique' is aka 'deglazing the pan.'

the tasty bits stuck to the pan are largely water soluble - so water, wine, stock, etc., is used to "dissolve" them.

possible improvement: douse the pan with sufficient water based liquid that it cools down below the 'splatter everything everywhere' temp in 10-15 seconds. turn up the heat and bring the liquid back to a simmer / light boil while scraping / stirring.

the result is a thin water based quantity of solids, flavors, fats/oils floating about. can be reduced ala 'natural pan gravy', made into a butter sauce, ready made roux added for a thicker gravy, etc......


On July 04, 2008 at 06:02 PM, Guesty McGuest (guest) said...
Subject: spatter spatter
Hi Harmony,

Invest five bucks in a spatter guard -- a circular wire screen mesh that you place over an open frying pan. The mesh cuts down 95% of the grease droplets that try to escape. It's the second-smartest thing you can do (the first, of course, is knowing what fond is and why it is your friend).


On August 10, 2008 at 10:45 PM, sunfell (guest) said...
Subject: Fond
To prevent a lot of spattering, it helps to make sure your meat or veggies are as dry as possible before adding them to the hot oil. Water causes spatter, and can be minimized, but there will always be spatter, so the suggestion of a spatter screen is also a good one.


On April 05, 2011 at 12:46 AM, Chantal Moir (guest) said...
Subject: Searing without oil
When my husband and I got married, we bought cookware from Royal Prestige. Their pots are 9-ply and made of surgical stainless steel with a copper core. Because of the construction of the pots and lids, you can sear meat in the pan and then finish cooking at a low heat without oil (if the meat is not fish or something else with no fat at all of its own). The meat is wonderful done like this, and because it's seared first, the low temperature for the majority of the cooking doesn't make it gray. I know most people don't have this cooking system, but I figured I'd mention it because another commenter mentioned frustration with sputtering oil.

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