Reduction in Sauces

Reduction in Sauces

Any liquid cooked until reduced in volume can be referred to as a reduction. By reducing the volume of a cooking liquid, either rapidly over high heat or more slowly over low heat, you concentrate the flavors and thicken the consistency, making a quick, flavorful sauce. Often, reduction sauces are made by adding wine or broth to a pan that was used to saute foods. Then, the browned bits from the bottom of the pan are scraped up and stirred into the cooking liquid so that they dissolve (called deglazing). When the browned bits dissolve and the liquid is reduced in volume, the flavor becomes tremendously rich.

To make the most flavorful reductions, start with the best ingredients. The flavors of bad-tasting ingredients will only get worse when reduced and concentrated. Also, reduce liquids at a gentle boil, which causes some of the sauce to splash on the sides of the pan and caramelize. Stirring these caramelized bits back into the sauce creates additional flavor.

And make sure to layer the reduction rather than adding liquids all at once. For example, first add wine to deglaze the pan and reduce the wine. Then, add some stock and reduce it. Finally, add some cream to the pan and reduce once more. If you need to create a smooth texture, just strain the reduced sauce before serving.

To prevent reduction sauces from becoming overly salty, add any salt only after the liquid has reduced to the desired consistency. Also, avoid using canned broths, which are often too salty to be reduced and concentrated in flavor.

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