After frying some meat, say beef or lamb, sometimes I want to make a red wine reduction.

After lifting the meat out of the pan I turn the heat down to low and add the wine. The wine tends to bubble furiously and reduces quickly. I quickly try to scrape the meat remnants as it goes.

Trouble is, the sauce ends up looking grainy with dark spots in the sauce, and it tastes bitter.

The wine is always wine I wouldn't mind drinking.

2 Answers 2


I think that you should strain your reduction through either a coffe filter or cheese cloth, if you have it. That would take care of the little bits of food still in ther and leave you with a clear smooth reduction.

The other issue that you mentioned is that the reduction is left tasting bitter. This would most likely be a result of your fonde being burned to the pan. There is a difference between having a nice fonde in your pan and having charcoal. I would try to sear the meat for a couple minutes on each side, remove it from the pan and finish it in the oven. Then deglaze your pan.

  • Thanks, I think you're right about the bitterness, but most chefs can cook a steak just on the hob, right? Sep 3, 2011 at 16:31
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    @Dan Gravell: Once the sear is done, the temperature in the pan can fall, and thus won't burn the fond. Also, depends on how thick your steak is—if its thick enough that a couple of minutes on each side doesn't cook it, or alternatively you want it cooked beyond medium rare, definitely best to finish it gently in the oven.
    – derobert
    Sep 4, 2011 at 5:52
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    @Dan: This absolutely is most likely to be the source of bitterness. If the fond doesn't taste good on its own -- if it's blackened/burnt -- it won't make a good sauce. You might want to taste the fond before adding the liquid, and you may just have to let it go sometimes.
    – jscs
    Sep 7, 2011 at 20:51
  • Thanks both. I'll change my steak cooking technique to be sear then lower the temp and see if the fond is less incinerated. My steaks are normally ~1 inch thick but lamb loin chops etc could be larger, leg steaks thinner... Sep 8, 2011 at 9:41

I have to wonder if you are using a wooden utensil to 'scrape the meat remnants'. If so, stop using wood. The wood will char and leave bits in your sauce, creating the bitterness. Try slowing down the process a bit and using less heat, at least initially as you deglaze the pan. The graininess could be charred bits of food which are burned before they are loosened from the pan surface; this could account for the black spots too.

Cooking is love, and love doesn't hurry.


  • 1
    Yes, I do use a wooden spatula. I'll try with a silicon one. I'm torn about the charred food though, I thought it was expected there was some charred food, that's why you deglaze, no? Sep 1, 2011 at 20:46
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    Well, you kind of want to deglaze before you turn up the heat to reduce your liquids. What I do often is when the cooked food has been taken out of the pan, take the pan off the burner, put the deglazing liquid in the pan, wait just a bit for the stuck bits to soften, scrape everything up, then put it back on the burner.
    – Frankie
    Sep 2, 2011 at 15:29
  • @Frankie that's some good advice! Good to know
    – chrisjlee
    Sep 2, 2011 at 19:59
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    Once you've added liquid to the pan, you are very rapidly cooling it to less than the boiling point of that liquid. I'm not sure how you're burning wood at that point. (And, its never happened to me, and it seems like it'd be really noticeable were your spoon burning)
    – derobert
    Sep 4, 2011 at 5:50
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    There's no way that wood is burning and affecting the sauce just by being used to scrape a pan. Does the spatula have blackened, missing bits every time you do this? Heat up a pan, put a wooden spoon in, and notice how long it takes to even smoke, let alone "char and leave bits". derobert's point about the boiling liquid is also right on. @Dan
    – jscs
    Sep 7, 2011 at 20:50

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