I followed this recipe over the weekend to try out something new: Eric Ripert's Red Snapper and Morels in Port Reduction

My biggest issue was the sauce. It was very liquidy. I don't think it reduced properly and perhaps not enough butter? But I'm really not sure.

All the recipe says is:

Bring Port to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer until reduced by half (if using a gas stove, make sure flames don’t lick the side of the pan; if they do, the Port will burn and the sauce will be bitter). Add vinegar and simmer, lowering heat as needed to keep liquid from burning around the edges, until reduced to an almost syrupy consistency, 8–10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Bring Port reduction to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Cut remaining 3 Tbsp. butter into small pieces. Remove pan from heat and gradually add butter, swirling reduction in pan until emulsified, about 3 minutes. It should look shiny, not greasy.

But in my pot its pretty hard to tell if its been reduced by half. Are there any tips for knowing when this is done? A consistency or something I could look for?

I also wasn't sure and it doesn't specify during which, if any, of the steps should the lid be off vs lid on?

  • Don't have time for a full answer right now, but one thing you'll notice is the bubbles in the sauce will start getting bigger (less water, more sugar). Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


The whole thing should've been done with the lid off. Any time you're reducing a sauce, you want the steam (moisture) to escape.

As for 'how thick', the standard test is 'coats the back of a spoon'. If you stir with a spoon, you should be able to lift the spoon out vertically, and the sauce doesn't immediately drip off of it.

This test also lets you judge just how thick the sauce is, as you can look at how much is coating the spoon. If it's too opaque to be sure, you can run your finger across the back, and judge the clean strip vs. the coated part.


This is really down to both personal preference and experience. You know roughly how long you simmered this sauce for and that the consistency was too thin, so next time you know to simmer it for longer. It's impossible to give a more exact answer because there are too many variables: pan size and temperature, amount of liquid etc.

The lid should always be off when reducing a sauce, otherwise the liquid will just condense on the lid and drip back in; you'll be there all day.


We do a lot of sauces and never use a lid through any part of the process. No need for it at all. Thickness desired is pretty much up to you. Start the process at higher heat so the ingredient's are all blended well then slowly turn down the heat until you get a consistent low simmer. This usually takes about 1/2 hour of standing close by and stirring constantly. We just did 8 quarts and the total time from start to finish was about 6 hours not counting time to can.

  • 1
    stirring frequently also helps reduce the sauce by releasing more steam. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 13:40

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