What is Fond and Why You Should Use It

Fond is one of the key ingredients to a delicious gravy or pan sauce. So never, ever wash away those brown bits in the bottom of your pan.

Your grandmother may have called it pan drippings, but the French have a fancier name for it: fond. It translates to “the bottom” or “the base” and is used to describe the browned bits of meat and vegetables in the bottom of a roast pan or skillet.

What Is Fond?

The simplest explanation is fond is formed when the protein in the meat is exposed to heat and turns brown. Getting a little more technical, this process is called Maillard reaction, and from a culinary standpoint, this is an amazing transformation. Not only is the color-changing, usually going from pink to brown, but you’re also developing numerous other flavors you wouldn’t get if you didn’t brown it first. And by numerous, we’re talking hundreds if not thousands of different flavors that can show up.

There are a number of ways you can get fond. The first is when you cook something in a skillet or Dutch oven on the stovetop, like a veal scallopini or beef Bourguignon. After you remove the meat, you’ll find a beautiful brown color coating the bottom of the pan. You can also find it in the bottom of a roasting pan after you remove your beef roast or pork loin. There is a lot of flavor in that brown coating and the easiest way to unlock that flavor is by deglazing.

How to Deglaze the Pan

After you remove all the meat and vegetables from your skillet or roasting pan, you want to make sure the coating is brown and not black. If it’s black, it’s burnt and at that point, it’s best not to use it. But if it’s light to dark golden brown you’re in great shape.

First, drain off any fat or grease that may remain. Then, place the skillet or roasting pan onto the stove over medium heat. Add wine, broth or water and gently stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to remove all the brown bits and coating. That liquid is now highly flavorful and can be used to make gravy. Or, you can also make a simple pan sauce directly in the pan.

How to Make a Pan Sauce withFond

Place the skillet or pan over medium heat, add 1 small chopped onion and cook until tender, about five minutes. You can add a little garlic if you’d like as well. Then stir in ½ to 1 cup of white or red wine. Stir until every last bit of fond has been released and the mixture is simmering nicely. Let it cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Then stir in about a cup of broth and bring that to a simmer until it’s reduced by 2/3. The mixture will be slightly thick and that’s perfect. Remove it from the heat and stir in any seasonings. At that point, you’re ready to serve.

If you want to make it a little richer, before removing it from the heat, stir in about four tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time. You’ll end up with a rich and savory sauce every time.

James Schend
Formerly Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversaw the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and managed all food content for Trusted Media Brands. He has also worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and at Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, James has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.