You might say we’re fond of fond. You know the browned bits that get stuck to the pan while cooking? That’s fond. It’s the backbone to pan sauces, soups, stews, and much more. Fond is a flavor gold mine.
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One type of skillet is better suited to creating those flavor-enhancing fond than any other: a stainless steel pan. I wanted to know why, so I asked my fellow colleagues/gadget experts to learn more.
First, what exactly is fond? This Cook’s Country article has the answer: “fond is the direct result of the Maillard reaction, during which proteins and natural sugars in a food are transformed by heat to create new complex flavor compounds.” To then obtain those brown stuck-on bits, add some sort of liquid and get scraping (this process is known as “deglazing”).
But why stainless steel? I reached out to our Science Editor Paul Adams to figure out why:
“The reason a stainless skillet gets a good fond is essentially because it's uncoated. Protein that's dissolved in the meat juices gets deposited on the metal when the juice evaporates, and sticks to it, and browns, and accumulates more of the same, and voila.”
Interesting. Fond development is essentially a browning snowball effect! How do alternative skillets compare in terms of “fondability?”
“The main alternative skillets are: nonstick-coated, where the objective is not to stick, which is the opposite of fond; carbon steel, where there's a coating of seasoning on the metal so the fond doesn't stick as nicely to the pan (and also you don't want to scrape the pan too hard) and anodized aluminum, which forms a fine fond but the dark color of the pan makes it hard to find the fond.
The take-away? If you’re a fan of the flavor bomb known as fond, consider searing your meat in stainless steel. Without a slippery coating, it simply sticks!