100 Techniques

Technique #42: Layer Glazes for Deeply Layered Flavor

 Tired of glazes slipping right off your food? Then this technique is for you.

Published Sept. 20, 2023.

This is Technique #42 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

Each technique is broken into three sections: why it works, key steps, and recipes that use it. Learn these recipe building blocks and you'll be set up for a lifetime of cooking success.

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Glazes are unique in the world of sauces—they’re primarily deployed during cooking, rather than after, to create a sweet-savory lacquered exterior on grilled or roasted foods, especially meats.

Glazes come in many flavors and styles, but they all share some commonalities. They must be thin enough to be brushed on evenly yet thick and sticky enough to cling to the food. They also must contain a good amount of sugar, which caramelizes during cooking and gives food that browned, burnished surface.

The most common complaint is that even with the thickest of glazes—thanks to the heat from cooking and the juices and fat coming out of the food—the glaze slides right off the food, pooling and burning in the bottom of the pan. 

Our technique ensures this sticky-sweet flavor-booster stays on the food, where it belongs.

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Brush in Stages

To solve this problem and ensure great flavor in every bite, we turn to a multistep glazing technique, brushing glaze on in stages to ensure that it sticks fast to create layers of lacquered flavor.

This multi-step glazing technique is similar to applying a crumb coat of frosting to a cake. The initial coat of glaze needs to set and dry slightly, becoming firm and tacky, before the second coat is applied so that the second coat has something to cling to.

The result is a thick, uniform application that sticks to the food and doesn’t slide off into the pan.

Step By Step: How to Glaze Foods That Go Straight into The Oven

For something like a meatloaf, which is a classic choice for glazing, shape the meat mixture into a free-form loaf and set it on a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet rather than pack it onto a roasting pan. This allows both plenty of surface area for glazing and easy access to the meatloaf to paint the glaze on during baking.

Step 1: Brush Half of Glaze

For items that don't need browning first, such as meatloaf, use pastry brush to spread half of glaze evenly over top and sides. Bake partway as directed.

Step 2: Add Remaining Glaze

Brush remaining glaze evenly onto top and sides to create second layer of glaze and continue to bake until meatloaf registers correct doneness.

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Step By Step: How to Glaze Foods That Are Browned First

For something like a roast, which gets browned on the stovetop before going into the oven, add the glaze right to the skillet, turning the roast with tongs to coat it with the glaze multiple times during the cooking process.

Step 1: Brown the Meat

For items that will get an initial stovetop sear, such as pork roast, brown roast on all sides in skillet.

Step 2: Add Glaze to Skillet

Off heat, add glaze to skillet. Turn roast to coat with glaze

Step 3: Transfer Skillet to Oven

Transfer skillet to oven and roast until pork registers doneness, turning roast with tongs to coat with glaze twice during roasting time.

Step 4: Cool and Thicken Glaze

While roast rests, let glaze cool and thicken. Return roast to skillet and turn to coat all sides with thickened glaze. Serve remaining glaze alongside.

Watch Cook's Illustrated's Keith Dresser demonstrate how to make mustardy apple butter-glazed pork chops.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Ready to put your newfound knowledge of layering glazes to the test? Try it with one of these recipes.


Turkey Meatloaf with Ketchup-Brown Sugar Glaze

For an extra-delicious version of this comfort-food favorite, we enhanced the ground turkey’s mild flavor with a few surprise ingredients.
Get the Recipe

Mustardy Apple Butter–Glazed Pork Chops

The best way to produce tender, juicy chops with a stay-put glaze is to take it slow. Bonus: You'll have built-in time for making a side dish.
Get the Recipe

Double-Glazed Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

It’s crystal clear: Thoughtfully calibrated glazes bring sparkle—and tangy, savory dimension—to silky oven-roasted fillets.
Get the Recipe

Honey-Glazed Pork Shoulder

Juicy, rich pork and honey make a sweet pair. 
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Pomegranate-Glazed Roast Bone-In Leg of Lamb

A roast bone-in leg of lamb makes an impressive centerpiece for your dinner table.
Get the Recipe

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