What Is Fond?

Those marks at the bottom of your pan actually pack a lot of flavor.

The browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan when you sear meat are called fond—and they are packed with savory flavor. We understand that the degree to which the fond in the pan has browned can be worrisome, and it can be a problem if it gets too dark.

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. The flavorful browning on a pan-fried steak is a common example of this reaction, and so is the browning that occurs on a loaf of bread.

The fond left behind in a cooking vessel is a gold mine of flavor. The classic way to harvest fond is to add liquid (usually water, wine, or broth) to the pan and stir. The moisture and stirring motion release the stuck-on bits, which then dissolve into the liquid; this process is called deglazing. The darker the fond, the more pronounced that caramelized flavor will be. But your sauce will taste bitter if the fond has blackened. Fond should be caramel-colored to dark brown; if the fond is getting too dark, add a little water to the pan and reduce the heat slightly.

The Bottom Line: Fond equals flavor as long as it is dark brown, not black. But a few black bits of fond here and there generally won't ruin a pan sauce.

A Tale of Two Fonds

Caramel-colored fond: perfect

Blackened fond:  taken a smidge too far

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