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Hack This French Technique to Thicken Any Pan Sauce

With butter, flour, and a whisk, your pan sauce can be lush and silky.    
By Published June 1, 2022

One skill that really shows off a pro cook’s kitchen chops is the ability to improvise on the fly when something doesn’t turn out quite right. Smoothing out seized chocolate or clumpy custard. Coaxing broken mayo into a glossy emulsified spread. Re-solidifying oversoftened butter. Patching torn poultry skin. And of course, thickening up a too-loose pan sauce. 

There’s actually a dedicated French technique for that last one called beurre manié. It’s a close relative of roux, made by mashing together equal parts butter and flour until you’ve got a paste. In many restaurant kitchens, cooks keep a tub of the stuff on hand to whisk into pan sauces by the spoonful during the final moments of cooking, because it builds body in an instant: Starch in the flour absorbs water, swells, and thickens the liquid, while the butter adds richness and prevents clumping by evenly dispersing the flour as it melts.

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Fortunately, you don’t have to be a pro cook, or have a tub of beurre manié at your disposal, to  tighten up a runny pan sauce. The same effect can easily be achieved with this simpler flour-dredged butter hack. 

How to Quickly Thicken Any Pan Sauce 

  1. Cut 3 tablespoons of butter into ½-inch cubes and transfer to a small bowl.
  2. Toss the butter with 1 teaspoon of flour, so that the pieces are amply coated and no flour remains in the bowl. 
  3. Whisk the pieces into any simmering sauce, a few at a time, until the mixture is luscious and cream-like, 1½ to 2 minutes.   

It’s a handy, universal fix that you can throw together in minutes. In fact, I even built it into my recipe for Chicken Francese, where it lends silky richness to the lemony reduction. But if you want to plan ahead like a pro chef, you can also keep a stash of flour-coated butter in the fridge until you need it.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.