Cooking Tips

The Secret Flavor Booster: Side Fond

The more ultrasavory brown bits that develop, the more delicious and rich tasting your dish will be. And that extra fond is hiding in plain sight. 
By and

Published May 9, 2023.

If you’re used to scrubbing away the ring of browned residue clinging to the sides of the pan after you’ve made a braise or stew, we have a message for you: Don’t do it.

Just like the ultrasavory brown bits that develop on the bottom of the pan when you sear meat or sauté aromatics, this brown layer is a concentrated source of flavor. 

It’s called fond, and most times it accumulates on the bottom of the pan. But it can build up on the sides of a vessel too. 

And just as you would do with the bottom-of-the-pan fond for a pan sauce, gravy, soup, or stew, you should be scraping this browned ring into the dish, where it can dramatically boost flavor and contribute rich color.

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What Is Fond and How Does It Develop? 

Whether it develops on the bottom or sides of the pan, fond is the direct result of the Maillard reaction, when heat transforms food’s proteins and sugars into hundreds of new flavor compounds. 

The more fond that develops, the more savory and rich tasting a dish can be. 

To encourage fond development, you can sear meat (or vegetables) in a little fat or—to maximize its buildup—add a little broth or water along with the meat and simmer until the liquid evaporates and the meat sizzles. 

Once the cooking surface is coated with the rich, brown stuff, just deglaze the vessel with liquid (usually water, stock, or wine) to loosen up the fond and scrape up the bits with a spoon or spatula to stir them back into the food. 

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How Side Fond Develops on the Sides of the Pot?

In brothy soups or stews where the pot is left uncovered, side fond develops when liquid reaching up the sides of a pot evaporates, leaving behind proteins and sugars that undergo the Maillard reaction. 

How to Capture Side Fond

As when deglazing the fond on the bottom of the pan, all you have to do is scrape it off the walls and into the food. (Use a sturdy tool, like a wooden spoon or spatula-spoon; it also helps to cover the pot briefly to allow steam to develop and soften the fond.) In some preparations, such as our Carne Adovada, side fond is the only fond that develops, and it’s intense enough to enrich the whole pot. 

Watch below as Cook’s Illustrated Senior Editor Lan Lam explains side fond and demonstrates this phenomenon with our Pork, Fennel, and Lemon Ragu Pappardelle.   


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