Tips for Making Good Sauces

nroritake-gravy-boatA delicious sauce can make the difference between an average meal and an extraordinary one. Sauces can temper a spicy dish, add flavor to a bland meal, or complement and intensify the taste of a complex recipe.

Your sauces should be smooth, free of lumps, and delicious enough to enjoy alone or when paired with a dish. Here are some tips for making sauces that will help you achieve a delicious flavor and texture at home.

General Sauce Tips

The key to a delicious sauce is patience. You should never try to rush your sauce by looking over a high temperature.

Avoid adding cold ingredients to a hot sauce. Instead, mix flour or other cool ingredients with a small amount of the warm liquid before adding to the main pan. This will help prevent lumps.

The best ingredients, like fresh herbs, rich butter, and home-made stock, will result in the best-tasting sauces.

Starting Your Sauce

Most sauces start with the same main ingredients. Rich juices from roasted or baked meats are a wonderful place to start flavorful sauces. If those are not available, a stock that you have made yourself is a good second choice, followed by cooking wines.

Pan Drippings – Before you roast lamb, beef, pork, or chicken, butter the pan so that the juices won’t stick or burn. Use the drippings to create a sauce to go with the meal.

Stock – Homemade stock is a far better choice than cans of broth or bouillon cubes, which are often high in salt, artificial flavors, and other unhealthy ingredients. Create a stock by boiling bones or seafood shells for several hours, stirring frequently and removing fat as it floats to the surface. Strain well to remove bones, and freeze any excess stock that you don’t need immediately.

Wine – Wine can be used to deglaze pan drippings or to mix with eggs and/or cream for a meatless sauce.

Thickeners

A good sauce has a thick, not watery, consistency. To achieve this, you’ll add a thickening agent to the base of your sauce. Some common thickeners include:

Roux – The most commonly used thickener is a roux, which is made by mixing flour with the warmed sauce starters listed above.

Cornstarch – Cornstarch can be used to make a translucent sauce, and is commonly used in Chinese-style dishes.

Egg Yolk – Egg yolks can be used to make a thicker, richer sauce. Mix the yolk with cream before adding to the pan. Never boil a sauce with egg yolk in it, or it will curdle.

• Reduction
– You can also thicken a sauce by allowing the liquid to evaporate by cooking slowly over a low heat. Season after the sauce reaches the right thickness to avoid over-spicing.

Creating a perfect sauce takes time and practice, but it’s a richly rewarding way to expand your cooking abilities.