Skip to main content

For Maximum Fond, Just Add Water

By Lan Lam Published

Try this game-changing technique for eking out meaty depth in soups, braises, and sauces.

To put it mildly, I'm fond of fond: the layer of super savory browned bits that sticks to the bottom of the pot or pan when you sear meat. It forms as the result of the Maillard reaction, when heat transforms the meat’s proteins and sugars into hundreds of new flavor compounds, and it can utterly transform soups, stews, and sauces. The more of it that develops, the more savory and rich-tasting the dish will be.

The classic way to encourage fond development is to sear meat in a little fat. But when you’re relying on trimmed meat scraps or bits of flavor-packed pork like pancetta or bacon to generate that browning, there’s a much more effective way to maximize the fond output: Add a little broth or water along with the meat and simmer until the liquid evaporates and the meat sizzles. It sounds counterintuitive, but simmering actually extracts the meat’s juices and fat much more thoroughly than searing does, so you’ll net more of that flavor-packed browning. Bonus perks: Because simmering draws out more fat, you don’t need to add any additional fat to the pan; and it’s a great way to utilize trimmings from steaks, chops, or a roast that you would normally throw away.

The proof is visible on the bottom of the pot: Once the liquid evaporates, the entire surface of the vessel will be coated with a gorgeously browned layer of fond. If possible, do the simmering in a vessel with lots of surface area like a large Dutch oven or skillet, which allows more of the drippings to make contact with the hot pan bottom and brown, resulting in maximum fond development.

Try it in recipes like Hearty Minestrone, Red Wine–Braised Pork Chops, or Braised Red Cabbage with Apple, Bacon, and Shallots. Or any other recipe where you’re searing meat to create fond.

Method:

For scraps and trimmings: Coarsely chop meat and add to pot or skillet with ½ inch of broth or water. Simmer (don’t boil) until liquid evaporates and leaves rich fond on surface of cooking vessel. Discard meat and proceed with recipe as directed. 

For smaller bits of meat: Finely chop meat and add to pot or skillet with ¼ inch of broth or water. (Smaller pieces require less water because they heat up more quickly and don’t need to simmer as long.) Simmer (don’t boil) until liquid evaporates and leaves rich find on surface of cooking vessel.

Recipe Pork, Fennel, and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle

You already know ragu rosso, the king of ragu sauces. But perhaps you haven't met the queen: ragu bianco, which, in our version, trades the tomato for lemon and cream.

Recipe Chile Verde con Cerdo (Green Chili with Pork)

Our new-school approach to making stew brings every element of this tangy, fragrant, meaty Mexican classic to its full potential.

Recipe Our Favorite Turkey Gravy

Of course it had to taste great. But we also wanted a gravy that could be made in advance, didn't require drippings, and could accommodate dietary restrictions.

Leave a comment and join the conversation!

0 Comments
Read & post comments with a free account
Join the conversation with our community of home cooks, test cooks, and editors.
First Name is Required
Last Name is Required
Email Address is Required
How we use your email?
Password is Required
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.