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What is a Reduction Sauce?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A reduction sauce is a sauce made for food which uses the drippings and juices left over after cooking meat. Since these drippings are often quite flavorful, the resulting sauce is also dense in flavor, and it tends to complement the food very well, since it uses the juices exuded by the food while it cooks. An assortment of ingredients are added to these drippings to create a reduction sauce, ranging from cream to balsamic vinegar, depending on the desired effect.

To make a reduction sauce, cooks start by preparing the meat normally. When the meat is finished, it is taken out of the pan and allowed to rest while the sauce is made. Typically, excess fat is skimmed off so that the sauce will not be greasy, and then the volume of the drippings in the pan is doubled with the addition of ingredients such as stock, cream, wine, balsamic vinegar, or juices. In some cases, ingredients like vegetables may be briefly cooked in the drippings before the liquid is added.

Next, the sauce is allowed to simmer so that it reduces in volume. This reduction makes the sauce dense and thick, so that it can be used like a gravy. It also concentrates the flavors. As a result, reduction sauces are often very strongly flavored, and most cooks use only a little bit, so that the flavor does not becomes overwhelming. The sauce can be poured over meat like a gravy, or it can be artfully drizzled so that the plate looks distinctive, depending on the cook's inclinations.

Once the sauce is finished, it may be sieved to force out chunks of ingredients before being added to the food, or it may be left chunky. It may also be paired with other sauces or flavorings, as might be the case with a wine reduction sauce served alongside a horseradish dipping sauce. Consumers can layer the flavors as desired.

Some cooks call sauces of this type “pan gravy,” since it is often made in the pan that was used to cook the food, or the drippings from a roasting pan are poured into a large saucepan. Some common vegetable additions to reduction sauce include things like capers for a lemon caper sauce, shallots or garlic, and mushrooms. In many cases wine or brandy are used in the sauce, but cooks who prefer not to work with alcohol can use things like juice, cream, soy sauce, vinegar, or stock. More distinctive additions like chocolate and wasabi can also be used for a more exotic flavor.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By highlighter — On Aug 01, 2010

A reduction sauce marinade is a good way to flavor meats and fish. The flavor of a reduction sauce is intense and sauces with an acidic base will easily penetrate the meat.

A reduction of soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and sake is a traditional Japanese sauce that is great on salmon and chicken. To make this simple teriyaki sauce, mix equal parts soy sauce, mirin, sake, and fine sugar over medium heat. As the water evaporates, the sauce will thicken and the flavors will intensify.

By chicada — On Aug 01, 2010

@ Anon71700- You are absolutely right that reduction sauces do not need to be made with meat or drippings. A reduction can be as simple as reduced balsamic, which produces an intense and sweet vinegar. You can reduce almost any liquid to make a sauce, glaze, or dip.

You can make a delicious orange chipotle glaze by reducing a mix of honey, tomato juice, adobe chipotle peppers, orange marmalade, garlic, and oil. This glaze would be an example of a reduction made without meat or pan drippings.

By anon71700 — On Mar 19, 2010

This article is not completely accurate since reduction sauces can be created without any meat or drippings.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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