Does Fond Actually Contribute Anything To Your Cooking?

Fond might not look like much, just some food bits clinging to the surface of your pan, but you don't want to underestimate it when cooking. According to Taste of Home, fond is a French word that means "the bottom," and if you've never heard this recipe term know that it is simply the browned food left over after you've seared meat or vegetables. Fond is created by the Maillard reaction, the chemical process where heat reacts with proteins and carbohydrates to form entirely new tastes and smells than you had with your raw ingredients. It's the scientific reason your seared steak tastes so good and why perfectly browned food is so enticing to the senses.

Fond's biggest use is as the base of pan sauces. The Food Network says the technique of deglazing, which you've probably run into in many recipes, is all about using liquid to remove fond from the bottom of the pan. This is essential for bringing out the full potential of many dishes, from caramelized onions to braised brisket, because it reincorporates the flavor lost to the pan during the sear. The deglazed fond can then be combined with aromatics, herbs, and flavoring like tomato paste before being spooned over a dish as a sauce or used to flavor a braising mixture. But with all those other ingredients used in the sauce, how much does fond matter when you're cooking?

Fond is packed with flavor

Fond lends a savory depth that your dishes would not be the same without. The reason lies in how fond is created. The Spruce Eats notes that because of the Maillard reaction fond is essentially super-concentrated flavor, it is all of the bits of food that have been most exposed to the heat of the pan and thus the most transformed. It's almost like adding seasoning made up of all the most deliciously browned parts of your meat and vegetables. Deglazing then takes that concentrated goodness and pulls it out to flavor the entire sauce or dish.

Fond's power is attested to by how essential it is in many classic recipes. According to Food52 creating fond is a key part in three of the five French mother sauces — tomato sauce, velouté, and espagnole. Cook's Illustrated suggests using a little extra liquid or fat when searing your meat to create more fond, because the more you have the more flavorful and rich your food will be. The only thing to be wary of is that your fond is brown and not black, as that can mean your food was burned and your fond will impart unpleasant flavors to your meal. With that one small caveat, learning to use fond will be one of the best things you can do for your cooking. Your stew recipes and sauces will taste better than ever and you'll never let those little brown bits go to waste again.