Worcestershire Sauce Is The Hero Ingredient To Flavor Au Jus Without Pan Drippings

Let's say you're making a French dip sandwich from scratch — that means roasting your own beef — but when it comes time to make the all-important au jus, you realize you've already rinsed out your roasting pan. The savory pan drippings have literally gone down the drain. Or, you're using store-bought roast beef, ergo you have no drippings. Take heed, because there is a way to create an umami-driven, rich au jus without the need for the juices rendered from a perfectly roasted piece of beef. Just reach for a bottle of Worcestershire sauce.

The great thing about an au jus is that you can put your stamp on it, guiding it in any flavor direction you'd like. Here, we're going to assume that a fairly straightforward sauce is what's needed. Start by sautéing garlic, aromatics (like onion or shallot), and herbs (like thyme and rosemary) in a bit of butter or oil. Then add beef broth, which is the base of the au jus, and a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce, depending on the quantity you're making. Dijon mustard, wine, and vermouth all make for wonderful finishing touches, as well. Bring it all to a boil and allow the sauce to reduce for a few minutes to strengthen the flavors. The consistency you're aiming for is just a bit thickened, not gravy-level viscosity. Feel free to strain the au jus if desired before serving with sandwiches or as a simple sauce for a roast beef entrée.

Why Worcestershire works

The tangy, yet deep flavor of Worcestershire sauce comes from a combination of vinegars, onions, garlic, spices, tamarind, anchovies, and molasses. It was born of what was considered a failure by condiment maker Lea & Perrins, who left a barrel of their experimental concoction forgotten in a cellar. While it sat, the barrel's contents fermented, and, upon discovery, the singular sauce was born.

The reason it is such a fabulous stand-in for beef drippings in an au jus — a French term meaning "with juice" — is the savory element that comes from the anchovies, molasses, tamarind, and the fermentation process. The drippings from the beef reduce and caramelize along with spices, bits of meat, and salt during the roasting process, driving the intensity through the roof. Worcestershire sauce's intense salt, richness, and savory notes rival those of beef drippings, and add a bit of spice, sweetness, and funk that make for an interesting au jus.

If you just can't stomach Worcestershire sauce, there are other umami bombs that can propel your au jus to the next level in lieu of beef drippings. Soy sauce has a salty intensity that makes it an apt substitute. Matching Worcestershire sauce in the funk department, fish sauce is profoundly savory, so dial it back a bit if using. Additionally, dried mushrooms and the English yeast-extract paste Marmite contribute scads of umami to sauces. The joy of the kitchen is the ability to play around and find what works for you.