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3 Easy Ways to Thicken a Sauce - Beurre Manie, Cornstarch and Reduction

Updated on November 30, 2009

A Red Wine Sauce Made by Reduction

Beurre manie

Knowing a few basic cooking skills can be so liberating – it can free you from the tedium of recipes and can get you looking around at what you have and what’s good and imagining the possibilities.

So…have you ever sautéed up a pork chop or maybe a less than perfect cut of steak and thought, ‘ this meat needs some sauce’ but not really had any idea of how to make a quick and easy sauce?

Well, read on and learn 3 very easy ways to thicken liquids into sauce - and never again suffer the indignity of un-sauced pork chops!

These thickeners all work very well when making a pan sauce.

The Pan Sauce

  1. A pan sauce is made in the same pan you sautéed your meat in (not a non stick pan)
  2. That pan will likely have browned and crusty bits in the bottom and these browned bits are exploding with favor.
  3. To make a pan sauce you sauté your meat until cooked to your likening and then you transfer the meat to a platter and keep it warm.
  4. You then add a little bit of a tasty liquid to the pan (wine, juice, beer, stock, etc.) and using that liquid, scrape all that tasty brown stuff off the bottom
  5. You may also add some additional flavorings (herbs, for example), or you may not
  6. You then thicken the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste

That’s it – pan sauces are really easy and really good.

Now, here are 3 ways to thicken a sauce:

  1. Reduction - You can boil down a liquid until it has reached a desired consistency. This is a pretty easy one, and great for when you only need a couple of spoonfuls of loose sauce. Just boil the liquid in the pan for a couple of minutes, season to taste – and you’re done.
  2. Beurre Manie – Mix together equal parts butter and flour – 1 Tbls mixed will thicken a 1/2 cup of liquid. To thicken your sauce, just whisk in this cold butter-flour mixture to your simmering sauce and it will thicken almost instantly. The butter also adds a nice sheen to the finished sauce and a good buttery flavor. Easy, tasty and it works every time – what more could you want!
  3. Slurry – an unfortunate name for an effective thickener, a slurry is a mixture of equal parts cornstarch and water. One Tbls of slurry will thicken a ½ cup of sauce. Slurry works well but adds little flavor. Slurry will break down if heated and cooled repeatedly or cooked for a long time, and so is best added as a last minute thickener to sauces that will not be reheated.

If you’ve never made a pan sauce before, give it a try!

The ratios for slurry and beurre manie used here are taken from the book aptly named, RATIOS, by Michael Ruhlman. Pretty much any cookbook Michael Ruhlman releases is worth picking up, in my opinion.


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