3 Ways to Reduce while Cooking

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3 Ways to Reduce while Cooking
3 Ways to Reduce while Cooking

Reduction is the process of boiling the broth of a stir-fry, a soup or any other liquid to make it thicker, in addition to a more intense and concentrated flavor. The trick to making reductions in the kitchen is to cook the liquid for a long time in an uncovered pan. The technique is super practical and great for making sauces, syrups and broths.


Method 1 of 3: Following the General Rules

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Step 1. Choose the ingredients you want to reduce

Some reductions only need one ingredient. It is possible to make a delicious meat sauce with just a red wine reduction, for example. Others, however, require a greater variety of elements, such as salt, spices, flour and milk or water.

  • There is no law that prohibits reducing certain ingredients. You can make reductions of any liquids you want to cook.
  • If you're not sure what to reduce, wait until you find a recipe that calls for a reduction and follow the instructions.
  • Any ingredient with a high humidity can be reduced, including soups, alcoholic beverages and dairy drinks.
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Step 2. Discard excess liquid before starting

You don't need 2 liters of liquid to make two cups (475 ml) of sauce. Start with 1, 5 to twice the desired volume.

  • To make two cups (475 ml) of a sauce, for example, start with three or four cups (710 ml to 950 ml) of the starter liquid.
  • The exact amount needed to make a sauce of a particular consistency will depend on the content of the liquid to be reduced as well as the conditions of the reduction.
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Step 3. Boil the liquid and lower the heat

Let it cook at a lower temperature. If you continue to boil, the liquid may end up burning or sticking to the sides of the pan. Excessive heat can also speed up the reduction too much and leave the sauce with a bitter taste.

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Step 4. Do not cover the pan

The reduction serves to evaporate the excess liquid, which will not happen if the pan is covered.

Leave the lid on the side of the pan to use as soon as the reduction reaches the desired consistency

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Step 5. Carefully monitor reductions made with small amounts of liquid

Some reductions take time to get on point and don't need much attention. Others, however, evaporate quite quickly. If you are reducing less than 235 ml, always stay close and keep an eye on the pan.

  • The exact time for the reduction to reach the desired consistency will depend on the type of liquid, the initial volume and the preparation conditions. Most reductions take between 15 and 30 minutes.
  • If you are following a recipe, it is likely to indicate an estimated time for the process.
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Step 6. Use the initial liquid level to get a sense of the point of reduction

As the liquid evaporates, it will leave a small mark on the pan indicating the initial volume. An easy way to set the point of reduction is to subtract the current liquid elevation from the liquid's initial height.

  • If the recipe asks you to reduce the liquid by ¼, for example, cook it until ¾ of the original volume evaporates.
  • To get a more accurate measure of the reduction, pass it from time to time to a measuring jar and make a note of the volume. Then return the liquid to the pan if it still needs to be reduced.

Method 2 of 3: Accelerating Reduction

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Step 1. Remove all meat from the liquid

Pieces of meat negatively affect the quality of the reduction. If you are reducing the broth of a stew, transfer the meat to another pan or plate when they are finished cooking. Put them back in the reduction after the liquid reaches the desired consistency.

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Step 2. Use the widest pot you have

A large surface will help speed the reduction. Ideally, use a wok or an iron pan. You can even make the reduction in a small pot, but it will take a lot longer.

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Step 3. Divide the liquid to finish faster

If you're short on time (or very hungry), put half the sauce in a second pan, reducing the amount of liquid per container. Prepare both reductions at the same time, with both stove burners at the same temperature.

When the sauces reach the desired consistency, mix them

Method 3 of 3: Perfecting Reduction

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Step 1. Add a tablespoon or two of butter to the sauce after the reduction is complete

Butter will thicken the broth, making it prettier. Don't add the butter before the process is finished, though. This can cause the reduction liquids to separate.

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Step 2. Reduce alcoholic beverages separately

If you are preparing a sauce, broth or any other reduction that requires alcohol, reduce the drink separately. Leave to combine it with the other ingredients later. Otherwise, the reduction will have an exaggerated alcohol taste.

The reduction makes the wine less acidic

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Step 3. Cook canned tomatoes without boiling for more concentrated flavor

Canned tomatoes are already processed in heat. To make a sauce reduction with tinned tomatoes, it is not necessary to bring to the boil. If the tomatoes are fresh, boil them quickly at the beginning of the reduction and lower the heat to intensify the flavor.

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Step 4. Sift solid ingredients to make a more liquid reduction

Some people like chunky reductions, with chunks of tomato and other vegetables. However, if this is not the case for you, you can always sift the reduction once it has reached the desired consistency.

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Step 5. Use a thickener if you are unable to reduce the sauce

A little potato starch, cornstarch, arrowroot or even flour can be helpful when thickening a reduction. Sift a few tablespoons of the thickener of your choice and lightly sprinkle it over the reduction. Mix with a wooden spoon and add more if the broth remains thin.

Do not use too much thickener at once so as not to leave the reduction with lumps of flour or starch


  • When finished, beat the reduction with a fouet to make it shinier.
  • Deglazing also involves some reduction. However, the amount of liquid evaporated is usually smaller and the cooking process slower.
  • Reductions that do not contain sugar are called sauces, while those that do are known as syrups.

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