How to prevent fond from burning?

By | January 29, 2023

When you are searing or sautéing food with a pan, you may find some black color bits in the pan.

That is burning fond, which originally is browned bits or brown residue of food left on the bottom of the pan.

While the fond is still in brown color, it can be made as a flavorful sauce.

But once the fond is burnt, it is no longer suitable for making any dish.

Here I am going to discuss some strategies for preventing fond from burning in the pan.


How to prevent fond from burning

To prevent fond from burning, control the heat temperature as low as possible, as long enough for achieving maillard and caramelization reaction. Keep stirring the fond to make it keep moving on the hot pan. Add liquid into the pan and dissolve the brown bits, then make it into flavorful sauce.


What is fond?

How to prevent fond from burning-what is fond

Fond originates from French, is a french word for “base” or “foundation, which refers to brown bits or brown residue created at the bottom of the pan after searing or sautéing of meat or vegetables in the pan with a high heat.

Fond or brown bits are the result of maillard and caramelization reactions.

Maillard is a chemical reaction between meat (amino acid) and sugar (reducing sugar), applied with heat (280 to 330 °F), then producing aromatic compounds of brown color with delicious flavor.

Caramelization is a process of heating the sugar until it becomes brown.

During the heating process (221-360°F) , the sugar molecules break down and form new compounds which give unique flavor.

Because of the fond’s unique flavor and aroma, it is often used as a base for sauce and gravies, adding flavor to soups and stews, or preparing broth.

But there is a problem with fond, it easily gets burnt and becomes black bits, which make it not edible and ruin the taste of food which becomes bitter.

Fond burning starts when the temperature of 356°F (180°C) and above, named pyrolysis, is harmful to health.


Control the heat at lowest possible.

How to prevent fond from burning-control heat at lowest possible

Fond burnt on the pan because of the high heat from the pan and stayed in the pan without moving for a long time, and the cooking oil dried up causing food to stick and burn.

To prevent fond from burning, the first thing to do is control the heat temperature.

Control the heat temperature until it is enough for achieving maillard and caramelization reaction but stop before burning point.

Suggest to control the temperature from a low heat setting.

After that gradually increase the temperature to medium heat setting, and then to medium high.

Keep monitoring the food on the pan and don’t let it burn into black color.

Lower the heat setting if the food temperature is going high and nearly burnt.

There are a few ways of monitoring the temperature of the food on the heating pan.

If you want to control the pan temperature precisely, you may get a temperature gun for measuring the temperature of the pan during cooking.

The temperature reading(celsius or fahrenheit) on the temperature gun would be a reference for you when to increase or lower the heat setting.

The next method is easy but lacks accuracy.

We call it the hand test method.

Place your hand one inch above the cooking pan to feel the heat.

If you feel the heat is hot and your hand is unable to stay there longer than 5 seconds, then it is high heat.

If your hand is able to stay for 5 to 10 seconds, then it is medium heat.

If more than 10 seconds, then it is low medium heat.

Another method is checking the smoke on the cooking pan.

If the smoke starts to rise up from the cooking pan, it is a sign of high heat, and you have to adjust the heat to a lower setting.


Use a heavy bottom pan for cooking to avoid hotspots.

How to prevent fond from burning-heavy bottom pan

The heat from the stovetop is not evenly distributed to the bottom of the pan.

Therefore the selection of pan types is important for preventing fond burning.

The pan with the thin thickness can easily create a hotspot.

The heat from the stove of a high temperature region transfers effectively to the food, forming hotspots which cause fond burning.

Whereas at the low temperature region of the stove the food would be cooler.

In the other way around, the pan with a heavy bottom is able to distribute the heat evenly across it.

The heat will spread throughout the pan bottom material before the heat reaches the food.

Because the heat evenly distributed, no hotspot formed and the average temperature on the pan won’t burn the fond.

But the heavy bottom pan will still burn the fond if the heat keeps supplying, the pan keeps absorbing the heat until the whole pan temperature increases, even though no hotspot is forming.


Choose the cooking oil with a high smoking point.

How to prevent fond from burning-oil smoking point

The cooking oil’s smoking point also matters in preventing fond burning.

When sautéing, stir-frying, deep frying, or searing, it is recommended to use high smoking point cooking oil, above 450F.

Cooking oil is a good conductor of heat, it actually acts as a thermal interface medium between the pan’s heat and the food.

When cooking oil is heated to its smoking point temperature, it will start breaking down into substances like smoke and free radicals, and no longer an oil anymore.

When the pan heats temperature higher than the oil smoking point, the oil turns into other substances, then the pan’s heat will directly transfer to the fond until it turns into burnt crispy bits.

The higher the cooking oil smoke point, the better the oil at resisting the heat and the fond temperature increases slowly before getting burnt.

Do always check if the cooking oil in the pan is sufficient, more oil could help to prevent fond burning as well.


Keep stirring the fond or or flipping food in the pan, avoid them to be static.

How to prevent fond from burning-keep stirring

Another way to prevent fond from burning is don’t keep the fond static in the pan.

When the fond sits at the pan too long without moving, it will stick to the pan and the heat keeps supplied to the same surface of the fond until it gets burnt.

Frequently stir and flip to avoid the same surface of the fond contact with the pan surface, let the other surface of fond also have the chance as well, then the heat is able to distribute to the fond evenly without being burnt.

Scrape the fond which starts sticking to the pan as well, with a wooden spoon or spatula.


Add liquid into the pan to avoid fond burning.

How to prevent fond from burning-add liquid into pan (deglaze)

To avoid the brown bits turning into black burnt bits, add liquid to it, to deglaze the pan.

When the liquid is added, the fond from the bottom of the pan will dissolve and prevent the fond from burning because the liquid has already absorbed much of the heat.

The added liquid could be water, wine, or broth, then forming a mixture which is used as a base for flavorful sauce or gravy.

After searing or sautéing, don’t wait too long to add in the liquid to prevent the fond overcooked and burnt.


Final Thought

The principle of preventing fond or food from burning is control the heat temperature at low (enough for browning effect), keep the fond or food moving inside the pan to avoid the heat applying to the same surface. Adding some oil or liquid into the pan can help to distribute the heat to all surfaces of the fond or food evenly and avoid burning.

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