You know those stubborn little bits of food that won’t come off your pan no matter how hard you scrub? There’s an easy way to clean that -- and it doesn’t require much, if any, elbow grease.
Simply place the pan on the stove, over medium-high heat until it's hot. Add a thin layer of water and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape off the browned bits. They should peel off easily.
Stubborn bits removed, take the pan off heat and finish washing in the sink.
When you use wine, this process is also known as deglazing, and it's a fundamental part of cooking. When meats or vegetables are sautéed, seared or roasted, they leave behind browned bits stuck to the pan. These browned bits can contain an amazing amount of flavoring, and are often used to enhance the flavoring of the dish being cooked (say, a ragu, soup or stew) or are later turned into a gravy, glaze or sauce to serve with the finished dish.
If you're deglazing to build a sauce, you will want to use a nicer wine that will complement the overall dish. But if you're just cleaning the pan, feel free to use any old wine. In a pinch, you can use another kind of acid such as vinegar, but the scent of sizzling wine is much more pleasant than the potent stench of scalding vinegar.
For more information on pan sauces and deglazing, check out this story.
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