Reducing sauce on the stove is an excellent way to thicken sauce naturally without adding any thickening agents, like cornstarch or flour.
In addition to thickening a sauce, reducing concentrates the flavors when water that would otherwise dilute the intense flavors deepens while the reduction occurs.
We made a very simple teriyaki-style sauce to illustrate this method. We used 1 cup of light soy sauce, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 shallots, and a clove of garlic.
- Peel and roughly chop the shallots and garlic. Place these two ingredients in a pot. Cooking these ingredients over a high heat until they caramelized would be one way to reduce some of the liquid from the shallots. View the method for caramelizing onions to learn more about this. However, we chose not to caramelize the shallots and garlic in this particular method of reduction.
- Pour the sugar and the soy sauce into the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and stir the ingredients. The sugar will concentrate as the mixture reduces, as will the soy sauce.
- As the sauce heats, it will begin to boil. Notice the sauce is thickening as it heats. As the bubbles become larger in the pot, watch the sauce closely. Do not let the bubbles become too large or they will creep up the side of the pan and boil over. When the bubbles begin to enlarge, reduce the heat to low to allow your sauce continue to cook further (deepening and strengthening its flavor), or serve the sauce immediately.
- Your sauce has completed cooking when it has reached your desired thickness (consistency) and taste. Keep in mind sauces, especially in the cases of reduced sauces made with sugar and gelatin, will continue to thicken as they cool.
- Test the sauce with a spoon. If the sauce coats the spoon you can feel secure the sauce will coat other ingredients in the dishes you make with a thick and concentrated flavor. Testing with a spoon is a good way to test the sauce because the temperature of the spoon will cool the sauce a bit, giving an accurate impression of the how thick the sauce will be once it leaves the hot pan and cools to the temperature it will ultimately be served at.
- Strain the sauce to remove the bits of garlic and shallot.
The end product is a clean, sweet, and somewhat thick sauce. This particular sauce (teriyaki) can be used while barbequing, as a marinade, or simply as a sauce to dip ingredients into.
Use homemade teriyaki sauce in any recipe calling for teriyaki. This is a great one to start with: