A Demi-Glace is, at its core, a rich and flavorful sauce. Traditionally made with the roasted bones of veal and simmered in water for hours until the flavours are imparted into the stock, the stock is then simmered and reduced into a concentrated liquid. However, this liquid does not behave like most other sauces and stocks you will be familiar with. Due to the natural gelatin in the meat and bones of veal, it becomes a silky experience that you are unlikely to forget.
If left at room temperature, demi-glace often starts to transition from a liquid to a jellied solid due to the gelatin contents in the sauce. This form of demi-glace makes it excellent for storage and use, but less than appetising for eating and so it is always served hot. It can be used as a sauce on the plate all on its own, or it can be used in other places such as soups and broths.
It is this jellied characteristic that also gives the sauce what is commonly called body. The best way to describe the body of a sauce is by means of its mouthfeel, and a demi-glace mouthfeel can be described as:
- Minimally Viscous
Traditionally, this would have taken hours, if not days in a restaurant kitchen in France, not to mention there would be a lot of expensive veal bones and fresh herbs too. This ‘cheaters’ method of making demi-glace is an almost free way to enhance any brown-sauce based dish.
What Does Demi-Glace Taste Like?
If you are looking for an easy answer to this question, then I would simply say amazing. But for the sake of helping you imagine it (that’s what we food bloggers are here for, after all), then I would have you turn your attention to the other usually brown sauce – gravy!
Take the best gravy you have ever had, the kind that was made in the same pan as the beef whose juices it now contains, and then imagine that a single teaspoon of it is enough to coat your entire mouth in a rich and bodied layer of umami and flavour. Because that is the main takeaway from tasting demi-glace – it tastes great of course, but the real value is in its ability to linger in the mouth for a long time.
How to Use Demi-Glace
Of course, it can be used on its own, as a standalone sauce that is sure to wow anyone that tries it, however, it can also be used in a variety of other ways. A common use in fine dining restaurants is to produce a red wine sauce using demi-glace as a foundation; the same ingredients are used, but instead of finishing it with butter, demi-glace is used instead. This substitution provides all the same benefits that butter does to the sauce, but with an even further improved mouth-feel – and one that is less likely to break its emulsion.
If you are wanting to fortify your own sauces with this so-called ‘flavour bomb’, then the best way to consistently do so without having a permanent stock pot on your hob is to use frozen demi-glace. Once it is frozen, it can last almost indefinitely and so you should never encounter an occasion where you have run out of it. And if you have, then it is just an excuse to make even more next time.
How To Make Demi-Glace
The Perfect Demi-Glace (Gelatin Method)
- Stock Pot
- 1000 ml Stock Chicken or Beef
- 7 g Gelatin Powdered, unflavoured
- 1 tbsp MSG Optional
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- Preheat a stock pot (or a large, high walled saucepan) over medium heat. You should use a heavy pot for this to retain the heat and encourage as much evaporation as possible.
- Add the tomato paste to the pot and quickly begin moving it so that it doesn't burn. Keep moving it around until it turns a deep brown.
- Add the liquid stock, gelatin and MSG (optional) to the pot and make sure that there is no tomato paste stuck to the bottom.
- Simmer for 4-6 hours with the lid off, or until the liquid is reduced to 1/6 the original volume (166ml). Marking a wooden spoon at the initial height is an excellent way to keep track of the progress.
- Once it has fully reduced, let it cool slightly so you don't hurt yourself, and then pour it into your desired container. We recommend ice cube trays for handy portion sized amounts.
Is this as good as real demi-glace?
If you are asking me if this can compare to a French made demi-glace, then I would have to say no. There is a certain level of quality and respect that is associated with real French demi-glace, and try as hard as we might, we cannot hope to replicate it at home. But is this as good as your local steakhouse’s offering? I’d say better!
Can I use different stocks to make demi-glace?
Of course you can! Traditional demi-glace made today uses a slightly different combination of stocks than was used to make it 50 years ago (in most places), so why let a chef dictate when you can make the swap to something else! If anyone decides to use vegetable stock, then please let me know the result!
Can I add spices and herbs?
Yes, and no. This part is up to you – mostly. But spices that dissolve into the sauce like paprika and garlic powder are usually discouraged, whereas an infusion bag of whole herbs that is later removed and strained can be an excellent way to add additional depth to your demi-glace.
I reduced it too far! Help!
Did someone leave it alone for too long? (Not me this time, I promise!)
The first thing to do is check to make sure it didn’t thicken so far that it started to catch on the bottom of the pan and burn. Once a demi-glace gains a burnt taste it is impossible to save. If you have not burned the bottom of the sauce, then it is just a case of adding more water. Add a little more water than you think as it will need to incorporate and reduce slightly again.
Is demi-glace just a gravy?
Gravy is very similar to demi-glace, however it is far more watery and does not possess the mouthfeel that is associated with demi-glace.
Can I speed this up with thickeners?
No. The signature velvety feeling of a demi-glace can only be obtained through evaporation and the concentration of the gelatin in the sauce, if you are in a bit of a pinch, then I could forgive a small amount of thickener (starches, xantham gum etc) to help push it along, but you cannot substitute it whole.