First developed in the early 1900s, browning sauce is an all-purpose cooking seasoning used to deepen the color of food and enhance its flavor. You can add it to gravies, soups and stews to provide richness and an improved appearance. Steaks and other cuts of meat develop an attractive, caramelized surface when cooked with browning sauce, as do vegetables and mock meats like tofu. This highly concentrated condiment is a useful addition to nearly any savory food.
What's In It For Me?
Every browning sauce manufacturer relies on a unique recipe, but most brands have a few things in common. This kind of sauce relies heavily on caramel or sugar combined with caramel color for its browning ability. Most brands also include vegetable ingredients like celery, garlic, onion and parsley, along with salt. Some use hydrolyzed protein or yeast, sources of free glutamates, to intensify their flavor.
Browning a Better Steak
If you feel that your cooked steaks don't have the right color or surface texture, browning sauce might help. Brush the sauce onto steaks and other cuts just before grilling to produce a caramelized look and flavor. You can also use browning sauce to give a grilled appearance to meats you cook in a slow cooker, on an electric grill, or in the microwave.
Sweet and Salty Substitutes
This type of seasoning can be hard to find in some supermarkets. If you can't buy browning sauce in your area, consider substituting baker's caramel, a form of burnt sugar. You can also use soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, although both are saltier and might affect the flavor of the finished dish. If you want to make your own browning sauce, melt one part brown sugar in a saucepan over low heat until it begins to darken. Add four parts water, whisking until dissolved, and simmer to reduce.
A Little Goes a Long Way
Browning sauce usually adds relatively little flavor, but if you use too much it can make your food taste burnt or bitter. Measure this ingredient carefully when adding it to recipes. If you brush it onto steak, use only the amount required to produce the desired color. If the sauce seems to be too thick, dilute it slightly with water before adding it to food. One bottle can last several years, according to Richardson Brands, manufacturers of one type of browning sauce.
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.
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