A glaze is an easy, effective way to embellish the appearance of foods and enhance their flavors. The succulent flavor of roast chicken with a tangy, lacquered apricot glaze is sure to win approval at a festive meal for company or the family’s Sunday dinner. As the chicken roasts, sugar in the glaze begins to caramelize. When combined with the protein, deep, sweet-savory umami flavors begin to form. Browning is intensified and the surface develops a glossy sheen.
What is a Glaze?
A glaze is a flavorful coating applied to the outer surface of foods. Glazes and sauces share similarities, but the main difference is that glazes are brushed on foods — meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables — as they cook, while sauces are generally added after the foods are done. Some sauces, like barbecue sauce, can be lightly applied like a glaze.
Glazes differ from marinades in application. A glaze adds flavor when brushed onto meats, while a marinade infuses flavor through soaking. But long soaking doesn’t infuse the protein deeply with flavor. Food scientist Harold McGee says, “It is right at the surface, where the meat meets the fire during grilling, that you get much of the flavor.” Marinating for 30 minutes can impact surface flavor, but glazing is often as effective in less time. Many leftover marinades can be cooked down and applied as a glaze.
A Colorful History
During the Late Middle Ages, cookbook manuscripts reveal methods for glazing foods that would astonish modern cooks. Upper class families enhanced their dishes with bright, colorful glazes; gold/yellow hues were the most highly prized. For a royal banquet, a cooked goose would first be coated with egg white then with a thin veneer of gold leaf. A less costly coating was possible through the art of endoring — glazing a dish to make it appear as if it were gilt in gold. Using an edible egg tempura of egg yolks and saffron, the golden glaze was brushed over poultry, savory pies, and even meatballs before they were done. A few endoring recipes included mercury, verdigris, and orpiment, an arsenic sulfide mineral used as a pigment called “king’s yellow.” Leafy greens, herbs, and roses were used to make green and red glazes.
Egg yolks are still brushed on breads, rolls, and pastry before baking. To produce a deep-golden, shiny glaze, whisk 2 large yolks with 3 teaspoons milk and a pinch of sea salt. Include ¼ teaspoon sugar for sweetbreads. Reduced syrup glazes made from fruit juice or pureed fruits can also be brushed over hot baked sweet rolls and coffeecakes.
You’re probably more familiar with Glacé Icing made from confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar), water, and flavoring. Called water icing, it is much thinner than frosting but basically interchangeable with a glaze. For either one, tweak the sugar-water ratio to the desired consistency. Glaze dries into a glossy surface coating for cakes, cookies, sweetbreads, and pastries. For the smoothest consistency, use finely powdered, 10X confectioners’ sugar, which dissolves quickly. It contains 3 percent cornstarch, an anti-caking agent that prevents clumping. Who doesn’t love a fresh doughnut with a thin veil of warm, shiny glaze or pound cake with a luscious vanilla glaze dripping down the sides? Granulated sugar glazes dissolve better if heated.
The queen of chocolate glazes is ganache — a luxurious, glossy mixture that originated in Paris around 1850. Ganache Glaze should be thin enough to pour over the top of a cake yet thick enough to cling to the sides. The consistency can be varied by slightly adjusting the ratio of cream to chocolate; the more cream, the thinner it will be.
Glazes are used globally to add depth of flavor and complexity to foods. Many glazes have a high sugar content; brown sugar, fruit juice concentrates, golden syrup, molasses, and maple syrup are a few sweet options. To prevent excess burning, begin brushing glaze on larger pieces of meat or poultry ⅓ to ½ of the way through the cooking time; baste every 10 to 15 minutes. Smaller pieces of protein like chicken parts, pork chops, or large, skewered shrimp can be basted sooner.
Melted jellies and jams — apricot, seeded raspberry, plum, guava, or jalapeño jelly — will enhance the flavor and appearance of savory or sweet foods. Brush on ham, poultry, soft warm cheese, cake layers, cookies, or fresh fruits arranged on desserts and in fruit tarts.
For an instant glaze, heat Asian plum sauce, chutney, or a barbecue sauce over low heat or briefly in a microwave. Thin with citrus juice, wine, beer, or water if too thick. Blend honey with an equal amount of melted butter, olive oil, or chicken fat. Flavorful pan drippings mixed into your homemade glaze will boost the flavor even further.
Add pizazz to homemade glazes with curry paste, soy sauce, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, vinegar, balsamic vinegar glaze, mustards, apple cider, herbs, and spice.
A juicy, glazed ham, with its skin crosscut and roasted to a crispy finish is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. In the 1800s, hams were glazed with glace de viande as well as egg yolks with cracker crumbs. Mild-cure hams with a sugar glaze became popular in the 1890s. To make a delicious, classic Southern glaze for a 10- to 12-pound cooked ham, combine 1½ packed cups brown sugar, 4 to 6 ounces Coca Cola, and ⅓ cup smooth Dijon mustard. Bourbon is optional. Press whole cloves into scored ham skin.
Apricot-Rosemary Glazed Chicken
This sweet-tangy, spicy glaze includes apricots, which is a natural accompaniment to chicken, pork chops, ham steaks, and salmon fillets. Warm glaze can also be spooned over baked brie cheese. Short on time? Purchase a rotisserie-roasted chicken; baste it with the glaze and reheat briefly in a hot oven. If heating the chicken under a hot broiler, butterfly it first or cut into serving pieces. Baste often with the glaze; watch carefully for burning.
1 broiler-fryer chicken (4 to 4½ pounds)
Olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper
1 cup Smucker’s Simply Fruit® Apricot Fruit Spread or Apricot Preserves
¼ cup apricot nectar or tangy orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, rinsed, partially chopped, with extra sprigs for garnish
¼ cup Asian sweet red chili sauce or 2 tablespoons Sweet onion chili jam
Preheat oven to 350 F. Rub chicken with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on a roasting pan; put into the oven. Heat remaining ingredients in a small pan. Pour ⅓ of the glaze into a small bowl, adding more as needed. After 30 minutes, brush glaze in the bowl over the chicken; continue basting periodically. If areas begin to burn, tent lightly with foil. Cook 30 to 45 minutes more or until juices run clear and an instant-read digital thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165 F. Allow chicken to rest 15 minutes; discard leftover glaze in bowl. Garnish with rosemary sprigs; serve unused, warm glaze on the side.
Pineapple Dijon Glaze
Brush this fruity pineapple glaze on ham, pork ribs, beef, fish, skewered shrimp, or poultry. To make Pineapple Dijon Chicken, use all bone-in chicken with skin, choosing 2 large breast halves, or 4 thighs, or 2 leg quarters. Season with salt and pepper; dust with flour. Saute briefly in 2 tablespoons olive oil to brown all sides. Put chicken in a medium casserole; top with 1 minced shallot, one 8-ounce can pineapple rings or chunks, and the glaze. Bake at 350 F, basting, until chicken breasts reach 165 F; dark meat 175 to 180 F on an instant-read digital thermometer.
1 cup pineapple juice (can include natural juice from canned pineapple)
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 minced garlic clove
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon quality soy sauce (like Kikkoman)
Red pepper flakes, to taste, or ½ to 1 teaspoon Asian chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 extra tablespoons pineapple juice
In a small pan, combine the glaze ingredients except the cornstarch mixed with pineapple juice. Simmer about 5 minutes, then drizzle in cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture thickens and boils 1 full minute. Use at once or cool and refrigerate in an airtight jar for a week. Recipe can be doubled. Makes about 1 cup.
Glazed Ginger Meatballs
Serve these gingery meatballs as an entree or as an Asian-style appetizer wrapped in small, fresh bibb or Boston lettuce leaves. Place a meatball on a lettuce leaf, then add a spoonful of cooked, medium-grain rice. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion and a medley of matchstick strips of carrot, red bell pepper, and turnip marinated in rice vinegar. Fold the lettuce leaf over the filling to form a compact bundle for eating.
2 large eggs
2 to 3 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger root
5 green onions, finely chopped (discard root ends and ½ of the green ends)
2 large garlic pods, finely minced
1 cup fresh, unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons quality soy sauce
⅓ cup liquid (Japanese dashi, beef broth, milk, or water)
1 pound ground round (85 percent lean)
1 pound ground pork
Tare Glaze (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the meat and Tare Glaze. With clean hands, thoroughly mix in beef and pork. Handle lightly without compacting, or the meatballs could be tough. Shape into about 24 big meatballs; arrange on a large, lightly oiled baking sheet with rims. Bake 20 minutes or until no longer pink inside. As the meatballs cook, prepare Tare Glaze. Combine cooked meatballs and glaze in a large bowl; turn gently to coat. Scoop into a serving bowl; garnish with green onion and vegetable strips. Refrigerate leftovers; reheat in the microwave. Serves 6 to 8.
Tips: Check the meatball seasoning by cooking and tasting a tiny portion of the mixture. The meatballs can be cooked in batches in a very large skillet with a little vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add sauce and combine.
Teriyaki is a traditional Japanese cooking method for grilling foods. Teri means “shiny” and yaki means “grill.” Foods are brushed with tare (tar-eh), a basting glaze that creates a rich caramelized color and adds the savoriness of umami. The classic tare is based on soy sauce, mirin, saké, and sugar. This spicy variation includes chilies, ginger root, and hoisin — a Chinese bean sauce used for glazing meats. Mirin is a sweet rice wine that shines in sauces and simmered dishes, adding a glossy luster. Purchase fine mirin (14 percent alcohol) in natural and health food stores.
½ cup water (or dashi stock)
2 thin, diagonal slices fresh gingerroot, smashed
2 packed tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup quality soy sauce (like Kikkoman)
¼ cup quality mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce, or to tast
2 tablespoons quality hoisin sauce (like Lee Kum Kee)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Add glaze ingredients to a small saucepan; stir until cornstarch dissolves. Place over medium-high heat and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until mixture thickens and boils 1 full minute. Cool tare; discard ginger. Use at once or refrigerate in a tightly covered jar for 2 weeks. Use the glaze on meatballs or brush over grilled steak, pork, poultry, or tofu. Drizzle into a vegetable, meat, or seafood stir-fry during the final 2 or 3 minutes of cooking. Makes about 1¼ cups.
Glazed Salmon Rice Bowls
Cook 1 cup rinsed medium-grain rice. Mix ½ cup shelled edamame into cooked rice. Pan fry ½ pound fresh salmon filet. When cooked, break into large chunks and coat with Tare Glaze. Scoop rice into two large serving bowls until half filled. Top with the glazed salmon pieces, small portions of stir-fried vegetables, toasted sesame seeds, and shredded green onion.
Berry-Port Wine Glaze
You might be tempted to eat this with a spoon, but save it for glazing ham, poultry, pork tenderloin, game, or lamb. Omit the Chili Garlic Sauce and spoon the fruity glaze over desserts such as ice cream, fresh berries, or cheesecake.
1½ cups Ocean Spray 100% Juice, Cranberry Raspberry
½ cup seedless raspberry jam or plum jam (or a blend)
2 tablespoons raspberry balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup port wine
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons quality Chili Garlic Sauce (like Lee Kum Kee), to taste
Put the juice, jam, vinegar, and salt into a small saucepan, heat until jam melts. Blend cornstarch into the port; off the heat, stir into the juice mixture with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium-high heat; stir continuously until mixture thickens and boils 1 full minute. Stir in lemon juice and Chili Garlic Sauce. Use at once or cool and refrigerate in an airtight jar. Warm the glaze before use.
This thin glaze complements almost any cookie; among the prettiest are cutouts adorned with flower petals. Rosewater adds another floral dimension. Note that the flavoring is potent; use sparingly. The glaze sets beautifully and has a softer bite than royal icing (glace royale), which is made with egg whites and dries into a hard protective coating. Corn syrup helps prevent sugar crystallization and enhances the shine. Additional flavorings include dissolved instant espresso, unsweetened cocoa, citrus juice, and zest.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (a little more for thicker glaze), sifted
2 tablespoons water, half-and-half, or cream
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
⅛ to ¼ Nielsen Massey rosewater, or ½ teaspoon pure vanilla, almond, or coconut extract
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Baked sugar cookies, of choice
Whisk sugar, water, lemon juice, salt, and rosewater until smooth; blend in corn syrup. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon glaze in the center of a cookie; spread with the back of a spoon or a small, offset icing spatula, or apply with a decorator squeeze bottle. For a lacy design, drizzle over the top. If too thin and translucent, blend in 2 to 3 more tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time. A few drops of white food coloring make the glaze opaque, but it retains its shine. Dry glazed cookies on parchment paper 3 hours or until set. Decorate tops as desired. Yields glaze for 2½ dozen (3-inch) cookies.
Variation: Cream Cheese Glaze
Prepare recipe as directed, but use half-and-half or cream, omit the corn syrup, and beat in 2 tablespoons soft cream cheese until smooth. Stir in flavoring. The glaze can be enriched with a tablespoon of soft, unsalted butter. Good drizzled over quick breads, muffins, or scones.
Some flowers are more than a pretty face; use their tasty petals to embellish glazed cookies. Proceed with caution; some flowers are poisonous. Edible flowers include primroses, roses, nasturtiums, carnations, pinks, pansies, violas, scented geraniums, calendula (pot marigold), cornflowers, chrysanthemums, hibiscus, purslane, and herb flowers, e.g., rosemary and lavender.
Due to pesticides, don’t eat commercially grown flowers or those growing by roadsides. For more information, consult gardening reference books or gardening professionals. Organic flowers can be purchased from specialty grocers, farmers markets, and online growers. Even better, grow your own.
To decorate glazed cookies, attach small flowers or petals with extra glaze or lightly beaten, pasteurized egg white. Whole petals can be shredded like confetti. Sugar-glaze flowers by lightly brushing with the egg white; sprinkle with extra-fine sugar. Optional: Flowers can be flattened by placing them between parchment sheets topped with a heavy book for 1 hour.
Chocolate ganache is endlessly versatile. As a warm glaze, pour it over layer cakes, sheet cakes, and cupcakes. Spoon over ice cream or serve as fondue for fresh fruit and cookies. High-quality dark chocolate is key — e.g., Guittard Semisweet Chocolate Baking Bar (64 percent cacao) or Ghirardelli 60 percent Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar. Heavy cream (38 percent butterfat) adds richness and a smooth texture; butter gives a glossy sheen. The glaze retains its shiny finish on room temperature cakes; if refrigerated, it loses some gloss.
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup organic, heavy cream (8 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in half at room temperature, or light corn syrup
Optional: 1 teaspoon pure vanilla or 1 to 2 tablespoons liquor or liqueur.
Chop the chocolate, reserve. In a small saucepan bring cream to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour hot cream into a small bowl, then immediately add chocolate. After 2 to 3 minutes, use a rubber spatula to gently stir, beginning at the center, until a thick, smooth emulsion forms. Gently stir in butter, one piece at a time, and desired flavoring. Use glaze while still pourable. It thickens as it cools; if necessary, gently rewarm in a double boiler. If ganache reaches a spreadable consistency, you can use it as cake frosting. Serve within 2 days; refrigerate leftovers.
Tips: Steep herbs, spices, or strips of orange zest in the cream as it heats; strain out when hot cream is poured into the bowl.
Using a decorator squirt bottle, create a drip glaze around the top edge of a well-chilled, frosted cake. Glaze should be fluid, about room temperature.
For thinner glaze, increase cream to 1¼ cups.