Au Jus

Au jus, yet another well known culinary term from France that we as Americans still somehow managed to butcher. In French, the term au jus means “with juice”. It refers to meat dishes served or prepared with a broth made from the juices of the meat as it cooks. It is a natural means of enhancing the flavor of a dish.

In French cuisine, cooking au jus usually refers to dishes made with chicken, lamb, or veal. It’s very different than what we might be used to here in America. If you want to prepare a natural au jus, you can simply take a spoon or a baster and skim off the top layer of fat from the natural juices formed from the meat as it was cooking and then bring the remaining meat stock and water back to a boil.

In American cuisine, the term has somehow evolved to mean some sort of a light sauce used mostly with beef. It’s usually darker in color and can be served with the food or served in a dish on the side for dipping. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the form of au jus served in most restaurants in the United States, but it’s simply not the same thing that is referenced in French cuisine.

In fact, one of Vanessa’s favorite meals are French dips. I don’t know if those exist outside of the U.S. (I’ll do some research and get back to you on that one) but they sure are good, and they are almost always served with what we as Americans know to be au jus. And to be honest, the chewy bread that comes with the French dip sandwich is a perfect vessel for soaking up bite after bite of that delicious salty beefy broth.

To an American, the term au jus means that there’s going to be a serving of some sort of beef (usually prime rib), and there’s going to be a bowl or container served on the side with a sauce made from the drippings of the meat specifically designed for dipping purposes.

Many au jus recipes found in the U.S. use additional ingredients such as soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, or brown sugar in addition to vegetables such as carrots or onions. Other recipes might use some sort of prime rib seasoning to add some extra bite to the au jus, and some use corn starch for a bit of thickening power to turn it into more of a gravy.

In other words,  American jus is not always produced naturally from the food that is being cooked. It might be prepared separately with many different ingredients being added. Going back to the French dip sandwich, the au jus typically served with it might just be made by reducing beef stock until it becomes more concentrated. This is called Glace de Viande.

One final thing I would like to add is that the phrase au jus is often misused as a noun here in the U.S. Over time I guess it just shifted into a different form. Technically, it should be something like “beef au jus” and not “beef with au jus”, because to say “beef with au jus” would mean “beef with with juice”.