How to Make Roux
It’s easy to make delicious sauces and gravies with butter and flour
Want to make gravy? How about a cheese sauce? A velouté perhaps?
Then you’ll need to start with roux. Roux (pronounced roo) is the most basic of thickeners for stock or milk to make gravy or velouté (vuh loo tay), which I’ll cover in a minute. So today I’ll show you how to make roux. I promise this will help bring your recipe repetoire to new levels.
Roux is a combination of flour and fat, most usually butter, in equal proportions, which then has stock or milk/cream to it and brought to a boil and allowed to thicken. At the Culinary Institute of America we were taught 2 parts clarified butter to 3 parts flour. For a roux with more flavor you can also use vegetable oil or rendered chicken fat. Technically the ratio is based on weight. Me, I use one to one butter/flour.
To make roux simple melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy bottom sauce pan. (If you’re using a thin bottom sauce pan you’ll need to be careful not to scorch the roux.) Once the butter is melted add two tablespoons of flour and start stirring with a wooden spoon to incorporate the two completely. I like to use a spoon with a corner so I can get into the corner of the pan. Now you simply cook the roux until the raw floury smell turns to a nuttier aroma, about three or four minutes. Keep stirring so you don’t burn the roux. Next add one cup of milk or stock and whisk until all is thickened. Done. That’s it. Know you how to make roux.
There is one more ratio you need to know: the roux to liquid ratio. For every cup of liquid – stock or milk – you need a roux made with two tablespoons of butter/two tablespoons of flour.
Now you have a base recipe to make Béchamel, white sauce, sauce, and gravy. Grind up some of that left over turkey from Thanksgiving and make croquettes or add a bit of roux and cream to the pan you just seared that chicken in and you have a pan sauce that will be full of flavor. Add some cheese and you have a Mornay sauce for pasta or eggs.
There are three basic colors of roux: white, blond, and brown. The key to roux is knowing the darker the roux, the less thickening power it has, but the more flavor it has. If you are thickening beef stock use a darker roux and more of it. If your are making a white sauce, use a white roux. Just remember to cook it until the flour-y aroma is gone.
You can make roux in a large batch and refrigerate or freeze it. Refrigerated roux is good for three or four weeks, frozen it’s good for about a year.
The last thing you need to know about roux is always add cold/room temperature liquid to hot roux or cold roux to hot liquid to avoid lumps.
So what is velouté? Velouté is a mild tasting sauce made using roux and adding chicken, fish, or beef stock. It is a sauce, not a gravy, and can be enhanced by the addition of herbs or spices in moderation. Velouté is a good addition to fish, beef, or chicken dishes.
What is the difference between a sauce and a gravy?
Gravy is made from the drippings in a roast, poultry, beef or pork. Gravy is more flavorful because you are using the drippings and fond from the roasted protein. Fond is the burnt up, crispy stuff in the bottom of the pan and is oh so tasty.
A recipe using roux
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni, or other, your choice
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups milk
- 10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
- 2 ounces Stilton cheese crumbled
- ground white pepper, to taste
- kosher or sea salt, to taste
- paprika to taste, or about ¼ teaspoon
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan, melt the butter and sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Stir in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes.
- Whisk in the milk. Simmer for five or so minutes whisking constantly until it thickens then fold in the cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.
- Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving. Remember to save leftovers for fried Macaroni and Cheese.
The recipe says it takes 12 minutes. Mileage may vary.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup of milk, or stock of your choice
- Melt the butter in a small sauce pan
- Add the flour and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Just long enough to remove the flour aroma. Remember to stir this constantly.
- Whisk in the room temperature liquid and whisk until thickened. About 2 to 4 minutes.