02 July 2010

Kitchen Basics: Making a Roux

I have some quick net access today, so I am going to begin my promised series on Mac & Cheese.

There are three major components to a great stovetop macaroni and cheese: the béchamel sauce, the cheese, and the pasta.

We'll address the béchamel as a whole in my next post. Today, I'll cover the first (and in my opinion, most important) step to making this sauce: the roux.

What is a Roux?

A roux is a mixture of fat and flour that are cooked together, and used to thicken sauces. The process to make it is fairly straightforward:

Printer Friendly Directions

Here's what you need:

Equal parts flour and butter (clarified is best - see this recipe for instructions on clarifying butter).
Pan or pot

If you don't have butter, you could use lard, coconut oil, olive oil, or any other fat, even bacon fat.

I've never attempted a roux with whole wheat flour, but given that a roux can be used in fairly small quantity, white flour is perfectly acceptable.

Here's what you do:

Melt your fat of choice in a pan over medium heat. Once melted, sprinkle the flour int the hot fat, and stir with a whisk or wooden spoon. Continue to stir while the roux cooks, at least 1 minute, until you have reached the desired color. The goal is to cook out the raw flavor of the flour. Once your roux becomes fragrant (a nice nutty scent will start wafting from your pan), you know the raw flavor has been cooked out. You can stop at this point, or continue to cook it.

For you visual learners, here's a step-by-step look at the above directions:

The longer you cook your roux, the deeper the color will get. Deeper color means a nuttier flavor for your final product. You can cook it as deep as mahogany, but any further and you will quickly g from nutty deliciousness to burnt crap (not a great addition to your Thanksgiving gravy). Be especially careful if using unclarified butter, as the milk solids can burn at low temperatures.

You can make a big batch of roux ahead of time, then freeze it for quick access. To use, simply stir your roux into warm pan drippings for gravy, or into any sauce that needs thickening. Rule of thumb: 1 TB roux to thicken 1 cup liquid.

Stay tuned for Part II of my Mac & Cheese series: Béchamel (one Mother of a sauce)


  1. Mmmm, can't wait for the next step! I adore macaroni and cheese. :-)

  2. I've made it 3 times in the past week and a half, I can't get enough!


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