Read This Before Making A Roux

Sometime in the 19th century, French chef Marie-Antoine Carême deemed béchamel, velouté, espagnole, and the humble tomato sauce as the four sauces that French cuisine depends on (via Food52). Along the way, hollandaise got added into the mix and the five sauces are now called the "five French mother sauces." The sauces that French chefs swear by haunt culinary students, spook home chefs, and make the best chefs still shiver.

To master the mother sauces, you first need to master three elements that they're built on — emulsion, reduction, and roux. In fact, four of the original five sauces (béchamel, velouté, espagnole, and tomato sauce) are made with roux as a base. Once you're a roux wizard, you're on your way to taking over French food.

To put it simply, roux is really just flour that is fried in some type of fat till it forms a paste-like consistency (via Michelin Guide). Depending on how long you fry the flour, roux can be of four different types, each with a different color. White roux is cooked for two to three minutes, which is just enough to get rid of the floury taste (via Taste Of Home). It is then used in white sauces like béchamel. Cook it for five to 10 minutes, and the buttery blond roux can be used in velouté. Cook it for half an hour and the nutty brown roux can be used in soups, stews, and espagnole, and for a dark brown roux popular in Cajun and Creole cuisines, cook it for 45 minutes.

How can you make a roux?

According to Michelin Guide, the traditional French way of cooking roux requires flour and butter as the chosen fat. However, in Cajun cooking where roux is also popularly used, oil, bacon grease, and lard are the preferred types of fat as they are harder to burn.

To make a roux the French way, you need equal amounts of flour and butter. Melt your butter first and then stir in the flour till it forms a lump-free paste-like consistency. From there, you only have to whisk the roux continuously until it reaches the color that you want (white, blond, brown, or dark brown) and then simply pour in your liquid to turn it into a sauce.

You can make your roux ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks (via Masterclass). All Recipes also recommends letting the roux cool on baking sheets or in ice cube trays and storing them in the refrigerator or freezer. Simply pop a cube of roux when you're ready to cook and use the paste to make any of the four French mother sauces to whip up lasagnas, mac 'n' cheese, gumbos, and gravies.