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How to make a Classic Roux by Chef Charles Knight

You can tell by just looking at the word roux that its origin must be European. This most useful of all thickening agents was first created in France in the seventeenth century. Although its name stems from the Latin word russus, meaning red. The name of the French chef who perfected this culinary breakthrough has long been lost in the dustbin of history. But much to his credit, for hundreds of years, roux has been a beloved servant of serious cooks the world over. What is the purpose of a roux? Very simply, it is used as a thickening agent, as are other ingredients as cornstarch, arrowroot and flour.

To correctly pronounce roux, remember it rhymes with too. In the article, we will take the mystery (and intimidation) out of preparing a roux in your own kitchen. It is no the hush-hush provenance of master chefs, just the opposite. Once you learn how to make a great roux, you will wonder how you ever managed to cook without this exciting culinary addition. More accolades to that anonymous French chef of the seventeenth century.

To Make a Roux

Cooks use two types of roux, a white (sometimes called blond) and medium of dark roux. The color is determined by how long the roux is cooked. Generally, white roux is used to create white sauces and dark roux to make brown sauces. Preparing dark roux takes a bit of skill to give it a brown color without burning. Personally, I have found that a white or blond roux is best suited for most applications, as it will not overpower any accompanying dish.

Using a properly shaped utensil makes a big difference in roux preparation. I recommend a 9-inch gourmet skillet or 11-inch wok made of 5- or 9-ply full-body induction stainless steel. With its sloped sides, the pan becomes a convenience mixing bowl. It’s relatively small cooking surface, combined with overall heavy construction, helps control the cooking temperature. Temperature control is critical in the creation of a delicate. For these reasons, my 11-inch wok is much more dependable and easier to use than the large, commercially designed sauté pans or coated or cast-iron skillets, which affect both the taste and color of the roux; plus the cleanup is certainly much easier.

Roux is a substance created by cooking flour and fat (traditionally butter). Used as a thickening agent for what is known as a Mother Sauce, i.e., a béchamel, velouté, and sauce espagnole. To prepare a good roux. Use a stiff whisk or a large slotted serving spoon to stir together equal parts butter and flour over medium heat 220-270°F (105-132°C). Cook the roux for about 5 to 7 minutes. When ready, it will emit a pleasant, “baked cookie” aroma. At this point, remove the pan from the heat for about a minute, allowing the roux mixture to briefly cool. After 1 minute, return the pan to the heat.

To Thicken a Sauce with Roux

While you make the roux, bring the liquid to be thickened, such as stock or milk, to a simmer in another pot. After the roux is cooked and returned to the heat, pour in the hot liquid that has been simmering. Whisk as the ingredients are combined in the pan. Continue whisking until the evolving “sauce” comes to simmer. Next, reduce the heat and slowly simmer the sauce for 20 to 30 minutes. Use a ladle to skim any impurities that form on the sauces surface. Some cooks prefer to thicken the roux by simply adding cold liquids to the hot roux. The secret is whisking thoroughly to prevent lumps from forming. Practice will tell which techniques work best for you.

There you have it-the simple gem that fine cooks the world over rely on! With a roux in your kitchen, the tastes of your sauces will rise to new heights. Cook away, and please try to be humble when the applause deafens. After all, that anonymous seventeenth-century French chef really deserves the credit!

EQUIPMENT: measuring cup and spoons, 11-inch stainless steel stir-fry skillet wok

PREPARATION TIME: 15 minutes | Makes about 12 tablespoons


1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter or clarified butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

In the stir-fry skillet over medium heat 240°F (116°C), gently melt the butter until slightly separated; simmer 1 or 2 minutes. Do not allow the butter to burn or turn brown in color. Stir in a little bit of flour at a time and cook, stirring occasionally. The roux is cooked through when it is light blond in color and has a slight aroma of baked cookies, 10 to 15 minutes. Cook, stirring constantly, about 15 to 20 minutes for a dark roux.

CLASSIC ROUX, PER TABLESPOON: 111 Calories | 8.1g Fat (67% calories from fat) | 1.2g Protein | 7.8g Carbohydrates | 21mg Cholesterol | 0.9mg Sodium

Clarified butter is milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat. Typically, it is produced by melting butter and allowing the components to separate by density. The water evaporates, some solids float to the surface and are skimmed off, and the remainder of the milk solids sink to the bottom and are left behind when the butter fat (which would then be on top) is poured off.