As we went through the various thickening agents in a previous post, we felt that there just wasn’t enough coverage about the all so important thickening agent that is overwhelmingly used in professional kitchens and home kitchens alike the whole world over. It is the backbone of many dishes, soups, and sauces and has been used as the battlefield medic in recovering dishes that may have gone over the wayside a bit. A roux is a simple flour/fat mixture that is added to dishes in order to thicken a dish.
What is a roux consist of?
- It is a combination of equal parts by weight flour and fat (Butter, oils, etc).
Flour and fat is then cooked together to form a paste. Cooking the flour in fat will coat the starch/flour with the fat and prevent them from lumping together when introduced into a liquid. In some professional kitchens, roux is prepared prior and used as needed throughout the night. For the home cook or smaller restaurants, it is made separate for each recipe.
The Three Types of Roux
There are three varieties of roux that you may use depending on the desired outcome
- White roux – This roux is cooked briefly and should be removed from heat as soon as it develops a bubbly, frothy appearance. White roux’s are used in white sauces such as a bechamel or in dishes where color is undesirable.
- Blond roux – Cooked a bit longer than white roux in order to produce a blond coloring, a blond roux is at the beginning stages of caramelization. A veloute is typical for the requirements of a blond roux
- Brown roux – A brown roux is cooked until it is much more caramelized and will turn a distinct brown color. This roux will impart a nutty aroma and flavor and is used in brown sauces or dishes where a dark color is desired. Because the starches break down during prolonged cooking, more roux will be required to achieve a similar thickening power.
How To Make Roux
There is a basic procedure for making roux that is easy to follow and simple to learn. Whether you are creating a white, blond, or brown roux, the procedure is the same.
- Use a heavy saucepan to prevent overheating and burning. Heat your fat/butter/oil.
- Add all the flour to the oil and stir in to form a paste. The best flour to use will be a cake or pastry flour as they will have more starch content, however an all-purpose flour will work just fine too.
- Cook the paste over medium heat until the desired type is achieved. The roux should be the consistency of wet cement. Be sure to stir the roux often to avoid burning. Burnt roux will not thicken a liquid and will instead impart bitter burnt flavoring and small burnt flakes instead. Throw it away if this occurs and start again.
The general rule is that the temperature and amount of roux being made determines the exact cooking time. A white roux, however needs to cook for only a few minutes just long enough to minimize the raw flour taste. Blond roux is cooked a bit longer. A brown roux will require a much longer cooking time to develop the color and aroma. Good roux is stiff, not runny or pourable.
Adding Roux To A Liquid
You must follow the proper steps of adding roux into your liquid and you must also have the foresight to prepare for the method in advance to avoid situations where you may cause a delay in your cooking. Such delays or lack of preparation is the bane of a good cook and can cause you to miss important windows of cooking opportunities. Therefore, there are two ways to incorporate it into a liquid
- Cold or warm stock can be added to a hot roux while stirring vigorously with a whisk/spoon.
- Room temp roux can be added to a hot stock/liquid while stirring vigorously with whisk/spoon.
If you add hot roux to a hot liquid, you WILL form lumps that will be almost impossible to remove save straining. If you have to add a portion of the liquid to the roux and get the mixture happening (Which is how I do it), that works just as fine. Then, once the roux has begun to incorporate you can add the remaining liquid and bring it back up to temperature.
Common Proportions of Roux to Liquid
|200g / 6 oz||200g / 6 oz||400g / 12 oz||4L / 1 Gal||Light|
|250g / 8 oz||250g / 8 oz||500g / 1 lbs||4L / 1 Gal||Medium|
|375g / 12 oz||375g / 12 oz||750g / 24 oz||4L / 1 Gal||Heavy|
Important Roux Guidelines
- Do not use aluminum pots as the scraping of the metal whisk will turn light grey and impart a metallic flavor. This will also cause aluminum to be ingested which some have claimed cause health concerns.
- Use proper heavy pots to prevent the scorching of sauces or burning during long cooking times
- Do not use extreme temperatures. Roux should be no colder than room temp so the fat will not fully solidify. Extremely hot roux is dangerous and can cause burns via splattering when combined with liquid. Stock should not be ice cold with roux as the roux will become just as cold and will solidify and be difficult to whisk out.
- Avoid over thickening your product. Roux does not fully reach its potential until the liquid reaches its simmering point. It will not immediately see results until it heats up. If you must cook a sauce for a long period of time, consider using the reduction method.