Roux (Often mistakenly spelled as rue) is a major component in classic French cuisine and is used on a regular basis in fine dining and restaurants the world over. Learning how to make a roux is an important skill to add to your repertoire. Let’s explore the three types of roux and how to make a roux the proper way.
Roux is the backbone of many dishes, soups, and sauces and has been used for many centuries and is a staple of classic French cuisine. A roux is simple in its make-up but extremely versatile in its use. When learning how to thicken a soup, a roux is typically used and to make a roux is easy using a flour/fat mixture. The texture given from a roux is one of the biggest benefits of using it versus something simpler like a whitewash or slurry.
The reason a roux is preferred is the silky natural texture it results in. While whitewashes and slurries have their places, a roux is the preferred thickening agent. This can be attributed to the combination of the starchiness of flour and fat. As the fat binds to the flour, it eliminates any rough granules. Because of this, the thickening power of the roux helps bind to other fats in the sauce or soup allowing it to thicken naturally.
Corn Starch and water, also known as a slurry, gelatinizes. Because of this, a slurry tends to feel stickier and can be unnatural in recipes that don’t call for such a texture. On the other hand, it works wonderfully in thickening sauces such as teriyaki and American Chinese cuisines.
A flour/water combo, known as a slurry, is a low-cost alternative but will not impart the same texture as a roux.
What is a Roux?
It is a combination of equal parts by weight flour and fat (Butter, oils, etc).
Flour and fat are then cooked together to form a paste. Cooking the flour in fat will coat the starch/flour with the fat and prevent them from clumping 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 separately for each recipe.
The Three Types of Roux
There are three varieties of roux that you may use depending on the desired outcome.
This roux is cooked briefly and should be removed from the 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.
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
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 a 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, all-purpose flour will work just fine too.
Cooking off the roux to the desired color
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. The 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 and cook out 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.
Incorporating roux is its own skill
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
The three colors of roux
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.
- 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 the liquid. The stock should not be ice cold with a 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.