Chef Andy’s Techniques Class: Classic Béchamel

Andy Anderson !


Only "yours truly" could take something as simple as a Béchamel and turn it into 33 steps.

A “proper” béchamel is the glue that holds together soufflés, or a really excellent mac ‘n’ cheese, a chicken pot pie, and even creamy pasta sauces.

In simple terms, a béchamel is a “white sauce,” and is one of the classic French "mother sauces" that form the basis of other “lesser” sauces.

Of the five “mother sauces” the béchamel is probably the easiest to make, so it’s a good place to start.

So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.

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flour, typically all-purpose
fat animal fat or vegetable oil
milk, full fat, warmed up.
kosher salt
white or black pepper, freshly ground, if you please.


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1What you will need: Saucepan, Whisk, and Wooden Spoon.

2Chef's Note: If you don't have my other recipe on French "mother sauces" click here: Chef Andy's Technique Class: Mother Sauces

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3The Down & Dirty Recipe
Add the flour and fat to a saucepan and cook, add the liquid, and whisk until thickened… Congratulations, you just made a Béchamel Sauce. Now, here’s a bit more detail…

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4Start with a Roux: A béchamel sauce begins with the making of a roux (pronounced: roo, like in kangaROO. The “x” is silent).

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5To make a roux, you will need fat and flour in a 50/50 ratio, by weight. For this example we’ll use clarified butter as our fat, and regular old run-of-the-mill all-purpose flour. For an excellent recipe for clarified butter, check here:
Double Boiler Clarified Butter with Video

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6Chef’s Note: Why measure the ingredients by weight? Because a tablespoon of butter weighs more than a tablespoon of flour. We’re looking for equal amounts by weight.

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7For this example we will use 2 ounces (55g) of clarified butter, and the same amount of flour.

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8In addition, we’ll need 2 cups (480g) milk (whole fat).

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9Chef’s Tip: The amount of milk you add will determine the thickness of the béchamel sauce. For this recipe, you could use less or more, depending on what you’re looking for in thickness, but more on that later.

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10Place the butter into the saucepan over medium heat, and allow it to melt, but do not let it brown.

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11Add the flour to the melted butter.

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12Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour and fat together into a happy harmony.

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13Chef’s Note: Why clarified butter? You don’t have to use it but… regular butter is 15% water by weight, so the roux will need to be cooked slightly longer to achieve the same results. On the other side of the coin, some chefs like regular butter because they feel the milk solids help to flavor a dark roux. In addition, if you don't remove all the water from the roux when it's cooking it can break a sauce.

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14Types of Roux

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15White Roux
Cook for just a few minutes until the fat and flour are evenly mixed together and start to froth. You want to cook out the raw taste of the flour, but stop cooking the roux before it starts to turn color. White roux’s are used for white sauces that are cream and milk based such as béchamel.

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16Blond Roux
Cooked a little longer than a white roux, just until it starts to slightly turn color. A blond roux is used for white sauces that are stock based, such as veloutés.

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17Brown Roux
Traditionally used for brown sauces, which are sauces based upon brown-roasted stocks such as the mother sauce espagnol. The key to a good brown roux is to cook it over low heat so that it browns evenly without scorching. A good brown roux will have a rich and nutty aroma, and is great for thickening brown sauces and gravies.

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18Chef’s Tip: While most recipes on making a roux assume you will be using all-purpose flour, if you substitute other flours the thickening power of the roux will be effected. For example, cake flour has 20% more thickening power than all-purpose flour.

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19Chef’s Note: The longer a roux is cooked, the less thickening power it will have. A general rule of thumb is that a brown roux has 1/3 less thickening power than a white or blond roux.

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20For the making of a béchamel, we need a white roux, so after a few minutes of cooking, remove the roux from the heat, and allow to slightly cool.

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21Chef’s Tip: A roux can be added to a liquid either warm or cold, but never hot. A sizzling hot roux will separate and break when it hits the liquid, causing lumps and the loss of the roux’s thickening power.

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22Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat, and immediately add about half the warm milk to the saucepan, then begin to whisk vigorously.

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23Add another half of what’s left of the milk, and continue to whisk over the heat, as the béchamel begins to thicken.

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24After several minutes of whisking, if the béchamel is still too thick for your needs, add more milk, and continue whisking until the desired thickness is achieved.

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25Chef’s Tip: Most roux-thickened sauces are slowly simmered for about 20 minutes. This helps to eliminate any starchy taste created by the flour. And remember, this is a slow simmer… after all your hard work; you don’t want to wind up burning your béchamel sauce. I HATE it when that happens.

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26Chef's Tip: Don't add any salt or pepper, until you know what you're going to be doing with that béchamel.

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27Ratio of Roux to Liquid
3 ounces to quart: thin consistency
4 ounces to quart: medium consistency
5 ounces to quart: thick consistency
6 ounces to quart: heavy consistency

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28Ratio of Roux to Liquid in Metric
85 grams to liter: thin consistency
113 grams to liter: medium consistency
141 grams to liter: thick consistency
170 grams to liter: heavy consistency

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29Chef's Tip: Did you know that you can freeze béchamel? This is handy to know if you make too much and don't want to throw it out, or you may like the idea of keeping some in the freezer for future béchamel needs.

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30Chef's Tip: Here in the test kitchen we make up to a gallon of béchamel, and then freeze it. I always make to the thick consistency because I'm not sure what I'll be using it for. When I need it, I pull it out of the freezer, and if it needs to be a thinner sauce, I just add more milk...

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31Uses for a Béchamel
Thin Consistency: Cream of (just about any kind of) soups.
Medium Consistency: Lasagna or other classic creamy pasta dishes.
Thick Consistency: Soufflé, Casseroles, Gratins, and Pot Pies.
Heavy Consistency: Add some sausage and slow-cooked onions, and spoon directly over some good homemade biscuits… YUMMY.

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32Chef's Note: Experiment with flours and with fats. I've done many a roux using bacon grease... mmmmmmm

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33Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

About this Recipe

Course/Dish: Other Sauces
Main Ingredient: Flour
Regional Style: French
Dietary Needs: Vegetarian, Low Sodium, Soy Free
Other Tags: Quick & Easy, Heirloom