What Is A Roux?

I love watching cooking competition shows. I hear terms that I had never heard before. One of my favorite shows is “Master Chef”. I know. I know. Chef Gordan Ramsey has a potty mouth.  But he knows his stuff. The first time I heard roux I thought it had to do with french cooking. I am just a plain home cook who enjoys feeding her family with homestyle meals.  None of that fancy french cooking. But did you know that when you make gravy you are actually starting with a roux?  So what is a roux?

What Is A Roux?

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  Roux is made with equal parts fat and flour and is used for thickening soups or the base for sauces and gravies.  You cook the flour in the fat until the raw flour flavor of the flour has cooked out.  A good roux gives dishes a silky smooth body and a nutty flavor. 

The longer you cook a roux the darker it will get.  And doing this adds more flavor to your dish. If you are going for flavor this is great, not so much for thickening. 

There are 4 types of roux. White, blond, brown, and dark brown. 

White Roux

what is a roux

A white roux is cooked for 3-5 minutes. Just long enough to cook out the raw flour flavor. It is used to thicken chowder and dishes such as macaroni and cheese and tuna noodle casserole. It is also the base for sauces such as a simple white sauce, bechamel, and cheese sauces.

Blond Roux

what is a roux

A blond roux is cooked for 5-10 minutes passing the white roux stage and turning a very light brown color. A great base for creamy soups and gravies. Also good for the bechamel sauce.

Brown Roux

A brown roux is cooked for 15-25 minutes and turns a brown color much like milk chocolate.  A great base for etouffee and lighter seafood gumbos.

Dark Brown Roux

A dark brown roux is cooked for 30-40 minutes. Adds wonderful flavor to gumbos. It really takes commitment to make this roux.  You will need to whish it constantly to prevent burning. It is recommended not to use butter when making the dark brown roux.  Butter has milk solids that have a tendency to burn when cooked for an extended amount of time.

The longer a roux is cooked the more flavor it will add to your dish, however, it does lose its thickening power. 

I attempted to make a dark brown roux just for an image for this article.  But I burned it. Next time I will try using another kind of fat instead of butter. 

A dark brown roux is really mainly used for gumbo and I see no gumbo in my future:)

A roux needs to be a glossy uniform paste that coats the back of a spoon but does not stick to it. 

How To Make A Roux

On medium/low heat melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon cooking until the desired color is reached. See video below

Slurry Vs Roux

A slurry is cornstarch or flour added to a liquid such as water, mixed to get the lumps out, and then added to another liquid such as broth or your soup to thicken the contents. I use a slurry when making gravy from the broth from my roast. Go here for the recipe.

A slurry is mainly used to thicken soups and stews.  A roux is used to make sauces and gravies from pan drippings. 

A Roux For Making Gravy

I use a roux when making my sausage gravy. I add the flour to my sausage grease (drippings) and whisk until the flour is incorporated into the fat and makes a smooth paste.  I cook this for about 2 minutes to get the raw taste of the flour out.  I then slowly add my milk, 1 cup at a time, and continue to whisk until it comes to a gentle boil. If the gravy is too thick I just continue to add more milk, a little at a time until I get the consistency I want. 

I know many have a difficult time making a gravy.  I did when I first started making gravy.  But with practice and patience, it does become easier.  I have come to the point that I don’t even measure the flour or the drippings. But if you are unsure, you can drain the drippings from the sausage and then add the drippings back into the pan while measuring it.  Remember, for every tablespoon of drippings you will want 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 cup of liquid or more depending on how thick you want your gravy.

I tend to start with 1 cup of liquid and add as needed until I get to the consistency or thickness I want. 

Using A Roux In Casseroles

I also use a roux to make a simple white sauce for my ham and potato casserole. And many homemade macaroni and cheese recipes use a roux for thickening and to get that smooth and velvety texture. The image above shows adding cheese to the roux.

Final Thoughts

So what is a roux?  It is a paste made with equal parts of fat and flour and is used for thickening soups and stews and the base for many sauces and gravies.  The actual sauce or gravy is made after adding liquid such as milk to the roux.

The roux needs to cook at a minimum of 1-2 minutes to get the raw taste of the flour out.  The longer you cook a roux the more flavor will be added to your dish but remember also the longer you cook a roux the less thickening power it has. 

Do you make your gravy with a roux? Please leave me a comment below with your thoughts

And As Always

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