General Question

poofandmook's avatar

Okay, I need to make a roux...

Asked by poofandmook (17272points) October 5th, 2008

But there are so many different sites that say different things. I’m under the general assumption that you need equal parts butter and flour. But I always seem to get lumps… or the “roux” looks sort of like putty. What consistency is it supposed to be, and is there some kind of ratio I should use? As in… if I have one cup of liquid to thicken, I should start with x amount of butter and x amount of flour. And what could I be doing wrong that I always get lumps?

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35 Answers

Les's avatar

What I do is melt the butter in a pan and then start adding flour, bit by bit. Yes, you need equal parts butter and flour, but adding it a little at a time helps to get some of the lumps out. If you still have a hard time, add slightly less flour than butter. But only slightly. After you have your butter and flour added together, it will look really lumpy. It is OK. Keep stirring it around, to cook off the ‘flour’ taste, and then add your milk. As the milk heats, it should break down those lumps. I’m sorry, I never measure these things out exactly, I just put a little butter in and then add flour until the mixture begins to get thick and chunky. As for the milk, add it slowly, and you know you have enough milk by doing the ‘back of the spoon’ test. Dip the back of a spoon in the sauce and run your finger down it. If the part where your finger made a line does not fill in with sauce right away, you know it is thick.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Just to add to the already great explanation by Les, the word for when a sauce coats the back of the spoon is “nappe”

Harp's avatar

The butter in the roux is just there to act as a carrier for the flour; it’s the flour that does all the thickening. You can add more than an equal weight of butter without changing the consistency of the sauce, and the extra butter can give you a smoother roux.

The amount of flour-to-liquid you use will depend on the thickness you’re looking for, but a classic French “veloute” sauce uses around 1/4c flour to 1 qt of liquid. Modern tastes favor a less-thickened sauce, so you might want to hold back a bit from that 1/4c.

Roux will tend to smooth itself out during the slow cooking les describes, but even starting with a smooth roux there is still a danger of creating lumps when the liquid is added. Letting the roux cool completely before adding the liquid helps. Pour the hot liquid over the cold roux while whisking vigorously, then bring to a boil while whisking.

cooksalot's avatar

I found that sometimes climate can effect how much flour you use too. I usually use just a little less flour to butter or oil. It will start out seemingly lumpy but as you stir it will work out. I find that a tablespoon of flour will thicken about 3 cups of liquid, give or take a little depending on the thickness I’m looking for.

stevenb's avatar

I have had great results with vegetable oil and flour. I use a cup of each and it is never lumpy, and slightly like wet sand. Just a touch thinner. I just cook it for twenty minutes or so stirring pretty constantly. I stop at dark chocolate color and it still thickens my gumbo perfectly. Just don’t let it get burned and you will be fine. You can also just put it in a 350 degree oven for an hour and a half with only a little attention and it will be great.

susanc's avatar

Whisking! Gotta do whisking!

poofandmook's avatar

I ran out of butter… so I just used some of the liquid I needed to thicken, and it worked perfectly. The whisking is key, apparently… I always used a fork before because I didn’t have a whisk. I guess it makes all the difference!

stevenb's avatar

You have to whisk. Glad it worked.

cyndyh's avatar

If you use the baking method you don’t have to whisk it all that time -just a few times. This below is from Alton Brown and it works great without the constant whisking.

“Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

“Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process.”

He uses equal parts of oil and flour by weight. It turns out pretty, smooth, medium to dark brown without any lumps or graininess. It saves a lot of ache on your arm, too.

cooksalot's avatar

If you have a wooden spoon with a long handle that works real well too.

Divalicious's avatar

I was a cook in the school district, and made enormous batches of roux. I mix equal amounts of butter and flour and beat them with a mixer until smooth. The next step is to bring the broth to a strong boil, then drop the roux bit by bit into the broth. The roux dissolves instantly and starts to thicken.

I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful on measurements. My recipe fed 3,000 and called for 28 whole turkeys, 50 pounds each of butter and flour, etc. I dropped the roux in a pound at a time.

All the school district truck drivers would come to my school to eat, because my creamed turkey was the best!

Harp's avatar

Just to clarify, it’s not the roux that needs whisking. The crazy whisking comes as the liquid gets added to the roux.

Divalicious's avatar

Adding the roux to hot liquid doesn’t get lumpy and you can whisk at a leisurely rate, not like a crazed chef. ;-) This is how I make gravy and creamed soups now, too, and I never get lumps.

wundayatta's avatar

Wow! I do it so differently. I melt the butter, and dump in what looks like enough flour, and then I start stirring with a wooden paddle. Then I keep the heat high, and brown the flour, usually to a medium color brown, not the dark of New Orleans.

What you guys are talking about, I call a “White Sauce.” I always thought roux had to be browned.

When it comes time to add liquid, yes, I stir wildly, but if I add the liquid a little at a time, I need not use a whisk; I can still use my wooden spatula to keep it smooth.

Harp's avatar

The degree of browing of the roux totally depends on the kind of sauce you’re making. for any sauce that you want to keep light in color, you cook the roux over very low heat to kill the floury taste, but stop before the roux begins to take on color. For brown sauces, you cook the roux to a deeper “roasted” color.

stevenb's avatar

What she said^^. I always have been told that mixing flour and butter can be called a roux, but a real roux is cooked first then ingredients are added later. When you use the butter and flour without cooking them they will thicken soups and gravies, but you may taste the flour. That is why a lot of people cook them. I use both ways, but for different things. Gumbo=cook first to a dark color. To thicken a gravy=mixed cold will work.
I still usually start my gravies from a cooked roux made from the fat in the pan and cook it a few minutes to get the flour flavor out. Whatever works for you though. If you like it, stick with that one.

poofandmook's avatar

I couldn’t tell the color, since the liquid was brown… but I made it the consistency of peanut butter just starting to melt. When I started to add the roux into the liquid, I kept about 2 cups of liquid aside in case I needed to make more roux. It was a pain, but well worth it. I just had some for lunch… friggin awesome… lol

gooch's avatar

Equal parts oil(or butter)and flour (add flour slowly)stir until browned. You should be able to drink a beer or two while stiring it. That’s how I time mine. Disolve Roux in boiling water by strinig it in…..Refrigerate your left over gumbo and have the leftovers the next day and I promise it will be even better.

jvgr's avatar

I know this will be perceived as heresy and against the principles of classic French cooking tradition, but: why not cornstarch?

It requires 0 fat. Yes there is good fat and there is bad fat, but in the end it is all fat.

I can see why this might not be practical in @Divalicious’s work examples, but for home use it would (and does)

cooksalot's avatar

Only thing is cornstarch gives a totally different texture to the food. I use cornstarch slurry all the time when preparing Chinese food.

gooch's avatar

@jvgr the roux creates the flavor. It’s not so much about consistancy as the taste it creates

cooksalot's avatar

True the roux gives a nutty flavor to the dish, but the texture is also very different.

poofandmook's avatar

see now, the way I did it, I don’t think it added a different flavor. My “fat” was about 1/3 of the liquid I was trying to thicken. Would the flour give it a flavor? I never thought of flour as having a flavor.

ezraglenn's avatar

cooked flour has a flavor for sure.

stevenb's avatar

@poof, that is the difference between the cooked brown type roux and the raw flour and butter used just for thickening. The cooked roux adds more depth of flavor and a slight nuttiness to dishes. The raw just thickens, sometimes with a slight flour flavor. The darker you cook a roux though, the less thickening power it has. It definately adds alot in the way of subtle flavor to dishes like gumbo.

cyndyh's avatar

Yes, stevenb’s right. A roux is not a gravy. That’s not even what’s supposed to thicken something like gumbo. That’s what file and/or okra are for.

stevenb's avatar

I like file. Haven’t tried okra yet. What is the taste like anyway? I like the flavor of file so far.

gooch's avatar

@cyndyh you are right. And that comes from me…a true Cajun. Okra thickens gumbo. My okra is pre-cooked with tomatoes, onions, garlic and cheyenne pepper. File’ thickens some but gives it a flavor which some like. I personally don’t. Yet I have picked leaves and made it many times with my grandpa. File’ is nothing more than ground Sassafras leaves.

cyndyh's avatar

Okra gives gumbo a gumminess. It’s a strong taste that’s hard to describe. It just tastes like —well- okra. :^>

I like both, but I like my file added after the cooking is done. To me, it’s sort of the Cajun version of parmesan cheese. It can be used in the cooking, but it should definitely be placed on the table so everyone can add their own.

I’m Cajun, too, gooch. Cheers!

stevenb's avatar

I always add my file after I turn off the heat, then let it rest for ten minutes. After that I just add chopped green onions and parsley, and proceed to stuff my belly full of happy food.

cooksalot's avatar

At the rate this is going I see a large pot of gumbo in the near future. drool

cyndyh's avatar

Oh, yeah. And it’s better for you than other big dishes we make for the whole family -like lasagna. :^>

mamabeverley's avatar

I always make a roux for any gravy. It is just how long you cook it. I gave up on the “slurry” method (cornstarch & water). If you make a roux you generally have to cook they actual gravy for less time as you have already cooked out the flour taste. This takes about 6–7 minutes on med-low heat depending on your stove and heat source.(If you use a propane stove like my grandpa taught me on, it cook way hotter and you always have to use very low heat.) I was taught to whisk the roux as it cooks so it is smooth, then add cold liquid. Half to “temper the roux” then mix in the rest. Perfect every time. Good luck. It just take practice.

Strauss's avatar

Many years ago I worked in New Orleans at a well known restaurant. We would make our roux in 5-gallon batches if you can imagine. The critical part was the need to whisk, and to get the right color for your use. This roux was used mostly to make gumbo, so the color came out a dark chocolate brown. The trick was to get it dark enough without burning.

sakura's avatar

WARM your milk first before adding to the rue, this makes sure your sauce stays lump free and smooth!

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