The Do’s and Don’ts of Making the Perfect Béchamel Sauce

The Do’s and Don’ts of Making the Perfect Béchamel Sauce

Cream sauce, Mornay sauce, cheddar sauce, Nantua sauce, mustard sauce – what do they all have in common?

The answer is this: bechamel sauce. Béchamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is one of the five French mother sauces that serves as the base for the secondary sauces mentioned above. If you know how to properly make this sauce, you’re only halfway there when it comes to learning how to cook milk or cream-based sauces.

The basic ingredients of the bechamel sauce are butter, flour, milk and salt. Additional ingredients may include pepper, freshly ground nutmeg, bay leaf, onion and Nail. Butter and flour are usually equal parts, but some recipes differ when it comes to the butter to flour ratio. The sauce is made by first making what the French call a roux, a mixture of butter and flour.

Start by gently melting the butter in a saucepan (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. Don’t let the butter sizzle; as soon as it melts, remove the saucepan from the stove. Next, sift the flour into the butter and stir the mixture over low heat with a wooden spoon so the flour cooks down. It should be done after a few minutes, but keep in mind that undercooking it can make the sauce taste floury. At this stage, your mixture is now the roux and you are ready to add the milk.

Gradually add the milk, making sure it is heated through. Do not add cold milk as it can make your sauce lumpy. Whisk together the milk and roux, keeping an eye on the thickness of the sauce. A little onion, cloves, and bay leaves can be added to the mixture to add flavor, but these are then removed or filtered from the sauce after cooking. Season with salt, pepper, and freshly ground walnuts to taste.

Do not use black pepper if you want a purely white sauce because it will result in black specks in the mixture. Be sure to stir the sauce completely to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Remove the saucepan from the heat once it reaches the desired thickness, and voila!

This sauce is incredibly versatile. Not only can you add garlic, bell peppers, or different seasonings to create a unique flavor, you can also add grated Parmesan and Cheddar cheese to create a cheesy sauce everyone will love. This can be drizzled over pasta, chicken, or vegetables.

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