How do you roux?

by Maria on March 29, 2004

Here is something I just had to share, even though it has nothing to do with politics, philosophy, and the assorted types of cleverology we generally deal with on CT. But it is a solution to a particularly vexed question nonetheless; how to make an unlumpy roux. Roux are the bane of many cooks, since they so often end up either lumpy or burnt. But as they’re the basis of so many sauces, it really helps if you know you can rely on yours.

Like many culinary innovations – malted hops, blue cheese, potato crisps – my discovery occurred by accident/necessity. I was trying to prepare a chicken and broccoli bake and a chocolate and orange cake using only two saucepans and in under an hour to have them both in the oven by the start of the England-France rugby match and be able to serve them at half time.

So, instead of doing the roux in a saucepan (both were being used already), I made it in a tin bowl sitting on top of the blanching broccoli, just as you would to melt chocolate if you don’t have a microwave. The steam of the boiling water melted the butter quickly but didn’t burn it, and the flour mixed in without a single lump as the heat was so evenly dispersed. There was barely any need to stir and the whole thing took about 3 minutes from start to finish.

People are always saying their methods are foolproof when they’re not, but I promise that this one cannot fail…



dsquared 03.29.04 at 10:05 am

malted hops?


dsquared 03.29.04 at 10:40 am

hmmmm on second thoughts I’m not sure about this. Roux made in this way wouldn’t burn, for sure, but would it cook?


Maria 03.29.04 at 10:52 am

Malted hops and barley – isn’t that what they make guiness out of? I’m a bit hazy about the details though. I used to live beside the guiness brewery in Dublin, and it smelt fantastic when they were cooking up the hops.

Good point about cooking the roux enough, I think with this method you probably need to cook it for a bit longer than in the pan, depending of course on how dark a roux you want.


Mrs Tilton 03.29.04 at 11:09 am

I am no master brewer, but I believe it is the barley that is malted, the hops being added to the mix for flavour. Indeed I am not certain whether one can malt a hop, if that is the correct singular. (And if it isn’t, it can be, as peas and cherries have discovered.)


Jackie 03.29.04 at 11:10 am

Thanks for the tip — will have to try the double boiler method next time!


yabonn 03.29.04 at 11:11 am

the start of the England-France rugby match

24-21 Teeeheeeeheeeee.

Was passing by, saw some light, had to say that.



Andy 03.29.04 at 2:42 pm

good method, I would get around the cooking time problem by using a finely milled flour which doesn’t require as much cooking.


keef 03.29.04 at 3:08 pm

I believe that Wondra (TM) flour can help with making roux. It also thickens sauces with much less chance of lumps than regular flour and less chance of other odd anomalies than corn starch.

Here’s a bit about Wondra:

And — it’s got barley in it!



Kate Nepveu 03.29.04 at 3:17 pm

So far the only thing I’ve needed roux for is a white sauce, and after failing to cook it long enough the first several times (even though it was over the heat *forever*), I now cheat and just plunk in the butter, (sifted) flour, and milk all together over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it turns into sauce.

I have no roux touch. I don’t understand why it doesn’t work for me, but this does and I like it fine.


Ed Zeppelin 03.29.04 at 3:42 pm

Hops are not malted for the purpose of making beer. It’s the barley which undergoes the malting process.

Hops are used in a varietly of different forms: as whole leaves, as plugs, and all crushed up and pelletized, for example.

The fantastic smell you are referring to probably came from the mash, which is the stage of the brewing process when the fermentable sugars are extracted from the malted grains, or from the boil, which is the stage immediately following the mash. It’s a very sweet smell, depending on the style of beer – my own Scottish Heavy ale gives off a sweet aroma during the boil that carries almost to the end of the block.

Hops have a markedly different armoa when added to the boil – it’s usually very sharp, and often somewhat fruity.


doghouse riley 03.29.04 at 3:59 pm

Roux can be prepared ahead of time. Because brown roux is so time-consuming I make large batches and freeze it. Butter-based roux will freeze, but should be used quickly.

Sift the flour first. Flours readily absorb humidity. The goal is the incorporation of the smallest particles of flour possible. Your double-boiler method probably kept the butter at a low temperature; too much heat is another common problem. Insta-blend flours like Wondra do work.

Above all, what works for a particular cook in a particular location is a lot more important than theorizing. But no roux should be completed in three minutes start to finish! If the flour cooks for less than two minutes the sauce may taste of it. Optimal gluten development occurs between 3 and 5 minutes (brown roux is for color; its thickening properties are reduced).


McColl 03.29.04 at 4:02 pm

Hairspltting: the mash is the malted barley, other grains, or combination of grains, bound up in cheesecloth, usually, like a giant teabag. (It’s discarded after its flavor is extracted.) Boiling the mash produces wort, which is what smells good, which is then combined with some or all of the hops, which also smell good. hurray, beer!

Regarding roux: I’ve found that if you melt the butter over medium heat and pay a lot of attention, you can then whisk in the flour and cook it without burning it and without causing lumps. The key is the whisk. Another useful thing for thickening a sauce is a beurre manie, which is cold butter mixed in equal parts with flour. To avoid lumps, make sure that what you add to the pan has a different temperature. The roux is hot, so the liquid you add should be cold. The beurre manie is cold, so the liquid it’s added to should be hot. ymmv


Etouffee Boy 03.29.04 at 5:34 pm

I’m not a big microwave user, but the experience of burning several batches of brown roux (all after stirring for over 45-50 minutes) was enough for me to turn to the microwave. Great roux every time using either oil or butter and flour in under 8 minutes. Near the end, just nuke 30 seconds at a time and stir until it reaches the desired color. And if it burns, big deal, just start again… Saves time to put toward browning bones for homemade stock/demiglace :)


nolo 03.29.04 at 5:57 pm

My experience with roux leads me to believe that the tools are the key. A good, heavy pan and a good whisk help lots. If the pan’s too thin or doesn’t distribute heat evenly, it’s a bear to anticipate what’s going on heat-wise. Thin pans heat too fast for good roux prep, and hot or cold spots are a pain in the you-know-what. Nonstick pans also suck for this. Practice helps as well.


Ophelia Benson 03.29.04 at 6:30 pm

Good heavens, are you people all insane? Have you never heard of tinned soup?


Mrs Tilton 03.29.04 at 6:40 pm

Have you never heard of tinned soup?

[Sniffs haughtily.]

Mind you, I make Spätzle with one of those… erm… things (it’s called a Spätzlehobel in German but I don’t know if there’s a word for it in English) instead of shaving them from a board into the water. So really I shouldn’t be casting stones.


Ophelia Benson 03.29.04 at 6:52 pm

That was a joke, you know!

[rolls about on floor in agony of mirth]


marky 03.29.04 at 7:50 pm

Congratulations! You just (re)-invented the
What you’re describing is a standard method for dealing with very temperature sensitive sauces. It works well for hollandaise too—that is, if there’s anyone left who doesn’t use the blender to make hollandaise.


yabonn 03.29.04 at 9:10 pm

Btw, the steam thing is a neat trick, but does it really add something (apart of the spared room) compared to a simpler bain marie? We usually use that (ok, most often gf does) for the various delicate melting operations.

Mhm. Bit hungry now actually.


doghouse riley 03.29.04 at 9:25 pm

Microwave brown roux? O tempora! O mores!


Belle Waring 03.30.04 at 3:03 am

I must admit to a little confusion here. My roux never burn or get lumps in them. I don’t think I have magical powers or anything. Cast iron pan, melt the fat first, stirring like mad, that’s about it. I remember these old ads there used to be for (ech) canned gravy: “Just like homemade — but no lumps!” I was always like, what lumps are you talking about? Muah them with the wooden spoon when they appear! Is everyone just wandering absent-mindedly away from the stove when they encounter these problems, or what? If all else fails, whisk. Still the double-boiler is nice for sauces that might separate.


Ben Keen 03.30.04 at 3:07 am

Well, the binding the mash in a cheesecloth only comes if you’re using the grains as an adjunct and getting most of your fermentables from extract. If you’re mashing properly you’ll need to lauter and sparge the grain bed and for a reasonable batchsize you’re talking at least 5 pounds of milled barley. has a lovely complete book…

Apropos roux, I get lumpfree results merely by waiting a thirty seconds or more for the butter to foam out before adding the flour. No moisture = no clumping.

Mm, now I’m off to admire the wort chiller I won as a doorprize this Saturday….


dsquared 03.30.04 at 6:27 am

I have to say I’m with Belle on this one; I never realised that there was any particular problem with roux …


anthony 03.30.04 at 1:17 pm

The double boiler technique also makes for a very delicate scrambled eggs if you’ve the patience.


Maria 03.30.04 at 3:42 pm

Holy mother of god, I leave the blog for a bare 22 hours and come back to 2 dozen comments about roux!

‘Double-boiler’, ‘wondra'(you on commission, Keef?),how to make Guinness, batch-baking roux, gluten development, spatzles, bains maries and the dubious addition of the verbs ‘to lauter’ and ‘to sparge’ – I feel like I wandered into an APSR conference and asked if anyone had heard of this great writer, Tookville….

Thanks all – the collective brain power of CT is really quite something. Off to buy some tinned soup now.


yabonn 03.30.04 at 6:21 pm

Off to buy some tinned soup now.

Guards! Guaaaaaaards! Seize this timberite!


Ophelia Benson 03.31.04 at 2:12 am

There! See? Maria got my joke and the point of it and everything.

Listen, as soon as I get a minute I’ll tell you all about my recipe for anchovy-papaya surprise. It’s a bit lumpy, but what the hell.

Tune in tomorrow, same time, same station, for another thrilling episode of Crooked Kitchen, or Twisty Sticks Reads the Cookbook Upside Down.


Ophelia Benson 03.31.04 at 2:13 am

Don’t pay me no mind, I’ve been writing dictionary entries most of the day for many days, it makes me go all peculiar.

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