Classis traditional Béchamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is one of the five classic French mother sauces. It is made with only 3-ingredients: flour, butter, and milk. Although you can screw it up, it is actually very quick and easy.
There are five “mother” sauces in French Cooking: béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise, and sauce tomat. All of these sauces are bases, or the start of uncountable delicious sauces. You can add herbs, onions, garlic, cheese, etc. to make so many cool sauces. An very well known example of a sauce derived from Béchamel Sauce is Mornay Sauce.
How to Make a Béchamel Sauce
With all its versatility and a French name to boot, you might think the sauce would be difficult and time consuming to make. Not true! You can whip up a Béchamel in 15 minutes.
It starts with a roux, made by whisking flour and butter for about 2 minutes in a saucepan at medium heat on the stove. That’s just long enough to cook the flour without browning it to eliminate the pasty taste that comes from raw flour. Once the roux has bubbled for a minute or two, remove from the heat and add some milk and whisk to eliminate all lumps. This is key. If you do this right and get the lumps out, you are home free. If you do not get all the lumps out, you risk having a chunky non consistent sauce that you will have to fight with your whisker and heat to get all the lumps out.
Now just add milk and stir. You can actually just add all the rest of the milk and stir continuously until it thickens. Very important to stir beaucoup or a lot, to avoid scorching the bottom of the pan and creating new lumps. Personally I am never sure if the amount of milk is right for what I am making so I add the milk slowly to the pot and keep mixing. When I have added about 3 quarters of the milk, I allow it to thicken up even a bit more than what I am looking for. Then I add the rest and stir until I have reached that thickness called for in your recipe or what you have in your cook’s mind.
Classic Traditional Béchamel Sauce
What is easy to remember about making Béchamel Sauce is that you always use the same amount of butter and flour and adjust the milk quantity accordingly.
Béchamel Sauce is only 3 ingredients.
How to make Béchamel SauceMake the Roux:
Preferably in a heavy-bottom saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together until the butter and flour have no lumps and the mixture forms small bubbles with a faint tint of color, about 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add a cup of the milk. Stir it until it is thick and there are no lumps in it. Very important to get all the lumps out at this step.
Put back on the stove at medium heat and slowly add more milk. Keep stirring and pay attention to the thickness. Once it is getting too thick, add more of the milk. Keep doing this until you have added all the milk and stir until the thickness desired is reached. It should be nice and creamy for most recipes, not too thick and not too thin. This is the art of the sauce that you as the cook, define and control.
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.