Week 4: Roux, Slurry & Buerre Manie

This weeks challenge is to make and use a roux if you have never made one – or practice making a blonde or brown roux while trying a brand new recipe. You can even make roux in bulk to have on hand. Create a meal that uses a roux and let me know what you made!

Soups, sauces and stews often call for a thickener of some sort. This often involves starch. How you thick can affect your meal negatively if you choose the wrong method – that’s why it’s important to know what you need to use and how to properly use it.

If not cooked long enough after adding your thickener, your dish can have a very raw starchy flavor that can really overpower your dish. It is very important to taste often to ensure the starchy taste has been cooked away.

Roux (pronounced ‘roo’)-

Making a roux is a cooking technique called for on a pretty regular basis. Problem is, few people understand how to make it correctly.  I even see it being instructed wrong in recipes sometimes (such as far too long cooking times for a white roux, or too high of a temperature).  Making your roux “wrong” can break your dish. Once you know how to properly make a roux, you can change the steps around in a recipe to do it right.

Roux is an essential building block in cooking and is made by combing fat and flour together. Its used to thicken and flavor liquids in soups, stews and sauces. Some sauces or soups start with a roux, and some finish with it.

Typically butter and flour are used to create a roux. Other fats can also be used. I often use bacon fat, but I also like scraping the chilled, hard fat off the top of stocks (after chilling, to remove fat once it solidifies on top) and saving that fat to later use in recipes. Using a roux adds flavor, so this is often preferred to create a sauce where as other methods, such as a slurry, don’t add flavor and are best to thicken a sauce that needs a little help without changing the flavor.

There are 3 types of roux. White, blonde and brown. The cooking time is what gives each roux its color and flavor. The longer its cooked, the darker the color and nuttier the taste. The formula is: 1Tb flour + 1tb fat per 1c liquid. However, you may want to use more or less roux to liquid depending on your preferences for the dish. The longer it cooks, the less thickening power it will have but the more flavor and color it will lend to whatever you are cooking.

Roux is often made during the cooking process. Such as when sauteing vegetables in fat, then adding flour to thicken; you have made a roux. Some simple sauces, like cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese, may start without any vegetables to saute. You simply melt butter, then add flour and combine well. Once the flour has been completely covered with the fat, the liquid for the sauce, soup or stew is added.


To make any roux, use a heavy bottomed pan or skillet to make sure nothing scorches. Melt butter over medium low heat. Once melted, add flour until it starts to form a thin paste. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, over medium low heat to prevent scorching.

A white roux is only cooked about 1-2 minutes and should not take on any color at all.  Usually used to make sauces like bechemel where a light color is desired.

Blonde roux – is made in the same matter as a white roux. But it is cooked longer, about 4-6 minutes or until the roux becomes a light peanut color. You will smell a slightly nutty odor. Used for sauces like veloute or in dishes where you want a richer flavor in the sauce.

Brown roux – made in the same manner. Cooked longer – about 7-15 minutes. Cooked on a slightly higher heat until the brown color is achieved. Stir often to prevent scorching. May need to add more flour during the cooking process because the longer its cooked,  the starch chains become weaker and the liquid may thin out again. Keep stirring and watch for the correct color. Will smell very nutty. Used to make brown sauces and in dishes where a dark color and more nutty flavor is wanted (we make a brown roux for gumbo).

Make roux in bulk

Considering roux is used pretty frequently in a from-scratch kitchen, you may find it helpful to make roux in bulk and store in the fridge or freezer. This is especially true of the brown roux that takes the longest to make. You can freeze in ice cube trays, then place in a proper storage container for the fridge or freezer.

Flour Slurry, also called a White Wash

A slurry is made with equal parts flour and cold liquid, usually water. For added flavor, you can use stock instead of water., as using water presents a tasteless solution. When adding a slurry, be sure to stir it just before adding. Also be sure the liquid you are adding it into is simmering, otherwise it wont thicken properly. Add just a bit to start, bring liquid back to slurry, and add slurry a bit at a time, bringing the slurry to a simmer before each addition. Let liquid cook a few moments to cook out any raw starch flavor. This is a very quick and cheap thickener and will produce a flat/cloudy type finish.

Cornstarch (or arrowroot) Slurry

Cornstarch and water are combined to be used the same as a flour slurry, equal parts of each and use a cold liquid. This mixture works better than a flour slurry. Add a cold slurry to a hot liquid while stirring constantly – never add plain cornstarch to your dish or you will end up with lumps that will never go away. A cornstarch slurry doesn’t thicken immediately, so let the whole mixture come back up to a simmer before deciding to add more if you don’t think it’s thick enough yet. Cornstarch will present a nice, glossy finish however it doesn’t work well in dishes containing lots of acid. Or liquids that will be frozen. In this case, use arrow root, which also produces a shiny finish – but it doesn’t work that great for dishes containing lots of cream.

**Note: If your dish started off with a roux but still needs to be thickened at the end, make a slurry using cornstarch or arrowroot. Using flour twice can cause a chemical reaction that can actually reduce its power to thicken.

Buerre Manie

French for kneaded butter, its made by kneading equal parts of softened butter and flour. This dough is used to thicken sauces, soups and stews.

You can knead them by hand or with the back of a spoon. The goal is to coat the grains of the flour with the butter. When whisked into a hot liquid, the butter melts which releases the flour. And leads to thickening. Unlike roux, this is not cooked before serving. It is only added at the end of cooking. It will need to be cooked a short time after adding to cook out any starch flavor. Its added in small increments, allowing the liquid to come back to a gentle boil between additions.


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