The Do’s and Don’ts in Making the Perfect Bechamel Sauce

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

The answer is this – bechamel sauce. Bechamel 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 halfway done when it comes to learning how to cook milk or cream-based sauces.

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

Begin by gently melting butter in a saucepan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat. Don’t let the butter sizzle; as soon as it is melted, take the saucepan off the stove. Next, sift flour into the butter and stir the mixture over gentle heat with a wooden spoon to let the flour cook. It should be done after a few minutes, but take note that not cooking it long enough may make the sauce taste floury. At this stage, your mixture is now the roux, and you are ready to add the milk.

Gradually stir in milk, making sure it is warmed. Don’t add cold milk as it can make your sauce lumpy. Whisk the milk and the roux, keeping an eye on the sauce’s thickness. A bit of onions, cloves and bay leaves may be added to the mixture to add flavor, but they are later removed or strained out of the sauce after cooking. Season with salt, pepper and freshly ground nutmeg to taste.

Don’t use black pepper if you want a purely white sauce because it will result to black specks in the mixture.To keep your sauce white, use white pepper instead. Make sure to stir the sauce all throughout to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Remove the saucepan from heat once the desired thickness is reached, and you’re done!

This sauce is incredibly versatile. Not only can you add in garlic, peppers or different seasonings to create a unique flavor, you can also add in shredded parmesan and cheddar cheese to create a cheese sauce that everyone will love. This can be drizzled over pasta, chicken or vegetables.