Making a roux is not difficult. It may sound super French and fancy (pronounced ROO), yet it’s a simple cooking technique that involves just a bit of patience and some basic cooking know-how.
In simple terms, a roux is equal parts cooked fat and flour. It’s used to thicken soups, stews, and sauces; and in the South (and particularly New Orleans), it’s famously used in Gumbo and Étouffée. You can use any kind of cooking oil, butter, or bacon fat to make a roux. It just depends on what you are making and what kind of flavor you want to give your dish.
Step 1: Heat your oil or butter in a heavy bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Step 2: Once hot, evenly sprinkle the flour over the oil.
Step 3: Start whisking or stirring the flour over medium heat. It will clump up slightly at first, but it will loosen as it heats.
Step 4: This is what a loosened roux should look like.
Step 5: Keep your heat on medium and continue stirring for about 5-7 minutes. At this point, the raw taste of flour has been cooked out, and the roux is at its optimal thickening ability. This is called a blonde roux. If you are making a white sauce (or béchamel—another fancy word) you would whisk in the milk now. A béchamel is often the base to stovetop macaroni and cheese. This is also a good color or stage if you’re making a pan gravy.
Step 6: If you keep on cooking and stirring your roux, it will get darker (as pictured here). The roux will still be able to thicken a soup or sauce, but not as much as the blonde roux. It will give your final dish a slightly nutty flavor. This dark roux is a nice milk chocolate color. This is the stage where people will make Gumbo or other Cajun specialties, like Étouffée. It not only adds a very rich flavor, but it’s what gives the gumbo that nice, deep color. At this point, roux does not have a lot of thickening power, which is why Cajun and Creole cooks will add file powder at the end of cooking.
So just remember to cook on medium heat and to keep stirring. You’ll have your own pot of Gumbo in no time!