The Simple Way To Tell When Béchamel Sauce Is Done

Spoon in béchamel sauce
Spoon in béchamel sauce - Repinanatoly/Getty Images

Learning the ins and outs of how to make a good sauce is an important step to becoming a more confident cook. Some basic sauces are workhorses, not dainty plate dressings — for instance, the sturdy flour-thickened white sauce known in French as béchamel. If you want to make perfect biscuits and gravy, creamy mac and cheese, or a classic crunchy and creamy croque monsieur sandwich, you need to understand the technique for making béchamel.

Made up of just three simple ingredients, béchamel is one of the easiest sauces in the set of French mother sauces to learn. The key to success is getting the sauce cooked to the proper texture, which is easy to check by just dipping a common kitchen spoon into the saucepan. If you can draw a line through the sauce clinging to the back of the spoon, that's a sign that the flour has done its job of thickening properly. Depending on your recipe, you may want a thin film of sauce or a thick layer but, either way, the spoon trick is your key for checking the progress.

Read more: 26 Types Of Pasta Sauce Explained

Getting The Right Thickness For Your Béchamel Sauce

Person whisking bechamel sauce
Person whisking bechamel sauce - Ganzyk/Shutterstock

Creamy but rather plain-tasting béchamel sauce is the starting point for many other sauces, so it's a great technique to master. The process starts by making a basic flour and butter roux. Whisking flour into melted butter coats the starch with butterfat, preventing clumps of flour from ruining the texture of the finished sauce. This step also toasts the flour lightly, improving flavor — but take care not to brown the flour; béchamel is intended to be light-colored in most cases. Once the flour and butter are well combined, whisk in the milk and continue to stir until you notice the sauce clinging to your spoon.

The ratio of flour to milk will determine the end thickness of your béchamel: More flour makes a thicker sauce. If you can't draw a line across your spoon, the sauce is too thin. Just simmer it carefully for a few more minutes to allow the starch in the flour to do its job. If your sauce is way too thick when you do the spoon test, never fear — it's easy to add a bit more milk to the pot to thin out the mixture.

Read the original article on Tasting Table