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Sauce-making technique (bechamel)

Perhaps a dumb question, but:

Is it really necessary to pre-heat the milk you add to a roux to make bechamel? I missed this detail when I first learned to make it and haven't really bothered since. Does heating the liquid you add really make a difference (flavor or texture-wise)? I can see how not doing so could lengthen the time bringing the sauce back to a simmer. But...so?

Thanks for your ideas.

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  1. Golly, I'm glad you asked this. I've never heated milk when making a bechamel. Now I'm curious too!

    1 Reply
    1. re: LauraGrace

      I was taught to add warm to hot. If I remember correctly, Chef said to avoid temperature extremes and never get the roux too hot.

      However, since others have (incorrectly) cited Larousse Gastronomique: It says to boil the milk with the aromatics and set aside for 30 minutes.

      The Professional Chef instructs adding cool roux to hot liquid or cool liquid to hot roux.

      The only time I had a problem was using milk straight from the fridge.

    2. It probably helps the sauce come together easier (?) but I wouldn't know because I never did it.

      To the roux, I start slowly with adding the milk, maybe 1/4 cup at a time...whisk till incorporated....then repeat until at a consistency where I can dump in all the milk and it will incorporate in smoothly.

      Curious to know if I'm missing out on something as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: 4Snisl

        Heating the milk in a separate saucepan and ladling it into the cooked roux

        -- creates a glossier, shinier bechemel
        -- creates a much smoother bechemel
        -- thickens much more quickly.

        I've done it both ways a jillion times. Heating the milk is always better. Heat it in the microwave if you don't do it stovetop. And don't forget the nutmeg.

      2. ive never heard of pre-heating either....maybe it just helps it come together faster? I know the first time I made bechamel I tried to use skim milk. That was a disaster :) Learned my lesson since then. :)

        1. I too was told I should heat up the milk before whisking it into the roux. However I do not do that and never had a problem.

          1. I believe that heating the liquid in a bechamel is to help prevent lumps, but one can make a lump free bechamel without heating the milk.