There are many schools of thought on roux-making. Some cooks prefer the traditional and time-consuming approach of combining the flour and fat at room temperature then gradually increasing the heat until the mixture reaches the proper color and consistency. Others start their roux on the stove top and finish it in the oven. There are also folks who make it in the microwave or cook it dry by browning flour in the oven without any fat. I, on the other hand, have adopted the quick cook method described in Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen.
The quick cook method is just that. It’s a fast and furious way of getting a roux to the proper stage. The oil is so hot that a milk chocolate or black roux can be made in under ten minutes. So great care must be taken to avoid splatters and spills. I suggest keeping a small, wet towel nearby in case of emergencies because hot roux on human skin can cause major burns. This cooking technique works great for my peanut butter, milk chocolate and black roux. The oil can get a little too hot for a blond roux, but I’ve been able to do it by adding the flour before the oil begins to smoke. This quick cook method will not work for a white roux, which needs to be gently heated for only a few minutes.
The type of stove and skillet you use, along with your level of confidence, will greatly affect the time it takes to achieve each stage of a roux. The key is to get comfortable with the skillet and the temperature you are cooking with. If you’re anxious about getting the oil to its smoking point, then simply start with a lower heat and begin adding the flour before the oil gets too hot. All that will do is lengthen the cooking time. Also, pay attention to how the roux looks and smells at each stage, because it’s ultimately your eyes and nose that tell you when it’s done. Finally, don’t get frustrated or give up if your roux doesn’t come out perfect the first time. If you’re like me, you’ll have to sacrifice two or three batches before you get the hang of it.
QUICK COOK ROUX
1 cup canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
In a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the oil over high heat until it begins to smoke, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the flour, whisking carefully and vigorously after each addition until smooth. If the roux begins to darken too quickly, reduce heat to medium and continue whisking (or remove skillet from stove and continue whisking until you’ve reigned it back in). Once all the flour has been incorporated into the oil, continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the desired color is achieved. This could take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending upon the oil temperature. Immediately remove skillet from the fire and continue whisking until the residual heat from the pan subsides. This is generally the point where you add the seasoning vegetables called for in your recipe. If you’re making the roux in advance, simply allow it to cool, stirring occasionally. The roux may be stored at room temperature for several weeks or indefinitely in the refrigerator. This recipe will thicken about 6 cups of stock for a thick brown sauce or 8 cups of stock for a traditional gumbo consistency.