Making Béchamel (or Velouté) Sauce

Most of you out there have probably made this at one time or another. It’s one of the so-called “mother sauces” of French cuisine according to Escoffier (the others being velouté, espagnol, hollandaise, and mayonnaise). This one is made with 1/3 milk and 2/3 stock, which either makes it a meaty béchamel or an enriched velouté. That’s up to you to decide. This is a thin version, specifically for chicken pot pie. For a more standard thickness, only use 2 cups of liquid. You’ll need:

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter
1.75 ounces (generous third cup) all purpose flour
8 ounces (1 cup) milk
16 ounces (2 cups) chicken stock
salt and white pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

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Stir in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about two minutes.

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It will look a bit like this:

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Add the milk, again whisking all the while, until any lumps have been stirred out.

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It will be quite thick.

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Now start whisking in the chicken stock. Add it in a steady stream and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking occassionally.

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Heat it until it’s thickened, 4-6 minutes. Remove it from the heat. It should it about so thick.

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6 thoughts on “Making Béchamel (or Velouté) Sauce”

  1. Is there a reason to add the milk before the stock? I’d hazard a guess that the fat/proteins in the milk might reduce clumping. Is there enough fat/protein in milk to do that?

    My second guess is that it’s arbitrary, and one has to go in first.

    1. Hey Mari!

      That’s a great question. I do that more from habit than anything else, though in the past it has seemed to me that I get fewer lumps adding milk first. That’s probably un unfounded assumption on my part since chefs make velouté sauces all the time with stock only. Still, I smell an experiment coming on!

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  2. Just one comment, if I may (and I am *not* claiming advanced knowledge, just knowledge through personal experience :)):

    I believe that what you’re describing is a Velouté (made with stock.)
    A Béchamel sauce is made with milk.

    As taught at home, I first heat the necessary volume of milk in a pan, and drop a whole onion (studded with one of two cloves, no more as the taste can be overwhelming) and a bay leaf. The milk and its accessories are heated to scalding point (no need to boil), then left to cool and infuse.
    After following all the steps above, add salt and pepper to taste (white pepper to avoid unsightly black spots showing in the Béchamel!)

    Try it with infused milk… It really makes a world of difference…

    It really is one of the foundation sauces:
    add cheese = sauce Mornay
    add onion and cream = sauce Soubise
    add shallot, vinegar and thyme = sauce Ravigote
    add tomato puree = sauce Aurore…

    1. Hey Claire!

      That’s interesting. I’ve never seen a velouté sauce that called for milk, hence my slight confusion over what to call this. To me it’s somewhere in between. But I shall try your techniques, they sound wonderful!

      – Joe

  3. When I was in school, my Sauces Chef taught that Veloute and Bechamel were two completely different sauces.

    Bechamel was made pretty much exactly how Claire described above.

    Veloute was made as a thickened protein broth, but finished with heavy cream, and enriched with egg yolks at the very end (and let me tell you, that taste is out of this wold.)

    This recipe looks like an interesting hybrid of both.

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