The Unexpected Cooking Method That Can Prevent Burnt Béchamel

Béchamel sauce is a classic French sauce that is used in a multitude of recipes, per Allrecipes. From mac and cheese to lasagna to most potato and vegetable gratin dishes, béchamel is an integral part of the dish. It often acts as a binder, thickener, and cream-enhancer. Incidentally, many cheese sauce recipes begin with a béchamel, as melted cheese alone does not have a sauce consistency.

When it comes to making a béchamel, the name of the game is patience. This is because a béchamel recipe is comprised of three delicate ingredients — flour, butter, and milk — that can burn easily if you don't cook it low and slow. The tricky part of making a béchamel is that it requires some multitasking. You want to start making the roux (equal parts flour and butter) at the same time you're warming the milk, according to the Food Network. However, if the idea of cooking multiple things at once makes you nervous, here's a trick that can help.

Cook over indirect heat

With the multitasking of making a béchamel sauce, comes anxiety about burning the milk or the roux as they're cooking simultaneously. Epicurious notes that mixing warm milk into the roux is key when making this sauce. You heat your milk so that when you mix it with the flour and butter mixture, the ingredients are all similar temperatures, and simply put, they'll meld better. This can help you avoid a lumpy sauce, as well as the splattering and sticking that comes when cold milk hits a hot pan (via The Kitchn).

While you certainly can warm both pans over low flames, Food & Wine reports that some chefs prefer to make béchamel on the flat top as opposed to over direct heat. This ensures even cooking and warming of all ingredients involved and it's something you can recreate at home using a smooth griddle pan that you might use for pancakes. Cooking over indirect heat gives you a bit more time and wiggle room to make a great sauce without worrying about it burning. So, the next time your recipe calls for béchamel sauce, you can get excited to use that griddle for more than just making weekend pancakes.