The Perfect Roux Is Crucial To Mac And Cheese

Homemade mac and cheese may take more time than instant mac and cheese, but many feel it's worth the effort — and it can be, provided you use some of that effort to perfect your roux.

Could you make mac and cheese without roux? Yes, and there are plenty of recipes for that out there. But if you're going for restaurant-grade mac and cheese, you'll want a rich and creamy base. After all, that's how the dish was meant to be served, with recipes dating back to the 18th century calling for cheese mixed in with velouté and béchemal sauces, per British Food History. At their core, these sauces start with a roux, as Michelin explains.

Roux comprises equal parts flour and fat, whisked together until smooth a smooth paste forms, according to Food Network. In mac and cheese, the fat is typically butter, although there may be good reason to swap in oil. Roux thickens whatever liquid you add it to, but only a well-made roux will do so while also imparting velvety rich smoothness, per MasterClass. Fortunately, that's totally doable — as long as you keep two things in mind.

Your mac and cheese depends upon treating your roux right

The two components of perfecting your roux are timing and measurements. For mac and cheese, you'll need a white roux, which takes a maximum of five minutes on the stove, according to Food Network. Any longer, and the roux gradually darkens, which is great for some recipes but not what classic mac and cheese recipes call for (via MasterClass). So, when making the base for homemade mac and cheese, time is of the essence. Since the margin for error is narrow, a kitchen timer can be a big help.

Perhaps even more critical is precision measuring your equal parts fat and flour. If you've been thinking about investing in a kitchen scale, hopefully, the thought of rich, velvety cheese sauce will motivate you to act. A kitchen scale figures so pertinently into perfecting one's roux because while many recipes call for measuring flour by volume, measuring by weight is eons more accurate, per Cook's Illustrated. And, as we said, precise measuring is paramount in a roux.

Whisk in too much — even what amounts to no more than a flour-packing error, and your roux will taste of flour, according to Southern Living. Further, it may be difficult to get the sauce to the silky consistency a perfect roux deserves to be.