Gordon Ramsay's Tip To Save White Sauce From Overcooking

A white sauce, or béchamel, is one of the basic and most versatile French sauces. A béchamel can perfectly smother a pork chop or transform into a cheese sauce (or sauce mornay), when enriched with Gruyere and parmesan. The problem with cooking a white sauce is that it can easily overcook because the sauce gets too hot during mixing. To save a white sauce from curdling, French-trained chef Gordon Ramsay shared a tip that involves moving the pot on and off the heat during a Gordon Ramsay Cookalong on YouTube.

Typically, made from a roux of flour and butter and enriched with milk. After the butter and flour have cooked, Ramsay adds his milk (cold) a third at a time. Between each addition of milk, the "Hell's Kitchen" chef stirs the mixture together rapidly and to avoid the dairy from scalding, he takes the pot off the heat and stirs. When the milk appears incorporated, he returns the pot to the flame, whisks in another third of milk, and repeats the process until the resultant sauce is smooth and coats the back of a spoon.

Move a thick-bottomed pot off the heat

Chef Ramsay's method works well because he's using a thick-bottomed sauce pot. Thick-bottomed sauce pots retain heat in its vessel. By removing the sauce from the heat, the sauce is still cooking, however, you're introducing a gentler, residual heat to the white sauce rather than exposing it to the intensity of the stove.

Thick bottom, or heavy bottom, pots have a thicker base and so it absorbs the heat more evenly and reduces the amount of hot spots. On thinner-based pots, the bottom has a tendency to heat unevenly causing the milk to have the tendency to scorch under the intense hot spots. This form of indirect cooking also allows for the milk to be better incorporated into the flour and butter, thus allowing for a smoother sauce, helping prevent its breakage or formation of lumps. 

Ramsay's method of using a lower and slower cook achieves delicious and quick white sauce. Following his lead, finish your white sauce by folding in a bit of cheddar cheese, season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg to enhance the sauce's naturally rich flavor.