Easy Béchamel Sauce

A standard way to prepare bechamel is to cook the flour and butter first and then add the milk. But there are other approaches. I prefer the one here—simmering some milk and butter to begin the sauce rather than cooking the butter and flour to start—partly because it’s the method I was originally taught, but also because I find it faster and foolproof. The result is reliably light in texture and color.–Jim Lahey

LC No More Bechamel Blues Note

Who knew that the brilliance of bread baking legend Jim Lahey, founder of Sullivan Street Bakery and Co. in New York City, also extended to bechamel whisperer? We’re not certain where he learned the nifty trick mentioned above—perhaps in Italy where he learned bread baking?—but we’ll happily benefit from it. As will you. And the reason we know about said trick is because Lahey slathers bechamel all over his white pizza. Unexpected? Yep. Yet more of a show of his brilliance? Yep.

Easy Bechamel Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 25 M
  • Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • About 2 1/4 tablespoons (18 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 grates of nutmeg on a rasp or 1 pinch ground nutmeg

Directions

  • 1. Pour about 2/3 cup milk into a saucepan. Cut the butter into a few chunks (the exact size isn’t important, it’s just so it’ll melt more easily) and toss them into the milk. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring, until the butter melts, being careful not to let the milk reach a boil.
  • 2. Meanwhile, dump the flour in a medium bowl, add the remaining milk, and whisk into a slurry.
  • 3. Once the butter has been completely incorporated into the hot milk, ladle some of the warm mixture into the cold flour mixture and whisk to warm it. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan and whisk it in. Stir in the salt. Place the pan over medium-low heat and whisk the mixture frequently to prevent sticking as it cooks and thickens. The béchamel is done at about 180°F (82°C), or when it has reached the consistency of a runny sauce or heavy cream. Grate in or add the nutmeg, remove from the heat, and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. It will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.
  • 4. Use the bechamel immediately or cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 5 days (if refrigerating the béchamel, bring it back to room temperature before using).
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Oct 08, 2013

I had never used this technique to make béchamel sauce, but I’m absolutely sold. It’s much easier and certainly faster than the usual method. The sauce came out at just the right consistency and I could spread it in a nice, even, thin layer. I actually used gluten-free all-purpose flour and had no trouble with it.

Testers Choice
Adrienne Lee

Oct 08, 2013

This recipe for béchamel is a little involved but works perfectly. I really liked this technique because the sauce was very smooth. This is one of the most basic of sauces that could be used in many ways.


Comments
Comments
  1. Anna says:

    There’s another method I’ve encountered lately: make a slurry of flour and milk, heat it in a pan and add butter when hot.
    What’s your take on it, sciencewise?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Anna, science wise this method works as well. In fact, it has been used in times past when there was a scarcity of butter. It is also being used in low-fat diets since you can reduce the amount of butter when added at the end. Have you tried it?

      • Anna says:

        Now that you mention it, I realize I used less butter. I make it usually for moussaka; the meat is extremely flavorful, so the binding sauce can do without a large amount of fat.

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