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What is roux? That is a common question that many beginning cooks can find themselves facing quite easily. This question usually arises after first hearing the term as an ingredient listed in a recipe, or even as a passing comment on a cooking show somewhere. The basic answer is that roux (which is pronounced "roo") is a mixture of flour and fat that is cooked slightly, and then used as an additive to thicken things up. Some of the most common items that a roux is used in are things like soups, sauces, gravies, and so on.
The word "roux" is also the French word for "brown," which describes the color of the basic roux as well as the process for making one. While brown is most often the color for a basic roux, there are other colors as well, which mainly depend on what you are cooking. As was stated earlier, the basic ingredients for a basic roux is flour and fat, which when cooked together will turn a brown color.
Making a roux is an extremely easy thing to do, and to make a basic roux, is even easier. To make a basic roux, use equal parts flour and fat. Four ounces of fat and four ounces of flour are going to be equal to about eight ounces of roux (the moisture will evaporate during cooking). If you don't own a kitchen scale, don't worry; one tablespoon of flour is roughly equal to 1/4 ounce, and one tablespoon of butter is equal to 1/2 ounce. Butter is the most commonly used form of fat used, primarily because it is so easy to use. Other types of fats can be used, but will produce a different flavor.
Melt the butter over medium heat, and slowly add the flour to the melting butter. Be sure that you are whisking the flour constantly as you are adding it. Over the space of two to three minutes the roux will have a consistency roughly equivalent to peanut butter. A white roux is finished when the flour has lost its raw smell and begins to develop a toasty aroma. Darker colored roux are achieved by stirring constantly, until the desired color has been achieved.
If you are not going to be adding liquid, then immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat and transfer the roux to a separate container. Be very careful when doing this though, since the hot fat and flour mixture can cause some pretty painful burns. Refrigerate or freeze the roux for up to two months, and can be directly to soups or sauces as a quick thickening agent.