Sauces and Gravies – Theory and Ratios

Serving Size:

A typical serving size for sauces is 4 oz. per person.

A typical serving size for gravy is 8 oz. per person.

Assume the end product will be equal to the added liquid. The roux will add very little volume. So, if you are using 16 oz. of liquid, it should serve 4 people for a sauce and 2 people for a gravy.

It’s all Gravy!

American gravys are thicker versions of 3 of the French Mother Sauces: Béchamel, Velouté, and Espagnole.

If you learn to make these sauces, you can add flavorings to make virtually any sauce like alfredo, cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese, and gravys.

All of these sauces begin with a roux (roo).

Roux:

Roux is made by browning flour fat to make a roux then adding liquid and bringing  the mixture to a boil.

The fat can be the grease from the meat, oils, lard, butter, or a combination.

Cooking the roux for a few minutes will remove the raw flour taste.  Cooking the roux for longer will darken it.  Darker rouxs are used for darker sauces.

To avoid lumps, add a pinch of salt to the flour and stir it in.  The salt acts as an anti-caking agent and keeps the flour from forming lumps when it is mixed with the fat.   

After you make the roux, you need to add a liquid. Make sure the liquid you add is at room temperature or below.  Hot liquid will create more lumps.

Béchamel:

Béchamel (bay-shah-mel) is a classic french white sauce.

There are many variations of this recipe but most of them break down to the following:

  • 1 part by volume of fat (typically butter)
  • 1 part by volume of flour
  • 16 parts by volume of milk
Instructions:
  1. Make a roux by simmering the fat in a pan and stirring in the flour.
  2. Cook for a few minutes.
  3. The roux will become drier and slightly darker but we don’t want the roux to brown or it will darken the sauce and add too much flavor.
    Remember, béchamel is a white, bland sauce.
  4. Stir in the milk and heat it just begins to boil.
  5. Remove from the heat.

White Gravy – a thicker Béchamel:

Use the same recipe and process outlined above with the following changes:

  1. Double the flour.
    1. 1 part by volume of fat (butter and meat grease)
    2. 2 parts by volume of flour
    3. 16 parts by volume of milk
  2. If you are making a sausage or other meat gravy, brown the meat and remove it from the pan. Strain the fat and measure it. Use the fat as a replacement for some of the butter in the béchamel recipe.
  3. Optionally replace up to 1/3 of the milk with chicken broth or add chicken bullion to the mixture. This adds a nice flavor to sausage gravy.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

White Gravy – Bulk (makes 1.3 gallons):

  • 1/2 cup grease
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 lbs. hamburger or sausage (browned) (optional)
  • 1 gallon 2% milk
  1. Melt grease and butter in a large pot
  2. Stir in flour
  3. Add milk
  4. Blend with an immersion blender
  5. Add meat
  6. Heat until boiling (stirring constantly)

Velouté:

Same ratios as Béchamel and the white gravy. Just cook the roux longer to get it to a golden brown and add a light stock like chicken or turkey stock.

Chicken, turkey, pork gravy

This is Velouté with about double the flour. Add salt and pepper. DON’T add them “to taste.” I’m not really sure what that means. Use the ratios in the Food Trivia – Proper Salting Techniques section.

Espagnole:

Same ratios as Béchamel and the white gravy. Just cook the roux longer to get it to a dark brown and add a dark stock like beef stock.

Beef stock is typically made with tomato puree, and browned mirepoix. If not, you can add these elements.

Espangnole sauce is sometimes used at the foundation for boeuf bourguinon and demi-glace.

Beef Gravy:

This is the same as Espagnole with double the flour for a more thick gravy.

Adding meat to gravy:

As a rule of thumb, add 0.2 lbs of browned, ground meat (sausage or hamburger) per cup of liquid.  (1lb for every 5 cups)

Making the Sauce more creamy – Tempering in egg yolks:

Adding egg yolks to a sauce will make it more creamy but you cannot add raw eggs to a hot sauce or they will turn into scrambled eggs. When a recipe calls for tempering eggs into the sauce, stir the eggs in a separate bowl. Continue stirring as you very slowly add a few tablespoons of the sauce into the eggs. This will warm the eggs without cooking them. Once the sauce is stirred into the eggs, follow the same process to stir the egg mixture back into the sauce. The result will be a thick, creamy (but not chunky) sauce.

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