What Are Mother Sauces

What is Mother Sauce?

A Guide To The Five Mother Sauces Every Cook/Chef Should Know

What is mother sauce you ask. In this post we will take a look at what are the five mother sauces used in classical french cuisine.  We will also take a look at the three types of roux used in the making of some of these sauces.  This, I hope will give you an idea of what is mother sauce, how mother sauces are used and the wide range of recipes that can be made using these 5 foundation sauces.

During my time in culinary college the majority of our learning was based around french cuisine.  Learning basic recipes like the delicious Croque Monsieur to more advanced recipes with rich flavorful sauces.  From the very beginning of our training emphasis was placed on learning the five mother sauces.  So, what is Mother Sauce?

Mother Sauces

In the 19th century the renowned French chef Mari-Antoine Carême began to organise sauces into groups based on four foundation sauces.  It was later on the Chef Auguste Escoffier added one more sauce to the list and codified these recipes in his masterpiece Le Guide Culinaire.

Almost every Chef learns some, if not all of these five mother sauces when the begin their career, as these sauces are the foundation for a huge range of culinary dishes.  Some of these sauces will be very familiar to you while others are less known and often less used.

The key ingredient in most of these sauces is the roux.  To become a sauce you first have to thicken a liquid to the required consistency so that the liquid sticks to the food.  This can be achieved by reducing the liquid until it thickens naturally or you can add some form of starch; that’s where the roux comes in.

The roux is made by cooking equal parts fat and flour by weight together.  By cooking the flour in fat you cook out some of the raw flour taste and add flavour as well as a thickening agent to your sauce.  The more you cook the flour the more flavour you get, but this also has the effect of reducing the thickening properties of the roux.  In french cuisine there are three types of roux.

Three Types Of Roux

Depending on the sauce you are making you will be required to make one of the following roux:

  • White Roux – This is the first stage of cooking the fat and flour.  The fat and flour are cooked lightly together for 2 to 3 minutes to cook out some of the flour taste.  Cooking it for a short period of time retains the white colour and this is the visual guide you need to remember when making a white roux.
  • Blond Roux – By cooking the roux past the white stage for another 2 to 3 minutes you will get what is referred to as a blond roux.  This is when the flour starts to caramelise giving the roux a light brown or sandy colour.  This adds a little bit more flavour compared to the white roux and is used for various sauces.
  • Brown Roux – This is the final stage where the roux is cooked on a low to medium heat until it reaches a rich brown, almost red colour.  This roux has more flavour than the previous two but has a little less thickening properties.

A roux is the base for most of the mother sauces and it is important when cooking the sauce that the correct roux is used to ensure you get the best flavour as well as texture in your sauce.  So now that you know about the importance of the roux we can move onto answer what are mother sauces.

The Five Mother Sauces

Béchamel: This is made by first making a white roux then adding milk and aromats to create a thick, white sauce which is not overpowering but rather delicate in flavour.  This sauce can then be used to make a number of other variations of sauces such as a mornay sauce, parsley/persil sauce, mustard sauce and more.

Velouté:  This sauces requires the cook/chef to first make a blond roux then this is mixed together with a rich flavorful stock such as fish stock, veal stock, beef stock or any other clear stock.  This sauce creates a light and silkily smooth sauce but can also be use as the base for a number of soup recipes such as a thick rich cream of chicken soup.

Espagnole: Cooking a brown roux then combining it with a rich brown beef or veal stock, brown mirepoix of vegetables and tomato puree.  This sauce is the foundation of the classic french dish, boeuf bourguinon and is also used to make a very rich and delicious demi-glace.

Sauce Tomat: This classic sauce is similar to your regular Italian tomato sauce but it tends to have a more rich and deeper flavour.  This sauce is made cooking tomatoes with aromatic vegetable and is classically thickened with a blond roux.  More often in modern cooking the roux is left out as reducing the tomatoes will thicken the sauce enough while increasing the flavour.

Hollandaise: This is the one mother sauce that does not require the use of a roux to thicken.  Instead, this sauce is thickened by making an emulsion of egg yolks and clarified butter.  This sauce is very delicate and can be  difficult to make as the process of bringing together two liquids into a stable state which don’t want to combine can be tricky.  With a little practice this recipe can easily be mastered and can be used for coating vegetables such as asparagus to making the classic breakfast/brunch dish, eggs Benedict.

These are the five classic sauces which once learned can open up a whole range of recipes to the home cook or professional chef.  They are the foundation for classic french cuisine but are also used in a wide variety of recipes that most would be familiar with such as lasagna and macaroni and cheese.

I hope you found this information informative and that I answered the question, what is mother sauce.  Keep an eye out on my blog over the coming weeks for recipes on how to make a variation of sauces using some of these classic mother sauces.

Visit my Blog for some recipes and check out my recommended recipe books for more information.

Cheers.What Are Mother Sauces

About the author
J.J. Sheridan
My Name is JJ Sheridan, born in Cork Ireland but spent most of my childhood in County Tipperary. I've been a Chef for a large number of years and have worked in a number of award winning restaurants. I love using local ingredients whenever possible in my food so that I can showcase the best of Irish. My passion is to share with you the best restaurants across Ireland from a Chefs perspective. For many years restaurants have been at the hands of the "food critic". Most of the time these critics will visit the same old restaurants and heap praise on them. Often forgetting about the smaller restaurants who are paving the way for Irish Cuisine. My Goal is to higlight all restaurants, especially the ones the so called food experts never visit and give you a complete list of the best Irish Restaurants to visit.

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