Really. Do you know how? If you say yes and you EVER create macaroni and cheese from a box, you should be ashamed of yourself.
There are two KEY components of a good cheese sauce:
- a whisk
If you know the breakdown of making a white sauce (is that beurre blanc?) then you have the knowledge of how to make a cheese sauce. Don’t know that? Here it is:
- butter (it is the best ingredient for a cheese sauce….)
This is how I do it. If I’m going to make 2 cups of cheese sauce (a very healthy pan of mac & cheese), I start with 2 cups of milk, 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour. If I am going to make 2.5 cups of sauce, 2.5 cups of milk, 2.5 tbsp of butter, and 2.5 tbsp of flour. Get the picture?
Melt the butter in the pan. Sprinkle the flour on the butter, and stir. Stir lightly until it’s combined. Introducing, a roux. Yes, you made one! Congrats! I usually boost the heat a bit and then cook for just past a minute…maybe a little longer depending on the color. Light caramel. That’s the color I look for. Once it’s light caramel colored, I slowly pour in the milk, stopping to make sure I’ve whisked the lumps out. No lumps here greatly increase the potential for lumpless sauce later.
And…whisk. Whisk on medium to medium high heat. By whisk, I don’t mean vigorously…just keep it moving. This does two things.
- Again, minimizes the risk of lumps. Ain’t no guarantee, but it’s a good helper.
- Allows you to see and feel the thickening.
It’s gonna take probably 20 minutes-ish…could be 15, could be 25 depending on how cold the milk was, and how warm the “fire” is.
Once you can tell it is thickening, watch for the boil. It will thicken to it’s thickest during the boil. I usually cut the heat off at this point unless it isn’t as thick as I expect. I then continue whisking if it needs more boil-time. At this point, however, do NOT walk away. You will wind up with a boiled over milky sticky smelly mess if you ignore it for any time at all!
After the sauce is at it’s desired thickness, I add the cheese. Usually, I admit, I’m lazy and add pre-shredded. Mainly because I don’t have a shredder I like. If you’re a purist, you can add small cheese cubes or hand shredded. Because the white sauce is hot, it melts the cheese nicely.
Honestly, it’s that easy.