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Has anyone tried this and did it work? I'm curious if it would give a similar, or maybe even better result compared to hand whisking.

Edit: I don't have a milk frother right now, and was thinking of buying one for this.

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  • 1
    How much bechamel are you making?
    – rumtscho
    Apr 4, 2023 at 13:41
  • 1
    Are we talking about these tiny battery-operated thingies with a wire coil at the end? Or something bigger and stronger like an immersion blender?
    – Stephie
    Apr 4, 2023 at 13:59
  • 9
    I've never thought that bechamel needed that much whisking, I just make it with a spoon.
    – GdD
    Apr 4, 2023 at 15:04
  • 1
    2 cups, in a saucepan. Apr 4, 2023 at 16:15
  • When you said "handheld milk frother" I thought of a molinillo. There seems to be an assumption that you mean an electrical gadget.
    – Wastrel
    Apr 5, 2023 at 14:30

3 Answers 3

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I've never used anything other than a spatula for any 'roux'-type sauce.

I'd think any hand-held milk frother would either be far too delicate or simply under-powered. The first round of milk addition to a roux/béchamel mix is almost a solid. It never gets down to milk thickness even when fully finished. I really think it would kill something as low-powered as a milk frother. It would grind to a halt [battery] or burn out [mains]. I wouldn't even dream of using a full-powered stick blender on a roux.

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  • Interesting. I've never used a milk frother before, I'd have assumed it would be overpowered and need a lower setting, if anything. Apr 4, 2023 at 16:20
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    I would very much doubt it. If all it has to do is put some bubbles in milk, it's not going to be tougher than that - you can blend soup or froth milk with a big stick blender, but you would get nowhere the other way round ;))
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 4, 2023 at 16:35
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    Most frothers I've seen use, like, two AA batteries. They don't have much power.
    – FuzzyChef
    Apr 4, 2023 at 18:04
  • I have no idea if using a spatula is the same process as using a whisk, as I’ve never used a whisk. Here’s the process for spatulas: cooking.stackexchange.com/a/4421/67
    – Joe
    Apr 4, 2023 at 21:49
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    To add to @FuzzyChefs comment: Very cheap milk frothers don't even start if fully immersed in milk. You have to start near the surface and gradually lower it. So those will be completely useless in liquids with any amount of thickening agent.
    – arne
    Apr 6, 2023 at 7:45
13

Answering for some additional information:

Technically, you could use a milk frother for making bechamel, in the same sense that you could also use a pair of chopsticks or a large fork (I've done both, while travelling). The question is whether it would be a good tool for making it. And the answer is no.

In addition to the underpowering issues that Tetsujin mentions, there are the issues that most frothers:

  1. Aren't shaped well for scraping the butter & flour on the bottom of the pot;
  2. Have small delicate wires that wouldn't be great for moving much milk around (they're more designed for frothing like 200ml of milk);
  3. Have short shafts (like 8cm) that wouldn't allow you to use a deep pot;
  4. Have bare metal wires that would scratch a nonstick pot;
  5. Spin too fast.

Lemme explain the last, because it's why you don't really want a powered appliance for making bechamel at all. Generally, you whisk bechamel relatively slowly (you do the same with polenta, custard, etc.). You don't want to whip air into it. Most powered mixers of any kind (frothers, handheld mixers, stick blenders) are designed so that their lowest speed is still way too fast, and will result in incorporating air into the bechamel, which you don't want. It might even prevent the bechamel from thickening properly.

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One thing worth noting is that such frothers (at least from my experiments) struggle with thicker liquids. I have one, and have enjoyed frothing milk up. Then I thought: well surely it's going to be perfect for whipping cream.

But it's not (at least not in my tests). I'm guessing it's either too localized or weak to allow much air to be incorporated in a thicker liquid. It would always froth the cream up a bit, but then start to diminish in effectiveness, quickly getting slowing down (despite full batteries), and never really reaching the mass whipping cream gets when you use a mixer, and it seems even inferior to regular hand-whisking it.

I see the base recipe for béchamel only may call for milk... so that aspect may be ok unless opting for a richer sauce base. But still, by being thickened, I really wonder if it might not have the power to perform well. In thinner liquids, a frother's quick vibrations in a small space allow enough turbulence to even incorporate air, but I think with thicker liquids, its small scale or weak strength quickly would limit its usability.

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    Good insight on the use of frothers. Just a note: if the recipe only call for milk, it is actually added last, you start with butter and flour, which as Tetsujin states in their answer, looks like a dough. Then you dilute it with milk. So if frothers are not enough for cream, they clearly will be not enough for béchamel (an I mean any bechamel, I've made "poor man recipes" with water and olive oil, it works, but it's always solid at the start)
    – Kaddath
    Apr 5, 2023 at 10:54

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