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Why sauces are used

They are used to add flavor to other foods. They can be salty, spicy, sweet, sour and any combination of these basic flavors. Some sauces are served cold, other warm. Some sauces are associated with a specific dish, like pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce or a group of dishes like sauce Bolognese. 

Sauce history

The word sauce comes from the Latin word salus, meaning  “salted”. For centuries, salt has been the basic condiment for enhancing or disguising the flavor of many foods. Possibly the oldest sauce on record is garum, used by Ancient Greeks, and Byzantium.

In Roman Empire, the sauce were used to mask the flavor of not so fresh food items, at that time the main courses are different. Roasted meats, poultry, game were be served. Dishes were complemented with highly flavored and seasoned sauces. These sauces were usually made thicker with wheat flour. Honey was often incorporated into sweet dish or sauces.

In ancient times, there was no refrigeration or ways to preserve food. Chefs would enhance the dishes with highly seasoned and flavored sauces so that the offending smell of deteriorating meat and vegetable would be hidden. At times, the dish would not have the distinctive taste of the main ingredient but the taste of sauce only.

Later, sauces became the backbone of continental cuisine and the sauces were not only used to enhance the flavor, but sauces can be used in many other ways.

In the early 1800’s, a French chef, Marie-Antoine “Antonin” Careme became a notable chef among French royalty. He classified his unique range of sauces and dishes according to four primary types known as the mother sauces, (béchamel, espangole, veloute, allemande). These sauces are the basic of nearly every sauce used today.

Today, we use five basic sauces or mother sauces. In French, they are called Grandes Sauces or Sauces Meres. Two of them are over two hundred years old. They are the ‘bechamelle’ and the ‘hollandaise’ or ‘mayonnaise’. These sauces survived for so long time as they are very good and adaptable. They provide a solid basis for a large number of other sauces. The other three sauces are from the 18th century –before and around Chef Careme's time. They are the ‘veloute’, the ‘brune’, and the ‘blonde’.

 Use of sauces

  • improves flavor of dish
  • increase the eye appeal of a dish
  • can be used as a garnish of a dish
  • can be used as a binding agent in a dish
  • can be used to help digestion in a dish
  • can be used as a dressing (salads)
  • can be used as a filling of sandwiches (mayonnaise)


Parts of a sauce

A sauce is made of a liquid and a sort of thickening agent along with other flavoring ingredients. Each of the five mother sauces is made with its own thickening component and three of these sauces use for thickening a roux. A roux is a combination of equal quantities of fat and flour. The roux may be cooked for a shorter of longer time to produce a lighter or darker color.

Liquid is the most important ingredients as it not only forms the body of sauce but it also dissolves flavors of different ingredients to form a distinctive flavored sauce.

Generally, the following liquids are used to make a sauce:

  • Milk for making white sauce
  • White Stock for making veloute sauce
  • Brown Stock for making espagnole and tomato sauce
  • Clarified Butter for making hollandaise sauce


For a sauce to have a desired texture and to make it possible to stick to the food, it should have a certain thickness and that can be obtained by using certain thickening agents. The most commonly used thickening agent in continental cuisine is flour. Other starch thickening agent like corn starch, potato, bread crumbs, and rice flour can be used.