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Melt the butter. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large regular or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.
Add the flour. As soon as the butter is melted, add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and immediately stir with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight motion until the flour has completely absorbed all of the butter, 30 seconds to 1 minute. There should be no dry pockets of flour left in the mixture.
Cook the flour. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth, slightly thickened, and small bubbles begin forming, 30 seconds to 1 minute. The roux should smell nutty and there should be no unincorporated flour left. If any lumps of flour remain, break them up with the spoon.
Cook to the desired color. At this point, you have a white roux that is perfect for using in light sauces such as béchamel. For a blonde roux (which can be used interchangeably with a white roux but has a slightly nutty flavor), continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the roux is a pale golden color, 3 to 4 minutes. For a brown roux (most commonly used to thicken gumbo), cook until the roux is dark brown and very fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes.