Cooking Perfect Gumbo - What You Need to Know About Roux

With more than two decades of professional experience in the public and private sectors, Dara Chenevert is well-versed in employee relations, human resources, and organizational development. Recreationally, Dara Chenevert enjoys cooking as a form of stress relief. Her favorite cuisine is Creole, with gumbo being her specialty.

A wide range of gumbo recipes exist, with everything from sausage to seafood going into them. Most Cajuns would agree that the heart of a great gumbo is the roux that serves as the base. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat in a 50:50 or 60:40 ratio that is cooked with constant stirring over heat until it darkens and takes on a deep, smoky flavor. The fat can be butter, lard, animal fats, or simply oils, depending on personal preference. Butter can be more difficult, since it tends to burn if cooked at too high heat.

Some restaurants will cook the roux until it is almost black to get the most complex flavor possible, while leading chefs, such as Jamie Oliver, often recommend going for the color of peanut butter. A common rule of thumb is to achieve the color of milk chocolate. Some recipes may call for a very light roux, but these shorter cooking times do not offer the same degree of depth that many people expect from a gumbo.

Ultimately, individuals should play around with different fats and different roux colors to figure out what tastes best to them.