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10 Ways to Mess Up the Roux for Your Gumbo

Don’t get your gumbo gumbo’d. We share the most common mistakes to avoid, and tell you how to get it just right.

Roux is the heart and soul of a gumbo. It is the basis of almost every Cajun’s favorite dish regarding flavor, looks, smell, and thickness.

So what are the ten ways to mess up the roux for your gumbo?

These are the ten ways to mess up the roux for your gumbo and should be avoided at all costs. Either of these hiccups will cause the heartbreak of throwing it all away.

They are as follows: undercooked roux, overcooked roux, not stirring enough, using the wrong kind of flour, not using enough flour, not using enough water to make the gumbo juice, rushing through the process, using butter instead of oil, using the wrong type of oil, and multitasking while cooking.

Together, we will touch base on each reason why these mistakes happen and what it does to ruin the pot of roux. I can offer you as a Cajun cook some tips and advice on how to make the perfect roux and one that you will have all of your guests coming back for seconds. Keep reading as we have a lot to learn together!

Messing Up the Roux

Roux is the key to most Cajun and Creole dishes. It gives these dishes their distinct flavor, color, and texture. A roux is made by cooking flour and fat (oil) together until it reaches the desired color. The darker the roux, the more flavor it will have.

Roux is used to thicken soups, stews, and gravy. The longer you cook it, the less thickening power it will have. It is also used as a base for many Cajun and Creole dishes, such as gumbo, étouffée (pronounced a-too-fay), and jambalaya.

There are two types of roux: white and brown. White roux is made with butter and is the most common. It is used for thickening sauces, has a very mild flavor, and is not meant for gumbo.

Brown roux is made with bacon fat, beef fat, or vegetable oil. It has a nutty flavor and is used for thickening stews and gravies, and is ideal for gumbo or fricassees (pronounced Free-ca-says).

The Ten Ways to Mess Up Roux

1. Undercooked roux: This is probably the most common mistake made when making a roux. The resulting roux will be thin and runny when the flour and fat are not cooked long enough. It will not have the desired flavor or color and will not thicken the gumbo properly. You have to remember, this is not rice and gravy.

2. Overcooked roux: It will become dark and bitter if the roux is cooked for too long. It will also lose its thickening power. You will find that it may have a burnt flavor or black specs throughout the roux mixture. It should only take 30 to 40 minutes maximum to cook.

3. Not stirring enough: If the roux is not stirred enough, it will stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. This will cause a bitter and burnt taste and make the roux difficult to mix. Once it sticks to the bottom, there is no salvaging the roux.

4. Wrong kind of flour: Your roux will be too thick if you use the wrong kind of flour, such as self-rising flour.

5. Not enough flour: The roux will not thicken the gumbo properly if you don’t use enough flour. It will become watered down with no flavor.

6. Not enough water to make the gumbo juice: If you don’t use enough water after the roux is made, the roux will not thin out correctly and will be too thick and sticky. It will even burn faster at a low simmer.

7. Rushing the process: If you try to rush the process, the roux will not have enough time to cook properly and be either undercooked or overcooked. Taking your time cooking gumbo is also therapeutic, so why rush? From start to finish, gumbo is an artwork and calls for TLC.

8. Using butter instead of oil: The roux will be too thick if you use butter instead of oil. The butter ingredients break down during the stirring process with long periods of heat and will not mix well with the flour.

9. Wrong kind of oil: If you use the wrong oil, such as olive oil, the roux will be too thin. Avoid peanut oil, olive oil, and stick with veg oil or heavier types of oil.

10. Multitasking: If you try to multitask while cooking the roux, you will not be able to stir it properly, and it will either stick to the bottom of the pot or burn.

Now that we have gone over the ten ways to mess up the roux for your gumbo, let’s talk about some tips on avoiding these mistakes.

Tips to Keep From Messing Up the Roux

  • Make sure you use a heavy-bottomed pot. This will help prevent the roux from burning.
  • Stir the roux constantly. This will help prevent it from burning and help it cook evenly, taking out the clumps as you stir. You are looking for a texture like chocolate syrup.
  • Use the correct kind of flour. All-purpose four is the best. Self-rising flour will make the roux too thick.
  • Use the right amount of flour. If you use too much flour, the roux will be too thick.
  • Use the correct amount of water. If you use too much water, the roux will be too thin. Using too little will cause sticking and burning during the simmering process.
  • Use the correct amount of oil. The best way to remember this is to use the same amount of flour to oil. In other words, if you use a cup of flour, use a cup of oil mixture.
  • Gumbo deserves your undivided attention. Don’t multitask while making the roux. This will prevent you from stirring it properly, and it will burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.

How to Make A Roux

There are three main ingredients you need to make a roux.

Most people make a gallon of gumbo juice, so, to yield a gallon of gumbo, you will need time on your hands, 1 cup of All-Purpose Flour, and 1 cup of veg oil. Pour the oil in first and turn the burner to medium heat. Having the burner too high will not allow you to keep up when stirring, and low heat will take forever and a day to make the roux.

Slowly pour in the flour once the burner is on, stirring continuously. You are looking for about 30 to 40 minutes of constant stirring. The roux will start out white and darken to an off-white color, then a yellowish-orange. This is how you will know you are on the right track.

Follow Your Cooking Instincts

Keep stirring until there are no clumps and the color is dark brown. Down in Louisiana, we like it dark and thick. Some people like it a little lighter, but if you see black dots starting to form, you went too far and will have to start over. If you follow this advice and your cooking instincts, you can’t go wrong making the roux!

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Written by

When Wayne isn't cooking something Cajun, he is playing music, enjoying time with his son, and contributing to HCW, along with other media outlets. He loves to share his Cajun culture, stories, and cooking techniques. He is a writer and friend to all!