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How dark do you make your roux for gumbo?

I've been on a gumbo trip for the past month and can't get it as intense as I'd like. I use a peanut butter colored roux w/ smoked turkey wings and lamb necks. It's good and I like it but if I take the roux to a darker color will that provide deeper flavor? And will I have to use more roux in the recipe to obtain the same thickening power?

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  1. I make mine the color of a old penny; if you make it darker, it will have a deeper flavor. You don't need any more roux, just cook it longer

    8 Replies
    1. re: Cherylptw

      I've always heard that darker roux = more flavor, less thickening. So yes, I figure you'd have to use more to get the same thickening power.

      1. re: Scrofula

        I NEVER heard that darker roux equals less thickening; I've been making gumbo at least 25 years and have never experienced having to add more roux to make it thicker

        1. re: Cherylptw

          Hmm. Alton Brown disagrees with you (http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season...), but he's been wrong before, and I'll bet you've made more gumbo than he has. That said, a Google search for 'roux darker thickening' has a bunch of pages saying the same thing.

          1. re: Scrofula

            Ya know, I do like Alton Brown but I don't use him as my authority; when I've made something over & over for so many years, I use my own trial & error and tend to lean on my own authority.

            1. re: Scrofula

              I've heard the same from multiple sources, like Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking: "Finally, the heat causes some of the starch chains to split, and then to form new bonds with each other. This generally means that long chains and branches are broken down into smaller pieces that then form short branches on other molecules. The short, branched molecules are less efficient at thickening liquids than long chains.... The darker the roux, the more starch chains are modified in this way, and so the more roux is required to create a given thickness."

              1. re: Soul Vole

                I've noticed this empirically - a very dark brown roux doesn't thicken as much as a lighter one.

            2. re: Cherylptw

              The darker you make a roux the less it thickens. What you get in flavor, you lose in thickening. With that said, gumbo is not dependent on roux for all it's thickening purposes. People use okra and/or sassafras to thicken their gumbo too. Just remember to cook the okra first before it's added to the gumbo to reduce the slime.

              1. re: Cherylptw

                the darker the roux means the longer you have cooked it, and that means the flour's qualities have changed to make it less thickening. i forget the technical term.

                i have learned this from my own experience, and in all the louisiana and new orleans cookbooks i have, including the original times-picayune cookbook, cotton country collection, river road recipes and scores of junior league cookbooks.

                here, just as an example, the dean of cajun cooking, chef john folse, says the same thing (as i'm sure emeril and paul prudhomme would agree): http://www.nicholls.edu/culinary/john...

                also, i remember where i first heard it -- it was the crazy cajun cook, justin wilson, who ga-ron-teed that his food was tasty! ;-).

                how dark i make it depends on the kind of gumbo for me.

          2. I always cook my gumbo roux to a copper penny shade, very dark. I do think it gives it a richer flavor. I haven't noticed any diminished thickening power, either.

            1. I believe the correct answer is the roux should be dark brown.

              I am no expert, but I have a cookbook of recipes contributed by members of a junior league in Lafayette, Louisiana. Every one of the gumbo recipes states to cook the roux until it is dark brown. Some use margarine and flour, others oil and flour, most old-time traditional ones use lard and flour I think. All are equal part oil to flour.

              One of the recipes gives details: ...heat is medium to low, stirring constantly "when the roux is a rich dark brown, cut off the fire immediately, while continuing to stir. Add water to lower the temperature slightly so the roux will stop browning. Some people prefer to add a cup of chopped onion to lower the temperature. Either way, you continue to stir until the temperature is lowered sufficiently. Then you turn the flame on again under the pot and slowly add the rest of the ingredients for your gumbo."

              Happy gumbo-ing!

              4 Replies
              1. re: foodcompletesme

                The recipe I use tells you to add the chopped onion/celery/pepper mix as soon as the roux is at the right colour - that drops the temperature enough so that it stops browning.

                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                  This is the technique we use in our house, too. It means you have to get all your chopping done in time for when the roux is ready!

                  1. re: khh1138

                    I was born Irish Catholic,
                    And I thought I knew all about stew,
                    But nothing prepared me for the heavenly smell,
                    When the Trinity hits the roux.

                    1. re: WNYamateur

                      Wonderful! I'm stealing this as an incantation to say when I reach this step in my gumbo!

              2. I once asked cooks competing at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. The answer was, "as dark as you like it is the right way." That being said, the way we like it is as close to black as you can get without actually being black.

                1. I like to make my roux about as dark as chocolate, and yeah, the darker the roux, the deeper the flavor.

                  IMO, the only way to make a good dark roux for the gumbo is to practice making it a few times before you cook with it.

                  A well-made dark roux is literally a hairsbreadth away from being a pan-scorched clump of smoking flour and oil.