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I love cooking my grandmother's seafood gumbo recipe, and I have done this successfully many times. Recently, my husband suggested we try this in the Instant Pot to save time with the roux, which I did not advise.

There are many questions about roux here. We have tried similar gumbo recipes twice specified for the Instant Pot, and it's just not the same. His impression was that the high-heat of sauteeing to make roux in the Instant Pot for less time (10 minutes) yields the same result as doing this on the stove top for longer (30 minutes). Both times, our gumbo was the consistency of light soup, and it did not thicken.

The roux was not the same consistency as when we've done this on the stove-top. It was not smooth and a much lighter color than a dark roux. I suspect the constant high-heat can be problematic for a roux. Was it the roux (or lack of a dark roux) from the Instant Pot or cooking in the Instant Pot in general?

I might just be a purest and skeptical of the Instant Pot for some dishes to believe that a good gumbo and roux are just not the same with this method. Has anyone had success cooking gumbo or roux in this vessel?

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    What did the roux look like when it was done cooking in the instant pot? – GdD Jul 21 at 15:58
  • @GdD it was more of a light-medium color (definitely not dark) roux, and it didn't seem to have the same consistency, more lumpy. My gut thought is that the high-heat overdoes this process. To note, both times the Instant Pot overheated during the pressure cook portion. We assume this was because we did the sauteeing in the device versus on the stove. – Darla Jul 21 at 16:09
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    I'd assume two problems with making roux in an IP: the lack of stirring (which means the flour doesn't get distributed and evenly saturated with oil) and the lack of evaporation if making a butter-based roux (butter is 10-15% water, which needs to boil off). However, I don't own an IP, so not posting this as an answer. – FuzzyChef Jul 21 at 17:54
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    To solve for the roux in the IP and the time it takes to make a proper dark roux. I would recommend making a large batch of roux and then freezing in ice cube trays. You can pop out of the tray and place in a freezer bag for future use. We would do this often in restaurants because of the time and labor involved in making a dark roux. They discuss freezing roux here cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1934/can-i-freeze-roux – corythecook Jul 21 at 20:35
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Some thickeners will lose thickening ability if you heat them too much, and as a pressure cooker allows you to get past the typical boiling point, it’s possible that this has happened.

But you should be glad that it did— because you shouldn’t cook really viscous things in an instant pot.

Basically, you can’t stir things in the sealed vessel, so you need to rely on thermal convection. If there is insufficient convection, you risk it scorching on the bottom, which acts as an insulator. The instant pot will recognize that it’s gotten too hot, and displays a ‘burn’ message.

Once it cools off sufficiently, it will try cooking again, but if it triggers too many times it will shut off completely.

If I were to try making gumbo in an instant pot, I would hold back the roux, and not add it until after the pressure cooking

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In case it's not clear, instant pots only save time in the pressure cooking mode. In saute mode with the lid off, cooking a roux is no different than cooking a roux on higher heat in a pot on the stove. If that were advisable, people would have put it into the recipes a long time ago.

So, you can cook a roux in the instant pot if you know how to turn your saute mode to low on your device, but it wouldn't save you any time. What does save you a bit of time is if you pressure cook stewed ingredients like chicken and ham hocks in the instant pot while you're making the roux on the stove, then you can finish up in the instant pot in unpressurized slow cooker mode.

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A roux is a starch-based ingredient. Starch does not thicken properly under pressure - I think it may even be written in the Instant Pot manual somewhere. So neither gumbo nor other roux-based (or starch-thickened) foods should be expected to work as usual.

You can use some starch-based techniques if you want, such as flouring meat before sauteing it, but it will only give you the change in browning effect, not the thickening effect. For starch-thickened stew liquids, either use a different cooking implement, or stir in the thickener (prepared roux or slurry) after you have cooked the meal through and let out the steam, but while still hot enough to cook the starch.

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