It is said that there are as many different gumbo recipes as there are pots in New Orleans. Whilst the origin of this staple Louisiana dish is still debated to this day, one thing is for sure – a great gumbo starts with a great gumbo pot!
But .. how to find the best gumbo pot? While it’s true we all have different needs – size and material are probably the most significant factors.
Keep reading, and I’ll talk you through everything you need to know to find the best pot for gumbo. Yet if you just want to skip to the end, know that I recommend Rachael Ray nonstick pot as it’s easy to use and super versatile. Read on for some great alternatives.
The traditional Gumbo
Much like the gumbo itself, the state of Louisiana is a melting pot of different cultural influences. It was originally colonized by French settlers during the 17th century, getting its name from King Louis XIV of France.
The original gumbo may even be an adaptation of a classic French bouillabaisse.
The flour and butter roux used to thicken the gumbo is a technique used in classic French cuisine. Nowadays, though, the flour in a gumbo roux tends to be darkened in oil or fat.
Over the centuries, Spanish settlers have also made their home in the Pelican State. They brought with them the classic ‘sofrito’ sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onion. This combination forms the base of many gumbo recipes.
The name ‘gumbo’ itself is very similar to the West African word ‘kingombo’, meaning okra, an ingredient used in many classic gumbo recipes. Yet another cultural influence added to the pot!
No menu in Louisiana would be complete without the Jambalaya. A classic of the South, which, for the uninitiated, could be mistaken for gumbo.
Both gumbos and jambalayas contain what local chefs refer to as ‘the holy trinity’ of ingredients – onion, celery, and green peppers. These are then combined with other key elements such as rice, meat, and vegetables.
However, there is one significant difference between the two dishes: while gumbo will always be served over the rice, the rice in a jambalaya is cooked in the same pot as the other ingredients.
The precise origin of the jambalaya is equally as elusive as the gumbo. It might have been created in New Orleans by Spanish settlers in an attempt to recreate the traditional paella. According to this theory, they may have substituted tomatoes for the saffron featured in the classic Spanish dish. (The rare spice was not quite as easy to locate in the Americas as is was in their homeland!)
Cajun or Creole?
An old Louisiana expression says that a Creole will feed one family with three chickens, whereas a Cajun will feed three families with one chicken. I’m sure that today these generalizations simply don’t hold anymore. Even historically, it was, at best, an exaggeration.
The expression stems from the fact that the Creoles tended to live in the city. So they had access to the local markets, and would usually have servants to cook their meals. As such, historically, the Creole’s dinner was often quite extravagant with a variety of choice.
In the past, the Cajuns farmed the land and lived in the rural areas of southern Louisiana. Their choice of ingredients was entirely dictated by the seasons. Their cooking methods were a little more basic, and they tended to cook their meals in large communal pots.
What does this mean today?
A Creole gumbo is generally tomato-based and similar in looks to a soup. A Cajun gumbo is traditionally made with a roux base and is more reminiscent of a stew.
Now – let’s find the best pot for gumbo to bring those southern flavors to our kitchen!
What Makes the Best Gumbo Pot?
The first thing to consider is the size of the pot. I would suggest that, for a hearty meal with perhaps the odd second helping, you should allow for 1-1.5 quarts per person.
My gumbo pot takes up a lot of my cupboard space. Yet, when you consider the great variety of functions that it performs – from batches of chilli and pasta to stewing tomatoes, rhubarb, not to mention the fantastic gumbo itself – it certainly earns its place!
I would always recommend a robust and sturdy stockpot. A cheap stockpot may eventually end up costing you more as it will usually be made with thinner gauge metal and therefore have difficulty retaining the heat. It will also wear out quickly.
Cast Iron is a reliable, sturdy, traditional cookware material that’s great for gumbo. If you get it, remember to season it first, though!
Stainless steel is also reliable and can often take a beating. It doesn’t need the care of cast iron, but can be more work to clean up.
Non stick, often with an Aluminum base, tends to be the most convenient. Beware – it won’t last as long and perhaps isn’t as healthy.
Do You Simmer Gumbo Covered or Uncovered?
Many stockpots will come with fitted lids. When cooking my gumbo, however, I do not use a cover as I prefer the steam to escape so as to thicken my sauce.
It’s a matter of personal taste. Simmer uncovered for a thicker gumbo. Simmer your gumbo covered if you want it thin.
Whether you simmer your gumbo covered or uncovered, a lid is always useful for other cooking.
Some pots come with glass lids, which can help you monitor the progress of the contents. If you are putting them in the oven, remember to check the temperature that these glass lids can withstand.
This 10.5 Quart (10 liter) pot is made from thick gauge aluminum and is designed for use on a wide variety of stoves, including induction hobs. It has a helpful non-stick coating which allows for easy cleaning and is even dishwasher friendly – if you have a dishwasher big enough!
I found the stay-cool handles very helpful when I needed to transfer the pot from the stove to the sideboard before serving. The riveted handles allowed me to handle a full pot with confidence.
The convenient tempered glass lid comes with a handy steam vent.
I was a little concerned, however, about the reports from some customers that the pan took such a long time to boil water. It was more than double the time of other pots in a few cases!
- Non Stick
- Riveted stay cool handles
- Tempered glass lid
- Induction hob compatible
- Takes a long time to heat the contents
- Relatively low oven safe temperature of 350F
This stylish looking 12 quart (11.4 liter) enamel pot is available in either Sienna Red or Twilight Teal Blue. Either would add a striking splash of color to your kitchen.
It can be used on induction hobs and is oven safe up to 232°C (450°F).
I loved the fact that the enamel outer coating is stain resistant and easy to wipe down.
However, there are a few reports of the handles getting quite hot when cooking with this pot.
Further, the pot’s inside can be a bit of a struggle to clean after cooking on a high heat.
- Lovely striking color
- Outer enamel coating easy to clean
- Oven safe to 232°C (450°F)
- Handles can get quite hot
- Can be hard to clean the inside of the pot
Rachael Ray 87393 Brights Hard Anodized Non-stick Stockpot (Best Pot for Gumbo)
The first thing I noticed about this 8 quart (7.6 liter) pot was the unusual oval shape which was particularly helpful when boiling long pasta such as spaghetti.
The innovative pour spout on the side lets you directly fill bowls with delicious gumbo, all without spilling a drop.
The hard-anodized aluminum heats your food evenly. Of course, the non stick coating makes washing up super easy.
I was impressed with the riveted rubberized handles on either side of the pot as well as a third on the shatter resistant lid.
The shape and size of the pot does make it slightly awkward for the stove. On some stoves it’s a two burner pot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing…
- Helpful oval shape
- Stay cool rubberized handles
- Dishwasher friendly
- Large oval shaped base area
- Not for use on induction hobs
Bayou Classic 5 Gallon Cast Iron Jambalaya Pot (Best Large Gumbo Pot)
In my opinion, no gumbo tastes quite as good as the one that I cook in cast iron. Something about slow cooking over an open fire, the infusion of the wood smoke flavors, and the appetite that I work up cooking in the great outdoors make for a perfect combination.
This 20 quart (18.9 liter) cast iron pot comes pre-seasoned. It has three reinforced tripod legs as well as a cast iron lid. Conveniently, the lid can be hung securely on the pot’s side when I am stirring or serving my gumbo. It also comes with two heavy duty lift hooks.
The pan is compatible with any burner but I recommend a traditional log fire. It is perfect for event cooking and has featured at many a festival, church social, outdoor wedding, and company picnic over the years. One user claims to have had a chili cook-off for 35 guests using this pot alone!
- Perfect for traditional New Orleans slow cooking
- Made from sturdy pre-seasoned cast iron
- Heavy and difficult to maneuver
- Needs care
Update International Stainless Steel Stock Pot w/Cover (Best Stainless Steel Gumbo Pot)
This is an incredibly versatile 24 quart (22.7 liter) stainless steel gumbo pot and, as such, is often used in professional kitchens.
Let’s be clear 24 quarts is 6 gallons – this is a big gumbo pot.
It’s available in sizes from 8 to 100 quarts (7.6 to 95 liters). However, the bigger sizes are definitely not for home use.
It is made from stainless steel and has a superb heat distribution thanks to the 3-ply base, consisting of a 5mm aluminum core encased in two stainless steel layers. I was very impressed with the uniform boiling pattern that this pot provides.
It is equally efficient on a gas hob as it is on an induction stove and the snugly fitting lid seals in the moisture as the food cooks.
My only concern was that the handles do get quite hot while cooking. Make sure to use potholders when moving the pan.
- Can be used on a variety of hobs
- Professional level heat distribution
- Well fitted lid
- Heavy when full
- Handles can get hot when cooking
This 12 quart (11.4 liter) pot has the elegance and sophistication that reminds me of a classical French kitchen. It has a striking mirror-polished body and a thick 7mm base that prevents warping.
It is compatible with a variety of stovetops – gas, induction, ceramic, glass and halogen to mention a few – and is dishwasher safe.
I was impressed with the see-through tempered glass lid and felt confident moving a full pot thanks to the firmly riveted, polished stainless steel handles.
This pan is made from 100% nickel-free stainless steel. This means that you can be sure that no nickel will leach into the food when cooking. (Ideal if you or your family are nickel sensitive). What’s more, you will also benefit from the 12-15% energy saving that this particular type of steel provides.
You can be fully confident in the quality of this pot as not only does it come with a one month, full-refund trial; it also has a lifetime customer service warranty.
- Made from nickel-free stainless steel
- Induction compatible
- Elegant aesthetics
- Difficult to clean
Verdict: The Best Pot For Cooking Gumbo
The sleek and sophisticated Rachael Ray pot lets you cook a classic gumbo in your kitchen. The pouring spout helps you to quickly and efficiently serve the family, while the non-stick surface and rubberized handles made short work of the washing up.
This is also a great pot for pasta – why? Well, the oval shape is designed for cooking long sticks of pasta.
The truth is it works just about any time you need a pot for family cooking.
Best of The Large Gumbo Pots
On the other hand, I would not feel that I had done justice to the best pot for gumbo award without, at the very least, giving an honorable mention to the cast iron Bayou 5 gallon pot.
As you stir your holy trinity of ingredients into the spicy broth over a smoky open fire, you can experience the smells, sounds, and tastes that generations of Cajun farmers have done for centuries.
Of course, it takes a little more effort to prepare and cook this way, so this isn’t the pot for small and quick family meals. Yet, if you have a day to spare to cook a meal for 15-30 people, then I recommend trying a leisurely wood smoked gumbo in a cast iron Bayou kettle.