Cooking gumbo usually includes making a homemade stock and using a certain amount of fat, which adds tons of flavor. That same fat can end up in an oil slick at the top of the pot, leaving your gumbo with an unappetizing greasiness. Although you could invest in a fat separator -- a gadget specifically designed for the task -- you don't need any special equipment to keep the flavor but lose the grease. Several simple, low-tech methods effectively remove the fat from the top of gumbo.
Spooning Grease Away
A simple spoon or a ladle can get rid of most of the slick of grease that tops your pot of gumbo. Because vigorously boiling liquids make it less likely for fat to rise to the surface, start by lowering the heat so the gumbo is barely simmering. Dip a large spoon just below the surface of the gumbo and gently lift the fat away. Saveur recommends using a chilled metal spoon, which encourages the fat to coagulate on the bottom of the utensil. Chill the spoon and run the bottom of it across the surface of the gumbo.
For even easier skimming, grab a ladle; dip the bottom into the gumbo, and spin the ladle in a circle. Start at the center and spin your way toward the pot's edges until the greasy foam starts gathering there.
This sounds like a complicated way to accomplish the task, but it actually is a simple way to encourage the grease to accumulate on one side of the pot. Place the pot half on and half off the burner, and prop the part that's off the burner with an overturned pie dish. Greasy foam gathers on the side of the pot that's not simmering, making it easy to skim off the top with a spoon or a ladle.
Filtering the Fat
Coffee filters make efficient go-to grease catchers and handy strainers, separating the fatty, greasy top layer from the homemade seafood stock that most gumbo recipes use as a base. Line a strainer with a coffee filter, and then pour the stock through and let the filter work its magic. This greatly reduces the amount of skimming you need to do for the finished gumbo.
If your gumbo still has a bit of grease floating, dip a paper towel or another coffee filter into the pot and skim it over the top. The grease adheres to the surface of the filter or paper towel, leaving your gumbo relatively grease-free.
The Chill Method
Let the gumbo chill out for a few hours in the refrigerator to harness the power of cooling in the fight against grease. Although this method requires extra time -- to cool the gumbo and to heat it back up before serving -- it is one of the simplest, most hands-off ways to skim grease from any liquid. As it cools, the fat rises to the surface and thickens into an easily scoopable layer.