How to Make Perfect Gravy
Here, a step-by-step guide complete with photos.
By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that you always make a double batch of gravy. It's no more work and won't take much more time. The payoff is immense: you'll have enough gravy after Thanksgiving to submerge your turkey in a gravy bath and gently reheat it, plus extra to go around for drizzling over mashed potatoes. And if you have too much? Gravy freezes beautifully. Now that you're sold, let's get into the nitty-gritty of how, exactly, to make gravy.
How to Make Gravy from Scratch
First things first: although many people think of turkey gravy when "gravy" is mentioned, and we will indeed be walking you through how to make turkey gravy below, the technique described can be used to make any type of gravy from scratch. Instead of starting with turkey pan drippings, sub in meat cut in small pieces (a boneless, skinless chicken thigh, a lean 4 to 6-ounce cut of beef, a pork chop or sausage) and caramelize it in your pan on the stove. You might want to check out our White Sausage Gravy recipe for step-by-step instructions on how to whip up a rich, creamy white gravy and baking powder biscuits to go with.
1. Make Turkey Stock While the Turkey Roasts
Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a sliced onion and your turkey's neck and giblets; cook, stirring, until browned, about 15 minutes. The browning is where the flavor in the gravy comes from, so take your time and make sure the onions and turkey parts look very browned all over but not burnt. Add broth, several sprigs thyme, parsley, rosemary or sage and a bay leaf. Cover and simmer for about two hours while the turkey roasts.
2. Remove the Turkey from the Oven and Rest It
Once your turkey is done, transfer it to a cutting board to rest without foil over it so the skin stays crisp. Put a rimmed baking sheet under your cutting board: no matter how deep the trough on your board may be, it's never enough to hold all the juice that will run out of the turkey.
3. Get Rid of the Grease
Pour the pan drippings into a fat separator. If you don't have one, pour the drippings into a measuring cup and chill until the fat separates, then spoon it off.
4. Scrape the Pan Clean
Those little bits cooked onto the bottom of the roasting pan are mini flavor-bombs and you don't want to leave them behind. Put the roasting pan on the stovetop over low heat. Add a splash of broth to the pan and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Transfer the liquid and bits to the fat separator with the rest of the liquid already there.
5. Make the Roux
Spoon off 1/2 cup fat from the fat separator and transfer to a saucepan. Scatter in 1/2 cup flour (your fat to flour ratio should be 1:1) and cook the roux over medium heat, stirring with a flat-ended wooden spoon, until the flour mixture browns slightly, about 4 minutes. For more info on roux, check out our story How to Make a Roux.
6. Cook the Gravy
Gradually ladle the hot broth into the flour mixture, whisking constantly (this is key, or your gravy will be lumpy). Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the gravy simmers gently and thickens.
7. Finish the Gravy
Add the remaining turkey drippings to the gravy, leaving any extra fat behind in the fat separator. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
What to Add to Gravy to Make It Taste Even Better
Winey: Use a dry white wine instead of broth to scrape up the browned bit from the roasting pan.
Boozy: Add a splash of bourbon, cognac or sherry before serving.
Creamy: Whisk in a splash of cream before serving.
Mushroom-y: Sauté 1/2 cup chopped mushroom stems with the onion.
Buttery: Whisk in a few tablespoons cold, cut-up butter before serving.
Herby: Stir in finely minced fresh herbs before serving or add fresh thyme and parsley to the broth for the simmer while the turkey roasts.
Dark: Cook your roux (flour-fat mixture) a little longer, until it's medium to dark brown.
How to Thicken Gravy
There are several ways to thicken gravy. Here's what you need to know.
How to Thicken Gravy with Roux
Roux, a mixture of equal parts flour and fat that's cooked until golden brown, is the method we describe in the step-by-step above. You'll cook the roux to remove the taste of raw flour and develop roasty-toasty flavor, then you'll slowly add stock. You need 2 to 3 ounces of roux for every quart of broth and pan drippings. This will give you a silky, pourable gravy. If you want to make thicker gravy, use another ounce of roux.
How to Thicken Gravy with Beurre Manié
Beurre Manié is equal parts butter and flour that you mix together in a bowl with your fingers or a spoon until it looks like a thick paste. You don't cook it before adding it to the stock; instead, you add it in small bits while whisking the gravy. Then you simmer the sauce to thicken it and cook out the raw flour flavor. Its thickening power isn't quite as strong as roux, so you’ll need 4 to 6 ounces per quart of gravy.
How to Thicken Gravy with Cornstarch
Cornstarch is used as a thickener for gravy at the end of cooking when you’ve added the pan drippings and have developed the gravy's full flavor. Cornstarch must be dissolved in cold water to create a slurry before you add it to your gravy, or it will turn lumpy and won't thicken. For every cup of gravy, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1 tablespoon cold water. Bring the gravy to a low simmer and pour the slurry into the gravy while whisking constantly. Increase the heat and gently boil the gravy for about 1 minute.
How to Thicken Gravy Using Wondra Instant Flour
Wondra is a miracle ingredient: it’s a low-protein flour that's pre-cooked, dried and finely-ground. Because it’s pre-cooked, you can whisk it directly into gravy at the end of cooking and simmer it until the gravy thickens - no need to worry about cooking off raw flour flavor or eliminating lumps. 2 tablespoons per cup of gravy is all you need, just be sure you gently sprinkle it into the gravy, whisking the entire time.
Make-ahead gravy means just one less stress point when there are 18 people coming for the big turkey dinner. This simple gravy is made with turkey stock (if you happen to have it) or chicken broth, and enriched with a roasted turkey wing, leg or neck.
If you know you have a guest at the table who is gluten-free, you can make this a day ahead. This recipe leans on sweet rice flour as a thickener, it provides silky texture, doesn't impact the gravy flavor and reheats beautifully.
Roasted umami-packed vegetables (think: mushrooms and tomatoes) provide the pan drippings to jump start mega flavor in this plant-based recipe.
This recipe saves you major time on the homemade turkey stock, which cooks for just 45 minutes in the Instant Pot instead of 2 hours on the stove.