How to make gravy

You’ve got your turkey all planned out, and you’ve got some stock. Now, it’s time to explore the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Gravy. (And maybe something to put it on.)

I will tell you how to make excellent gravy with no stress and guaranteed success. Without lumps.

I don’t do recipes. I do theory. But this theoretical approach will get you through. Its very simple.

You are going to need the following:

A stick of butter or two, and an equal volume of regular flour. You can use special fancy dancy flour if you want, but that is not necessary.

Several cups of a liquid such as stock.

Some spices. Which spices and how much depends on the stock.

Salt (this is separate from the spices)

1) Make the Roux.

This can be done ahead of time and reheated later.

Put all of the butter and all of the flower in a pan. This is where your copper clad cooking pot shines, by the way, but any pan will do. Start heating the mixture slowly as you use an appropriate utensil (a wooden spoon, for example) to mush up the butter with the flour. As the pan gets hotter, the butter melts more and more. Your job is to introduce the melting butter to the dry flour so that they mix together and form a paste.

When you have a paste, it will be yellow-buttery colored, melty and hot. Keep stirring it around and mixing it for a while. Now you have a decision to make:

Do you want lighter gravy (for chicken) or dark gravy (for beef) or in between (for turkey)?

The more you heat the roux, the more it bubbles and boils — as you keep stirring it — the darker it will get. At some point you will get scared it will burn and stop. If you want dark gravy, be brave and let the roux cook. Don’t worry, it won’t burn. Probably.

2) Turn the Roux into gravy.

Keep stirring the hot roux. (If you are reheating roux you made earlier, let it get nice and hot first). Dribble the liquid (the stock, etc.) into the roux. The roux will react by bubbling around and complaining, then it will start turning into thick gravy.

Now, here’s the important part. If you add the liquid somewhat slowly but steadily, there will come a point in time when the gravy looks a little thinner than you want it to be.

STOP!! STOP NOW!!! STOP STOP STOP!!!!

(but don’t get all stressed out or anything.)

Let the gravy re-thicken until it is a little thicker than you want it to be. Then add more liquid. Then let it thicken. Then add more liquid. Each time the gravy will get less thick less quickly. Then you are done.

Along the way, you can add stuff that is not the stock. For example, you can add any of these items:

  • The drippings from the pan you cooked the turkey in, depending on how you cooked the turkey.
  • A quarter cup of cream or half and half, or even milk (but dribble it in like the stock).
  • Water. (but don’t add water)
  • Chopped up bits of cooked turkey liver
  • Chopped up bits of turkey or chicken meat

In adding these items, try to avoid adding something that is too cold from the refrigerator. If you add something cold, add it slowly. If you are adding drippings, you might want to separate out the greasy bits for the watery bits using a device like this one. The greasy bits can be used with butter to make roux, but it is the watery bits you want to add to the gravy that is underway.

3) Add additional spices.

How do you know if the gravy needs more spices (such as thyme, rosemary, ginger, sage, etc.?) DON”T TASTE IT! You should hardly ever taste what you are cooking. Your taste buds will get mis-calibrated as soon as you taste something that is not spiced properly. If you must taste your food, be sipping a cup of black coffee and some water to reset your taste buds now and then. Better to use the aroma … smell the gravy. If you can smell the spices, you’re good.

Now, add some black pepper because you did not add enough. No matter what. Unless you are making this for Ben Zvan.

Finally, and only at the end, you can taste it and if you need to (depending on the stock) add some salt AT THE LAST MINUTE. Always add the salt last. Indeed, encourage your guests to add the salt at the dinner table. This the appropriate time and place to add the salt.

Enjoy your gravy!

Comments

  1. #1 DataJack
    Earth
    November 18, 2012

    I agree almost entirely, except about the tasting. Tasting is one of the reasons we cook :) Wine is an excellent taste bud resetter,too.

  2. #2 Art
    November 18, 2012

    America’s Test Kitchen, PBS, suggested a much easier way to a successful and tasty roux. They literally toasted the flour in a dry fry pan until browned, added butter off the heat, stir, and put the whole thing into a preheated oven. You will need to hunt down the specifics. Once the roux is done it is easy to grow it into a fine gravy.

    I was channel surfing and watched ATK when they showed the technique and it certainly looked both easy and foolproof compared to the usual seat-of-the-pants/ hit-miss method I’m familiar with .

  3. #3 Doug Alder
    November 18, 2012

    I’ve been making roux Greg’s way since cooking school back in the late sixties – it’s the best way to do it. One point – if you brine your fowl then don’t use the drippings – far too salty

  4. #4 Sharon
    United States
    November 19, 2012

    I always reserve the right to taste. Although I do reset my taste buds frequently with wine while cooking.

  5. #5 khan
    November 19, 2012

    Mother always started with the pan drippings and threw in a splash of sherry at the end.

  6. #6 Stephanie Zvan
    November 21, 2012

    Hee. No, if you’re making the gravy for Ben, you can always add more pepper. If you’re making the gravy and you are Ben you have probably added enough.

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