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Turkey Gravy - How to Make the Best Gravy Recipe Ever

Updated on November 17, 2011

Rich, luscious and silky, redolent of the very essence of turkiness, gravy is the crowning touch for just about Thanksgiving or Christmas table. But it seems to be frought with danger - lumpy, pasty or gluey, too thick or too thin - for such a simple dish there seems to be a host of problems that accompany it.

But no fear! Gravy comes down to just a few simple principles. Keep those in mind, and you'll turn out perfect gravy every single time. Once you know why things go wrong you'll also know why they go right, and therefore be able to do just about anything you want in the gravy arena. So let's talk gravy.

Before I tell you the recipe, I'm going to talk about some of the most common problems, so you'll know why each step is important and why it accomplishes what it does. Power to the cook!

See it step by step!


Important to keep in mind...

One of the primary things you need to think about when making gravy is the part that the flour plays. Flour is usually the thickener, and in this application it's going to be used just the same as it is when you make a roux. A roux is nothing but an equal mixture - half fat and half flour. When the flour is added to the fat, it must be whisked very well - this allows every little grain of flour to get coated in fat, which helps prevent the flour particles from clinging to each other later.

This means when you add liquid the flour will be suspended in the liquid - not clumping together to make lumps. So make sure that when you've added the flour, you whisk until the paste is very, very smooth. If there are lumps at this stage, there will be lumps later. None at this stage - very little chance of it later.

Once you have a smooth flour/fat mixture, be sure to cook the paste for a minute or so. This gets rid of any raw flour flavor - which is never pleasant. After the liquid is added, make sure the gravy comes to a full simmer, and that it simmers for at least a minute. This is the only way to make sure that you've not only gotten rid of every last taste of flour, but that the full thickening power of the flour is realized. This is how you can judge the final consistency of the product.

Consistency is also often an issue - gravy ends up too thick or too thin. Both are easy to fix, if you work carefully. To fix gravy that is too thick, simply add more liquid, whisking until it's well incorporated. Make sure you taste and adjust seasonings after the additional liquid. To fix gravy that's too thin is a little trickier, but can still be done. You either continue simmering until some of the liquid had evaporated and the gravy has thickened. Or you can do it with additional flour. In order to do this, you'll need to make a slurry.

A slurry is just a cold mixture of liquid and flour (or cornstarch). With a small whisk or fork mix a tablespoon or two (remember that a tablespoon of flour thickens a cup of liquid) of flour into some cold water, broth or wine. Once the flour is fully mixed with the cold liquid it can be whisked into the gravy. Allow the gravy to come back to a boil and see if the thickening is sufficient.

Another method is to use a buerre manie, which is equal parts soft butter and flour, mashed well into a paste. This can also be wisked into the gravy just as a slurry. The gravy still needs to come to a boil to achieve full thickening.

Also remember that flour based sauces will continue to thicken a bit once removed from the heat, so you may want to leave it a *touch* thin before you put it in the gravy boat. By the time service actually happens, it'll be just right.


The recipe!

 There are as many variations on turkey gravy as there are different recipes for the bird itself, and most an be absolutely delicious. However, I'm going to give you a very basic, very tasty, silken, luscious recipe here.

You'll need:

  • the pan drippings from a roast turkey, with the fat removed
  • 3-4 cups of good turkey broth (or chicken if you need to)
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 4 Tbl butter
  1. Many recipes will call for you to put the roasting pan over two eyes of the stove, in order to deglaze the pan. This works - but it's awkward. I usually use a rubber spatula to get as much of the 'fond' - the brown bits on the bottom of the pan - off as possible. Most of the time I get almost all of it and transfer it to a large skillet or saucier pan. It's just easier to work with. If your pan has all the brown bits stuck though - by all means keep them! Use the broth to deglaze the pan, then transfer to a pan easier to work with.
  2. So - whichever pan you use - melt butter (with the drippings) over medium heat. Add flour, whisking well to incorporate every particle. Make sure you whisk until you have a very smooth paste.
  3. Slowly begin whisking in the turkey broth, about a cup at at time, stirring constantly. I often reserve the final cup of turkey broth until I see just how thick the gravy is. This depends on the amount of liquid in the pan drippings (hard to predict) and just how thick I want the gravy. You may need a bit more or less - it's your preference.
  4. Allow gravy to come to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for at least a minute. Taste - and a note on taste. If you brined your turkey, the drippings will be much saltier than normal. For this reason, it's important to use unsalted broth - the two together should get pretty close to perfect. But in any case, taste and adjust for seasoning. Transfer to a gravy boat, and you're good to go!


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