Some might argue that the gravy is the most important thing on the table, because somehow it ends up on everything on your plate.  The simple steps in this tutorial will show you just how easy it is to make amazing homemade gravy from simple ingredients!

mashed potatoes and gravy

Step 1: Make a Roux

Basic gravy starts with a roux, which is a mixture of cooked butter and flour that will naturally thicken liquid.  There’s a reason we’re not just tossing cornstarch in here-  a butter and flour based roux provides one of the main flavor components.  I recommend real butter here if you don’t have any dietary exceptions that prevent that.  You could also use turkey fat here, but I prefer the flavor of the butter.  If you’re making any sort of bacon-wrapped meat, bacon grease works beautifully as a gravy starter as well.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a sauce pan and add 4 tablespoons all purpose flour. Use a whisk to combine it into a smooth mixture.

whisking flour and butter in panStir/whisk it constantly as it bubbles.  Here’s something to know about a roux: it should basically match the color of your finished product.  So if you were making a white sauce, you could cook it for a couple of minutes until it looked creamy pale, like this:

homemade gravy in pot

Cook until deep caramel in color. But for beef or poultry gravy, you want to cook it longer, being careful not to burn it, until it’s a golden caramel color.  Basically the color of gravy.  It will smell amazing, almost like dessert.

dark brown rueWhen your roux reaches that point, it’s time to whisk in your liquids. Here are some choices when it comes to liquids to use in gravy:

PAN DRIPPINGS

The pan drippings from your meat (turkey, roast, chicken, etc.)  That’s where that fat separator comes in handy.  I always taste my pan juices before adding them to the gravy.  Depending on how you cooked your meat, the drippings may be incredibly salty.  If that’s the case, take note, and maybe use a higher ratio of broth.  If your finished gravy is too salty, there’s some trouble shooting tips at the end of this post. Sometimes you’ll have tons of pan drippings, other times close to none.   Generally speaking, I make my gravy with broth, as explained below, and then at the very end I whisk in some pan drippings for extra flavor.

Broth/Stock 

If you’re making poultry, use chicken stock, if  you’re making beef gravy, use beef stock.  There is always the homemade vs store-bought debate.  Yes, homemade broth is delicious, but your gravy will still be delicious with store-bought broth.  If you’d like to make your own broth, check out this tutorial.  You could do that same thing, but instead of using a rotisserie chicken, roast some turkey wings with a diced carrots, onion, and celery and then use that to create a turkey broth.   Honestly, I just use a good low-sodium store-bought broth and it works great.

When your butter/flour mixture is ready, start adding your liquid a very small amount at at a time and stir constantly.  Don’t be scared when the mixture seizes; that’s natural.  It will get very clumpy at first, which is why it’s important that you just keep whisking constantly.  It’s also important that you only add a small amount of liquid at a time and don’t add more until you’ve whisked it in smooth.  If you dump in all your liquid at once, it will most certainly be lumpy!

adding chicken stock to roux

Avoid Lumps.
No one wants lumpy gravy.  It shouldn’t be hard at all to whisk this smooth, but if for whatever reason, you’re having trouble here, and your gravy is full of clumps you can’t seem to get rid of- toss that stuff in the blender.  Seriously.  Be careful if it’s hot- and remove the stopper from the lid and cover it with a towel, but take the time to save your gravy from lumps.

Simmer Gravy to thicken.
Bring the gravy to a simmer and let it bubble away to thicken for about 5 minutes (this is a great time to drop in some fresh herbs if you’d like to).  This is your basic recipe.  From here, you can customize it.  It’s nearly impossible to follow and exact recipe for gravy because everyone’s pan drippings will taste different.  So from here, definitely season with salt and pepper first, if needed.  Then taste it and see what it needs.  I always, always add a splash of Worcestershire sauce.  I like a little bit of acidity to balance out the flavors, a splash of  red or white wine vinegar also works great.  If you’re serving it with smoked meat, try a splash of liquid smoke in there.  You can add chopped fresh herbs, and any other seasonings you like.

simmering herbs in gravyGet the right consistency.
Everyone seems to have a desired consistency when it comes to gravy, too.  If your gravy is too thin,  you can thicken it with a little cornstarch slurry.  (We don’t want to start with corn starch as our thickener, but it works great at the end to adjust).  Too thick?  Add more broth.  Too salty (especially if you have extra salty pan drippings)? Try a squeeze of lemon juice or even a spoonful of sour cream.  The sky is the limit; if you’ve got working taste buds, you can take it from here!

Gravy from Our Best Bites
There is nothing like rich, buttery gravy over a creamy bed of potatoes.

gravy poured over potatoes

And possibly my favorite thing is when everything on your plate ends up covered in it.  It somehow totally works. If you need to make gravy for a crowd, guess what?  It freezes great!

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy from Our Best Bites

How to Make Stock and Freeze Gravy
What I did, just so I had a little extra for Thanksgiving day, is make a batch this week and pop it in the freezer.  No one wants to roast a whole turkey for that purpose, but try taking some turkey drumbsticks, thighs, or breasts.  Keep in mind you get the most juice with the dark meat of the thighs and drumsticks.  Place them in a pan with 2 carrots and 3 ribs celery (both cut into about 3″ pieces) and 1-2 onions cut into wedges.

Roasting TurkeyDrizzle all of that with a few tablespoons of olive oil and then season it all with salt and pepper and some fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage.  Cover the pan and roast at 350 until the meat registers 165, removing the lid about halfway through.  You’ll get a turkey dinner one night, and juices for a batch of gravy for the freezer!

Roast Turkey Thighs

Another helpful tool: Fat Separator

If I were Oprah-rich, I would buy one of these fat separators for each and every one of you right this second.  This is one of my most favorite kitchen gadgets.  They’re not very expensive, and I love OXO’s because it’s made from sturdy plastic (as opposed to breakable glass, like some of the competitors.)  This isn’t an ad, I just really recommend these.  Are you wondering what exactly it’s for? When you cook meat, like a big roast, or a turkey, for example, you’re left with a pan full of delicious juices, mixed with a layer of greasy (yet delicious) fat.  You need to get rid of that fat in order to get to the juices (a main ingredient in gravy).  You can skim it off, but this makes it so much easier.

Oxo Fat Separator

There’s a large hole strainer on top to strain out any big chunks.  All you do is pour all of the juices and fat in there together.  Just quickly empty out that pan.

Oxo Strainer

Fat will naturally rise to the top as it settles.  If you do this with a normal measuring glass, when you start to pour, you’re pouring the fat.  Notice on the fat separator, the spout connects at the bottom, so you just pour out the flavorful juices and can easily stop when you get to the fat.  I seriously use this thing all the time, and you might want to pick one up before Thanksgiving- it will come in handy!

Oxo Fat Separator Filled

 

Print
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How To: Make Homemade Gravy

  • Author: Sara Wells
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20
  • Yield: 2-4 cups gravy
  • Category: Condiments
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Comfort Food

Description

How to make perfect gravy every time!


Ingredients

4 tablespoons real butter
4 tablespoons flour
23 cups liquid: combination of pan drippings and broth; see note below
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional flavor agents: fresh herbs, seasonings, vinegar, Worcestershire, etc.


Instructions

Melt butter in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Add flour and whisk constantly until mixture is golden caramel color and smells fragrant (3-5 minutes).  Slowly whisk in liquids, while whisking, until mixture is smooth.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened and bubbly, 5 minutes or longer.

Taste, and then season with salt and pepper to taste, and add any other flavorings like fresh herbs, or vinegar.  A small splash of Worcestershire is recommended (1-2 teaspoons should do it).

see troubleshooting tips below

 


Notes

Notes on Liquid:

Technically, with the proportions of roux here, this can thicken 4 cups of liquid.  That’s a little too thin for me, and I like the flavor of the roux more concentrated, so I keep my liquid to 2-3 cups.  You can always thicken more after if necessary.

troubleshooting

Too thin?  Combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water.  Mix until smooth and add to simmering gravy. Let simmer a few minutes to thicken, and repeat if necessary until desired consistency is reached.

Too thick?  Add more broth.

Too salty?  Try a splash of cream, lemon juice, or even sour cream.  You can also make more roux, and use only broth in the second batch to dilute.

Keywords: homemade Gravy

 

 

 

62 comments

  1. Thank you SO much for taking the time to write this awesome, helpful post! I think I’m a fairly decent and confident cook, but making the gravy always makes me panic a bit – the turkey’s done, it’s “go time” and you have to get it right. Now I know so much more about how to do it! Yay!

  2. HOLY CRAP! Can I just say how excited I am right now? I’m a huge fan of your recipes and calander and cookbooks and now I’m SURE I’ll be a huge fan of your Flavored Olive Oils!

    Thanks for this great tutorial on gravy! Can’t wait to try it for Thanksgiving!

  3. Whaaaaaaaat!? An OBB line of bottled goodness?? Can’t wait! And thanks for the gravy tutorial! I’m making the turkey and gravy this year for the first time.

  4. Question: Last year we made your turkey (which was AMAZING because it was our first year hosting and everyone LOVED it), but when we made gravy it was too salty because we had brined the turkey, and I can’t remember what we did to remedy that. If I don’t get around to making it before hand, do you have any suggestions for using the actual turkey drippings that won’t leave you with a salty gravy?– Just more water and less drippings?

    1. Jo, read the part of the post where I add the broth, I talk about this very thing, then there’s also trouble shooting tips in the printable portion of the recipe with ideas to help!

      1. You can also cut a raw potato into big chunks and put it in while you are simmering for 5 minutes, then take it out before you serve it. The potato will suck out some of the salt.

  5. Seriously awesome tutorial. Gravy has been one thing I have been tentative about. This really explains it clearly and helps me tremendously. Our thanksgiving dinner thanks you.

  6. Question- because of my daughter’s allergies, we’re staying away from dairy (and nuts. and beef. and carrots. and CORN, which is the really tough one…pretty much it means NO processed foods). It there any difference as far as the structure of the gravy if you just use the turkey fat to make the roux rather than butter?

    1. I have a dairy intolerance a well so I clarify my butter. Google clarify butter, there are tons of tutorials. It will save you if you or someone in your family can’t do dairy!

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