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Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Prep: Good Gravy!

Let’s talk gravy. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without good gravy. And it’s not that hard to make! I’ll walk through how I do it – keep in mind this not a very exact recipe, but hopefully enough info to be useful.

1) Reserve your juices from the turkey. Skim the fat off the top, if you can. I have to admit I don’t usually do this because there isn’t always that much, and my gravy always comes out fine. There are techniques for separating the fat – but I don’t remember them. Sorry! (Maybe some of you out there can share your tricks of the trade.)

2) Thickening – you can go two ways:

SLURRY: For good gravy. Simply whisk together some water & flour (kinda thick, but thin enough you can pour it). Add to your simmering meat juices to thicken. You may need to use a sieve at the end to take out lumps.

ROUX: For fantastic, smooth-as-silk gravy. Yummier and truly not any harder. Here’s what you do: Cook equal parts butter & flour in a saucepan on low heat, whisking constantly. 3-5 mins to make a white roux. You can cook a few minutes longer for a nuttier flavor, but the longer you cook roux the less it will thicken your gravy.
You can refrigerate or freeze unused roux for later. Like the slurry, add in small parts to your meat juices to desired thickness (and remember, your gravy will thicken over time and once it cools). How much roux? Well, I’m going to make 4 T butter/4 T flour next week. If it’s too much, I’ll save for later. If not enough, easy to make more!

3) Getting the right amount of gravy is usually a challenge, especially at Thanksgiving with many guests. You want a lot, but there aren’t THAT many juices from your turkey. You can add some chicken broth to your juices, but I think that’s sad – detracts from your delicious turkey flavor. Last year I used a turkey gravy base from Williams-Sonoma to increase the amount of gravy. It tasted great. This year I noticed in the Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving flyer that they have a jarred turkey gravy – haven’t tried it, but I think I will as I’m CERTAIN it will be less espensive than good ole Williams-Sonoma. Just make sure you use these products as supplements to your homemade gravy – it will taste much better than just using these handy gravy products alone!

Another way to get more volume…I simmer the neck and giblets that come with the turkey – enough water to cover. I use that broth as well as the pan drippings and that helps make lots more gravy without having to resort to using chicken broth.

4) Seasoning is simple – salt and pepper.

It’s not hard to make good gravy. I promise! If you haven’t done it before, give it a try. If you are a gravy expert, please share your tips!


  1. 1

    Jane, you are such a lifesaver 🙂 We aren’t heading anywhere for Thanksgiving, since I have to “lay low” and the Clawson’s aren’t going anywhere either. We decided to take charge and plan a yummy Thanksgiving dinner together. But to be honest, I’ve always had my mom or an older sister take care of the “big stuff” This year we’re going for it and your tips are awesome! Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. 2

    My mom and grandmother swear by Wondra Quick Mixing Flour to make their gravy. Basically, it’s flour that won’t clump up your gravy. Here’s a link to read about what it actually is….You can find it in most grocery stores.

    Last year, we did Thanksgiving here and we tried America’s Test Kitchen gravy and it was the best gravy we have ever had… It’s in their family favorites cookbook. Totally worth it. Some turkey gravy tastes like nothing, but this has actual flavor.

  3. 3
    Jane Maynard

    malerie – so glad it’s all helpful! I’ve got more to come… 🙂

    adrianne – thanks for the great tips! if anyone wants me to type up the “america’s test kitchen” recipe, let me know…I’ll go find it! 🙂

    for those of you who read the post earlier today – I just realized I left something out. I’ve added into the post, but in case you missed it – to get more gravy out of your bird, simmer the neck & giblets that come with the turkey – then use that broth along with the pan drippings to make your gravy. this works great!

  4. 4
    Jane Maynard

    Here’s the America’s Test Kicthen recipe. When I opened the cookbook to find the recipe, they talked about fresh v. frozen turkeys. Guess what they recommend? Butterball! They said if you do a fresh, the best thing is to get a regional/local fresh turkey and make sure you brine it or they tend to be dry. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of brining, they said Butterball was the best. Glad to see I’m not leading you astray!

    note – this recipe uses chicken broth – I actually used to use chicken broth myself and it tastes good…it’s just in recent years I’ve gotten all crazy about turkey only flavors in the gravy. adrianne is an excellent cook, so if she says this recipe is good, then it is. 🙂

    America’s Test Kitchen Easy Turkey Gravy:
    – 6-7 C low-sodium chicken broth
    – 6 T butter or 6 T reserved fat from roasting pan
    – 3/4 C all-purpose flour
    – 1 C dry white wine
    – 2 bay leaves
    – 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
    – Salt & pepper

    1. While the turkey rests after roasting, transfer the vegetables, neck pieces and giblets (if using) to a bowl with a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, dice the reserved giblets and set aside. Pour liquid from the roasting pan into a liquid measuring cup, scraping up any browned bits from the pan. Spoon off any fat (reserve if desired) and add enough broth to measure 2 quarts.

    2. Melt the butter or reserved turkey fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook to a dark brown, 10-15 mins, stirring often.

    3. Slowly whisk in the wine, then the broth. Stir in the roasted vegetables, neck pieces, bay leaves and thyme. Simmer until thickened and the gravy no longer tastes of flour, about 25 minutes. Strain, pressing hard ont he vegetables. Discard the veggies, neck pieces, bay leaves and thyme. Add the reserved giblets to the gravy, then season with salt & pepper to taste.

    Makes about 6 cups.

  5. 5
    Jane Maynard

    one other thing…a friend asked how long you simmer the giblets…I don’t know, for a while. 🙂 I put them on when I put the turkey in and let it go (with a lid on! you want the water to stay in the pan to make it a broth) for a while. I think the instructions in the turkey may even tell you an exact time. just let it go in the morning for ~2 hours or so.

    any expert thanksgiving chefs out there have a better timetable?

  6. 6

    Martha Stewart has a Giblet Stock recipe for her turkey gravy. She cooks them 45 min. Here’s a link I’m looking forward to more tips. Thanks!

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