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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Prep: Roux for Perfect Gravy

Today I made a white roux so that on Thursday we can make gravy. Smooth, delicious, lump-free gravy. Mmmmmm…

Nate and I used to watch Good Eats. A lot. In fact, we were a little addicted. But we learned a lot from that show! Years ago, an episode called “Gravy Confidential” aired and that’s when I discovered the technique of using roux to thicken gravy. Until that point, I had always used what Alton calls a “slurry,” flour and cold water whisked together. It works fine, but I must admit that gravy made with roux is in fact richer and smoother.

This is what the roux looks like right after I take it off the stove to cool. It turns a more golden color as it cools and all the bubbles disappear.

If you want to see the Good Eats episode that changed my gravy life forever, click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2. Part 1 has lots of introductory information (and, of course, some silliness), but the first 5 minutes of part 2 is where Alton actually makes the roux and is the part I find most helpful.

So, let’s make some roux! I’m giving you a play-by-play, so it might seem daunting at first glance, but it’s really quite simple to whip up!

Thanksgiving Prep: Roux for Perfect Gravy
Recipe type: Thanksgiving
  • 1 oz butter (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 oz flour (I do 3 tablespoons since {gasp!} I don’t have a kitchen scale. True confessions, people.)
  • Roux made from these measurements will thicken 1 cup of fluid*
  1. Since I know I’m going to be making gravy for a bunch of people on Thursday, and even making my own turkey again next week as per Cate’s request, I decided to make a lot of roux at once. You can put it in the refrigerator for up to one month, and you want it cool or at room temperature when you add it to your hot liquid, so having some on hand in the fridge works perfectly. Today I used 1 cup of butter and 1½ cups of flour to make my roux. This will thicken 8 cups of fluid.
  2. Melt butter (preferably in a saucier, but a regular sauce pan will work, that’s what I have) over medium heat. Have a whisk with lots of wire loops handy and ready to whisk! When the butter is melted and starting to bubble a bit, add the flour all at once and start whisking. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the roux starts to liquify. If you’re cooking a lot of roux like me, this takes a little while”¦be patient, it will happen! Once it’s liquifying, turn the heat to low and cook for about 3-4 more minutes, whisking occasionally.
  3. The roux and the liquid need to have opposite temperatures, so if your roux is hot, your liquid (broth) needs to be room temp or cool. If your liquid is hot (which mine always is), then the roux needs to be at room temp or cool.
  4. In the video, Alton talks about how gravies thickened with flour will thicken as they cool, so you probably want to have your gravy a bit on the thinner side on the stove so that by the time it reaches the table in the gravy boat, it’s the perfect thickness.
*In terms of the liquid”¦when it’s Thanksgiving, I always simmer the turkey’s heart, neck and giblets for an hour or two and save that broth, then combine it with the juices from the cooked turkey. If I’m still needing more liquid, I add chicken stock, but I don’t often have to do that. And don’t forget salt and pepper!

A note on storage: I always just put my finished roux in a bowl or tupperware to store in the fridge. I would then chisel out pieces of roux to add to my hot liquid later. It’s kind of annoying. So this time around I’ve put the roux in a ziploc bag with the air squeezed out and I’m going to cool it in the fridge flat like this. I’m hoping it will be easier to break off pieces…we’ll see!

Postscript 11/28/10: Storing the roux in these ziploc bags worked GREAT. I knew that each “brick” would thicken appx 4 cups, and it was super easy to break them evenly into fours, so I could estimate accurately how much roux I was putting into the fluid. And it was easy to break and pop out of the bag. Will definitely store the roux like this from now on!


  1. Great tip. I always make the roux right when I need it, I had no idea I could make it ahead of time. Great to know!

  2. Love it. We use different roux’s for a lot of our Cajun recipes, but I guess in my head I never translated it to thanksgiving gravy.

    My other trick for a lump free gravy (particularly a white gravy for biscuits and gravy) is to have my fat in the pan and then I use a mason jar and add my flour and seasonings, put the lid on and give it a shake to mix. Then I add my milk, a little at a time, and put the lid on tight and give it a good shake. I’ll add just enough milk to make it about the consistency of pancake batter. Then I add that to my hot fat and make the roux from there and then think out to the consistency I’m looking for with additional milk. The shaking process has eliminated lumps in my gravy.

    • Jane Maynard

      great tip, micheline!

      also…love that you mentioned cajun recipes. in the good eats episode, alton talks about how the longer you cook the roux, the darker and more flavorful the roux gets (although less powerful as a thickener)…and mentioned cajun cooking, I believe! 🙂

  3. This is a brilliant idea! I was planning on switching from a slurry to a roux this year and having it made and ready to use makes the last minute getting everything done at the same time so much easier. Thanks for posting this. I’m headed to the kitchen right now.

  4. 4

    I never knew any other way of making gravy and just recently learned the slurry way. I guess my mom was more gourmet than I knew! But I did NOT know you could make it in advance… that is a sure timesaver when you’re trying to get everything onto the table at the same time.

    Now I’m off to my kitchen to make the frozen part of cranberry slush and perhaps I’ll make a roux too. Thanks Jane!

  5. 5

    I am so excited that you did this post! I’ve been using your gravy-made-with-roux recipe ever since you posted it a few years back and I always got pretty good results. I am confident that these detailed instructions are going to help me make stellar gravy this year! This is so incredibly helpful — thank you so much!

  6. 6

    This may be way off since I’ve never made a roux… but I do make baby food and freeze in ice cube trays… could you do something like this and then store in bags so you could easily pop a handful into your liquid when you need to make a gravy? I don’t know if freezing would be ok or cause the roux to breakdown but it sounds like it gets quite hard just in the fridge… I think I am going to give it a try!! Thanks for the tip btw… gravy time is always the most stressful time I find… this should make it so much easier!

    • Jane Maynard

      I think you could probably freeze it no problem…but I think you could also just do the ice cube tray in the fridge for sure – good idea!!!

  7. Okay, I’m glad you cleared this up for me, because I have gravy issues. Thanks a million.

  8. 8

    I used your posted instructions and the gravy was DELICIOUS and so easy. I sent it to a friend as well. AND, I put a roux in the freezer for next month! Jarred gravy is evil and this was fantastic. Thank You!!!

  9. 9

    The gravy turned out the best in years since we followed these tips. Thank you!

  10. 10

    As a newlywed this was my first Thanksgiving in which I cooked the whole meal myself and this was one of the only items (besides the Turkey) I never cooked myself before. My mom (who never curses) calls it “That Damn Gravy” because she usually ends up slaving away over it for half an hour. Your recipe and instructions worked so well I almost overcooked it because I couldn’t believe it was done so fast! I have shared this with her and can’t thank you enough for this post!

    • Jane Maynard

      I’m so happy you were able to conquer “that damn gravy”! 🙂 this comment makes me smile – thanks! 🙂 oh, and you’re welcome!

  11. 11
    Heather Koogler

    Just found your gravy recipe! But for the first time ever, I am purchasing a fried turkey from one of our favorite restaurants, and making everything else. What liquid should I use for the gravy?

    Thanks. I’ve never been good with gravy. The first time I made gravy (my only assigned job that year) at a family reunion it fashioned itself into a loaf which you could then slice with a knife. Don’t ask me how. I’ve been banned from gravy duty. Fortunately, they realized I could bake, so I’m usually invited back.

    • Jane Maynard

      that is so funny! I just emailed you, but answering here, too.

      Trader Joe’s and Williams Sonoma both have turkey grave base you can buy that actually taste good. What I do is use that combined with chicken stock and making the roux, because that gives nice texture. By adding that turkey gravy base it just gives it so much more flavor.

      So, now I’m just hoping you have a Trader Joe’s or Williams Sonoma nearby so that this advice will actually be helpful! Lmk! 🙂 Feel free to email with any questions!

      also – remember when you’re cooking the gravy that it will thicken as it cools (once you remove it from the heat)

  12. 12

    I’ve seen other roux recipes that say you need to clarify the butter. I’m hoping that, since you don’t mention it, that step isn’t necessary? Thank you so much for posting these great instructions! It’s great to know I can make it ahead. I’m always a basket case trying to make sure everything is ready at the same time (it never is, though) and this will really help. 🙂

    • Linda Baldwin

      No, you do not need to clarify the butter. I’ve never done that for gravy in 45 years. It is a good idea to clarify for hollandaise and the like.

    • Jane Maynard

      luanne – linda is right, no need to clarify. and I am so sorry that I didn’t see your comments – for some reason they didn’t pop up in my inbox (which has never happened!) and we were traveling so I was kind of out of it. but I’m so glad that it worked out! the trick with roux – just keep on cooking! 😉

  13. 13

    I just made it but I guess I didn’t realize what it should look like when it starts to liquefy. I was whisking for a good ten minutes and it wasn’t turning to liquid. I used your ratio of a cup of butter and 1-1/2 cups of flour. How long does it usually take to start to liquefy? Your photo looks mor liquids than mine does.

  14. 14

    Sorry to keep posting but I wanted to let you know that my roux got more silky looking a few minutes after I took it off the heat. Thanks again!

  15. 15

    So sorry to tell you but the links to Alton’s original videos have been made un-available through YouTube for copyright issues : (

  16. 16
    Allie O'keefe

    Could you store it in ice cube tray till it cools then put it in an air tight bags when it hardens for easy measuring? Also could you freeze this? How long does it store for on cooled and frozen? Sorry for all the questions!

    • hi allie! yes, I think the ice cube trays would work. I would let the roux cool a bit before pouring it into the trays. but, yeah, great idea!

      I don’t know about freezing, but I do know that if you store it in an airtight container it will last 1 month in the refrigerator. my gut says freezing would be fine….but my gut has never done it, so take that with a grain of salt! 🙂

  17. 17

    I keep seeing ratios for ruox of :
    – 1 tbsp fat/butter : 1 tbsp flour : 1 cup liquid / drippings.

    That’s typically too runny for me.

    You’re having good luck with your ratio? Which if I do the math right is :
    – 1 tbsp fat/butter : 1.5 tbsp flour : 0.5 cup liquid


    • Yes, you have my ratio correct and I’ve used it for YEARS and it’s worked great. Of course, when I actually get to the point where I’m adding the chilled roux to the simmering liquid I’m not totally keeping track of what the roux:liquid ratio is, but that is a good estimate. regardless, I have had great success with 1 tablespoon butter : 1.5 tablespoons flour. making ahead of time and chilling as I describe in the recipe works wonderfully.

  18. 18

    Thanks, excited to give it a try! Appreciate the help.

  19. 19
    Leonard of Detroit

    I have made roux for years and freeze in zip lock bags. Good for several months. Double or triple wrap to keep out other freezer odors.

  20. 20

    I did the ratio that you said…the 1 cup butter abd 1.5 cups flour and whisked it for 10 mins and looks like mashed potatoes. Can I put some in a pan to make gravy with dripping tomorrow. HELP soon!!

    • hi rosemary! I’m sure it will work fine. one quick thing – it does thicken and THEN get liquidy the more you cook it. honestly with that amount of butter and flour it very easily could take longer than 10 minutes to get to that point. I would try cooking and whisking it more, and maybe don’t be afraid to add a bit more butter if needed.

      I also think that you could just put it in a plastic bag and use it as is tomorrow. it should thicken the gravy fine either way. read the instructions in the recipe card in detail – the roux should be cold when you add it to the hot drippings/broth 🙂

      hope this is helpful!

  21. 21
    Kathy A Kelley

    If you’re a cook with only one oven, and have to schedule oven time for your dishes (which, in our house, means the turkey is roasted & sliced the evening before); separate the broth from the turkey and refrigerate overnight. The fat will separate to the top, and you can spoon or skim that fat into your pan for a roux base. I usually add butter and make a large amount of rue (gravy goes quickly around here!). I’ve always added my rue to the hot stock immediately after cooking, removing the stock from the burner during the process of incorporating. A butter/flour roux can be bagged individually and frozen – it doesn’t affect the quality of the gravy. Just place the frozen rue in the microwave to soften!

  22. 22
    Kathy A Kelley

    We all follow the habits we’ve learned work for us. I ran a large restaurant for many years, and learned to make a roux gravy by watching someone else do it one time. So, there were not quantity ratios for me to follow. My experience taught me to place the fat (butter, solidified fat, oil) in the pan, melt, and add flour gradually until the roux is of a consistency which is thick but not firm. When making a white gravy, cook your roux longer. When making pan gravy, such as is served with fried chicken, or biscuits, use the pan the sausage or chicken was cooked in – stirring in the browned bits left from the meat. (I pour off the oil excess to my needs from chicken, and add butter to a sausage skillet to have enough fat for my roux.) Let your roux simmer until you can see and smell it browning (slightly), and add your milk until the gravy is the consistency you like. Warming the milk prior to adding to the roux will help you to arrive at your final consistency more easily. The biggest mistake most cooks make in cooking white/cream gravies is not cooking the roux long enough. No amount of seasoning can correct the taste of an undersooked white gravy!

    • Kathy A Kelley

      Sorry – that should read: “underCooked” white gravy!

    • that was what surprised me most when I first learned how to properly cook roux, was how long it cooks! I just have a book with me and enjoy the time whisking and reading 🙂 thanks for your great comments, Kathy!

  23. 23
    Aimee Cole

    Making the gravy has long been a joke between my sister, sister-in-law, and me. We have struggled every year for the past 12+ years. This year I made this roux the night before and used it. Gravy came out perfect!!! And I also used your tip of simmering the turkey innards to use as extra liquid. We nailed the gravy this year!! Thanks for sharing. My bestest phys ed buddy came through for a Thanksgiving win. Hope you had a wonderful day!

  24. 24

    Hi there! So I tried making this but I must’ve cooked it too long? It was light brown when I took it off the burner then turned almost black brown and smelled terrible as it cooled. I’m a decent cook, but I have no idea what happened unless I cooked it too long and the butter burned…‍♀️

    • what a bummer, megan! that is so strange…I burned it once but it was when it was still on the heat. maybe lower, more gradual heat? anyway, such a drag and so strange! I guess if you try again take off sooner, but so weird!

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