Pro Tips for Making Perfect Gravy Every Time (2024)

Gravy is the secret star of the holiday table. It can save a too-dry turkey and under-seasoned mashed potatoes and marry together all the diverse flavors on the plate. Good turkey gravy is like a covert bonus of cooking a turkey — just those caramelized drippings rendered from the turkey's long roast in the oven are enough to bring deep turkey flavor to the whole gravy. Of course, even if you don't eat turkey, or don't have those precious drippings, you can still make gravy. We've worked with dozens of experts over the years to collect their gravy wisdom. Here are our best tips on how to make perfect gravy every time.

Pro Tips for Making Perfect Gravy Every Time (1)

Every Gravy Recipe You Will Ever Need

What is gravy anyway?

At the most basic level, gravy is a simple pan sauce that requires liquid and a thickener. Traditional turkey gravy usually has fat, flour, and stock. You can make excellent turkey gravy with just those ingredients, plus salt and pepper for seasoning. The flour and fat are cooked together to make a roux, which thickens the stock to spoon-coating consistency. A traditional roux uses roughly an equal amount of flour and fat, but gravies often call for a bit more flour than that, to ensure the gravy is thick enough. (The classic ratio for gravy is three:two:one, so 3 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons fat, and 1 cup of hot stock.) You can add other flavors to the mixture, swap out the stock for another liquid, or use cornstarch rather than flour to thicken your gravy. But the backbone of the sauce is a flavorful liquid plus a thickener to increase the liquid's viscosity.

Erick Williams on roux and sausage gravy

Roux can be taken to a range of stages of cooking, from white to blond to deep brown, and chef Erick Williams relies on that versatility to make a day like Thanksgiving go smoothly. If you’re feeling ambitious, Williams suggests making a double batch of roux at breakfast time, stirring it just until peanut buttery in color, and then splitting the batch in half. Stir milk and stock into half of the roux to makeSausage Gravyfor biscuits to tide folks over until dinner. Later, the remaining roux can be returned to the stove and cooked further, to the color of milk chocolate, before stirring in drippings and stock for turkey gravy.

To Make Really Good Gravy, You First Need to Understand Roux

Fat goes first

To build gravy, the first thing that goes in the pan is fat. If you have drippings from your turkey at the bottom of the roasting pan, you can use that. For a gravy that serves about 16 people, former F&W food editor Kelsey Youngman recommends 1/4 cup of drippings for the gravy. If you don't have that much, or any at all, you can supplement or substitute other fats for the drippings. Bacon grease is a great choice, or you can use melted butter or oil. Warm the fat in the saucepan you'll use for the gravy over medium-low heat.

Anthony Bourdain on adding turkey essence

Buy a separate bag of wings and necks to prep the stock that will give the stuffing its essential turkey flavor and provide the base for what you probably callgravybut what is, in fact, a sauce.

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Think about aromatics

Now is the time to add an extra flavor element to your gravy if you so choose, like sweet onions and garlic or mushrooms and herbs. Cook the vegetables in the hot fat until they've softened and the onions have just started to brown around the edges. You don't have to include anything additional if you don't want to, but this is the window to enhance your gravy's flavor with herbaceous or onion-y notes.

Dana Cowin and Jonathan Waxman on preventing clumps

Dana Cowin: I started my gravy with bacon and shallots (no drippings required). Everything went well until I spooned in the flour. The gravy clumped mercilessly.
Jonathan Waxman: Spoon the flour into a fine-mesh sieve and then sift it into the pan. Since the flour lands in the skillet like a dusting of snow, it's impossible to create lumps.

Get the Recipe for Bacon-Shallot Gravy

Choose your thickener

If you're using flour as your thickener, now is the time to add it. To avoid lumpy gravy, use a fine-mesh sieve to sprinkle the flour over the fat or drippings and the optional cooked vegetables. Youngman's recipe calls for seven tablespoons of flour to 1/4 cup of fat, just shy of a 2:1 ratio of flour to fat. If you're working with less gravy, or worried about it getting too thick, cut down on the amount of flour. You can always thicken the gravy more later. Whisk the flour into the fat slowly over the heat until it's well incorporated.

If you're using cornstarch for your thickener, you'll want to wait until you have the stock in the pan to add it. Cornstarch has twice the thickening power of flour, so it's best to go slowly and add a little at a time until the gravy reaches your desired consistency. The best way to do that is to make a slurry of one tablespoon cornstarch to one cup of cool stock, whisked together. Add the stock and cornstarch slowly once the liquid in the pan has gotten up to a simmer, whisking the whole time.

Ann Taylor Pittman on the ideal flour for gravy

Wondra flour helps ensure a smooth consistency.

Get the Recipe for Make-Ahead Smoky Madeira Gravy

Deglaze with liquid

Now is the point where you add liquid to the situation. Turkey stock is the traditional gravy ingredient, but you can use whatever stock you have on hand. In Youngman's Best Ever Turkey Gravy, she adds four cups of stock to the pan, but you can adjust that up or down in proportion to the amount of fat and flour you're using. Add a little bit of the stock at first, roughly 1/2 cup, and scrape up the drippings and browned bits of meat or vegetable from the bottom of the pan. Then gradually whisk the rest of the liquid into the mixture slowly, stirring to make sure the broth, thickener, and aromatics are well incorporated.

Hunter Lewis on making turkey stock

Turkey backs, necks, and wings all possess mighty flavor and collagen, which gives your stock more body. You'll find them in the supermarket in the weeks leading up to the feast. Draw out the roasted turkey flavors by browning the turkey parts over a bed of aromatic vegetables in a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet, a pan low slung enough to aid in caramelization yet tall enough to capture the valuable juices that drip and concentrate on the bottom.

Get the Recipe for Really Good Turkey Jus and Homemade Turkey Stock

Let it come together

Bring the gravy up to a simmer, continuing to whisk, and it should start to thicken up. The ideal consistency for gravy is memorably described by the French as nappant, or thick enough to coat a spoon. If you dip a spoon in the gravy, you should be able to run your finger along the back of the spoon and leave a trail. If you've simmered the gravy for 10 minutes and it's still not thick enough, don't fret — you've got options. You can always make a quick paste of equal amounts (say, a tablespoon each) of softened butter and flour, which is called a beurre manie. Crumble the paste into the simmering liquid, a bit at a time, whisking all the while and allowing the gravy to thicken for a minute or two before adding more.

Jeremiah Tower on keeping gravy warm

The main protein and accoutrements — Tower is not against turkey, though he himself would prefer goose — go onto a central buffet in the kitchen straight out of the oven, along with a thermos of gravy (gravy, he complains, is always cold).

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Season to taste

Once the gravy is lusciously nappant, you can adjust the seasoning. It's always a good policy to wait until the sauce is reduced and sufficiently thickened before adding salt; adding it in the beginning can result in an overly salty sauce. Taste the gravy and add salt and pepper to your liking. You can add other spices as well, depending on what flavor profile you're going for. Smoked paprika or chopped-up chipotle in adobo adds a smoky, spicy hit, for example. Feel free to experiment a bit.

Javier Cabral on building flavorful gravy

This vibrant buttermilk-poblano gravy combines the best of Mexican and American worlds. Fire-roasted poblanos add everything that a fresh green chile has to offer in terms of smokiness and flavor without the heat (unlike a jalapeño or serrano which would be an automatic turn-off to the heat-averse). The buttermilk adds a refreshing tang that will keep you ladling more and more over turkey, chicken, or potatoes.

Get the Recipe for Buttermilk-Poblano Gravy

Too thick?

The gravy tends to thicken as it sits, particularly in the fridge overnight. Not to worry — whisk in more hot stock or hot water, a tablespoon at a time, until the sauce gets to the consistency you're looking for. It's all gravy.

Tina Ujlaki on fixing gravy mistakes

The consistency of gravy is easy to correct. If your gravy is thin, simply make a smooth paste with equal amounts of all-purpose flour and unsalted butter, bring your gravy to a boil and gradually whisk in bits of the paste until you get the thickness you desire. Be sure to cook the gravy for at least 5 minutes after you've added the paste, in order to eliminate any raw flour flavor. As a general guideline, for 2 cups of liquid, 3 tablespoons each of butter and flour will yield a lightly thickened gravy; 4 tablespoons each will yield a medium-thick one.

Jean Anderson on Storing Gravy

To store, pour leftover gravy into half-pint freezer containers. leaving half an inch headroom. and snap on the lids. Date, label and freeze for up to one month.

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Pro Tips for Making Perfect Gravy Every Time (2024)


How to make gravy better? ›

If you are reaching for a jar or carton of turkey gravy at the store, here are seven easy ways to give it a boost.
  1. Add in some white wine. ...
  2. Thicken it with a cornstarch slurry. ...
  3. Stir in pan drippings. ...
  4. Simmer with fresh herbs. ...
  5. Add an umami-rich condiment. ...
  6. Sauté some vegetables. ...
  7. Add roasted garlic.

How to get consistency in gravy? ›

If your gravy is on the skimpy side, you can thicken it quickly with flour or cornstarch. But don't add your thickener directly to the gravy, which will create lumps. Instead, try stirring in three or four tablespoons of flour or cornstarch into a small amount of cold water until you have a smooth paste.

Is cornstarch or flour better for gravy? ›

Browning adds more flavor to the gravy and gets rid of the raw flour taste. You're basically making a roux. We find that a flour-based gravy holds up better and reheats better later, which is why we tend to prefer using flour over cornstarch to make gravy unless we have a guest who is eating gluten-free.

How do you add depth to gravy? ›

Incorporate Drippings From the Roasting Pan

While heating your store-bought gravy on the stove, add drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan to make it more flavorful. The extra fat and flavorful little brown bits give it that store-bought gravy depth and complexity.

What is the best thickener for gravy? ›

Similar to flour, cornstarch is another ingredient that can be used to make gravy thicker. With cornstarch, making a slurry is also an option, but with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch whisked into cold water. Again, you'll want to add the slurry in increments so you don't over-thicken the gravy.

What adds flavor to gravy? ›

Fortunately, Shannon has several suggestions for fixing bland gravy, starting by adding a bouillon cube, herbs or a splash of wine or cognac. But if you have time to spare, add pan drippings from turkey, bacon or bacon drippings, caramelized vegetables (like onions, leeks, carrots and celery), herbs or garlic.

Why is my gravy not tasty? ›

If the gravy lacks oomph, adjust seasoning as necessary with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. If you used canned stock instead of homemade, the gravy might not be as flavorful. Homemade stock, even made with chicken stock rather than turkey, will produce a superior gravy—so it's worth the effort.

Should you use hot or cold water for gravy? ›

The liquid needs to be very hot before thickening the gravy with flour. Combine ½ cup cold water and ½ cup flour in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake to mix it. I find if I use cold water to mix with the flour, lumps do not form in the container.

Does gravy get thicker the longer you cook it? ›

If you've added too much liquid, you can try cooking it longer. Reducing the volume may be enough to thicken it up. However, if your gravy is thin and the seasoning is where you want it, cooking it down may make it too salty.

How to keep gravy from congealing? ›

Add Cornstarch or Arrowroot

Instead, make a slurry by mixing a tablespoon or two of the starch with just enough gravy to form a thin paste, stirring well to get the slurry smooth and lump-free before whisking it into the gravy.

How to stop flour clumping in gravy? ›

The best way is not to get lumps in your gravy! Brown flour/fat in equal amounts then add your liquid gradually … or combine flour/liquid in a jar, shake and stir into your broth mix, stirring as you're adding. Once you have lumps you can either strain or use an immersion blender to get rid of lumps.

How much cornstarch to use for gravy? ›

How much cornstarch is needed to thicken gravy? The ratio is an easy one to remember: Use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per 1 cup of liquid for a perfect gluten-free gravy thickener every time.

Why isn't cornstarch thickening my gravy? ›

In other words, if you don't heat your cornstarch to a high enough temperature, your mixture will never thicken. But once your liquid has boiled, lower the heat and don't return it to a simmer—you'll risk destroying the starch molecules and ending up with a thin mixture yet again.

What is the formula for gravy? ›

A traditional roux uses roughly an equal amount of flour and fat, but gravies often call for a bit more flour than that, to ensure the gravy is thick enough. (The classic ratio for gravy is three:two:one, so 3 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons fat, and 1 cup of hot stock.)

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