Make perfect gravy every time!

Your turkey can be dry.  Your potatoes can be lumpy. Your stuffing can be bland. Your vegetables can be limp and wan. Don’t worry. Your family and friends will forgive a multitude of shortcomings. As long as you get the gravy right.  And it is easy, somehow, to get the gravy wrong. Thick, gelatinous,  tasting of Bovril and raw flour.  Thin, watery, lacking character.  Too much wine added too late.  A bitter, burnt flavour. Too many people view gravy as an afterthought, whisked together at the last minute as the guests are heading for the table with hope in their hearts and gravy on their minds.  By then, it’s too late.

I have a friend who detests gravy. Probably for good reason.  When we are young and impressionable, we can develop strong aversions based on early disappointments.  And a nice meal smothered by an excess of unpleasant tasting glop is a disappointment indeed, something to be avoided at all costs! I blame her mother, who obviously didn’t take her gravy skills as seriously as one must. 

Gravy, when given the care and attention it so richly deserves, is a sublime, silky, luscious, elixir of the gods.  So it’s important not to swing at and miss this one.  You need to plan ahead.  Some great broth is nice to have on hand.  But if you don’t, a good quality store-bought broth makes a fine base for your gravy. The other aspect of the base is the holy trinity of cooking, the soffritto, if you’re Italian, or the mirepoix, if you’re French, or chopped onions, carrots and celery if you’re us. Cook those up low and slow in butter, add the broth and you’re well on your way to foolproof gravy! You can do this days or weeks in advance and freeze.  Doing everything ‘on the day’ won’t get you a free pass into heaven!

Let’s let take us the rest of the way. 


For the broth:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion or leek, or 2 shallots, sliced

Neck and giblets from your turkey (discard the liver)

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth or what you brewed up with the mirepoix if you took that extra step. 

3 sprigs thyme, parsley, rosemary and/or sage – ok. Dried works. It’s winter. 

1 bay leaf, also dried.

For the gravy:

Turkey drippings from your roasting pan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons cold butter


When your turkey goes into the oven, start the broth: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and turkey neck and giblets; cook, stirring, until the giblets are browned, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth, herb sprigs and bay leaf; cover and simmer while the turkey roasts, about 2 hours. Strain the broth and keep warm; reserve the neck and giblets, if desired.

When your turkey is done, transfer it to a cutting board and pour all the pan drippings into a degreasing cup. Add 1/2 cup of the prepared broth to the roasting pan and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. (If the bits are stuck, put the pan over a low burner to loosen them.) Add the bits and liquid to the degreasing cup.

Let the fat rise to the top of the degreasing cup, then spoon off 1/2 cup fat and transfer to a large saucepan over medium heat. Make a roux: Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the flour browns slightly, about 4 minutes.

Gradually add the hot broth to the roux, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Pour the dark roasting juices from the degreasing cup into the gravy, discarding any remaining fat. If desired, chop the giblets and shred the neck meat; add to the gravy. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the butter.

Cook’s Note

The Golden Formula: (for 8 cups of gravy) 1/2 cup fat Use the oil that separates from your turkey drippings. If you don't have enough, add butter. 1/2 cup flour Cook the flour with the fat to make a roux for thickening the gravy. For a darker gravy, cook the roux longer. (Note: Darker roux has less thickening power.) 8 cups broth Upgrade store-bought broth by simmering it with a sliced onion, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, parsley and/or sage, and the turkey giblets for about 2 hours. Quick Fixes: Too Thick? Add a splash of water, broth, brandy or bourbon. Too Thin? Mix equal parts flour and soft butter; whisk into boiling gravy. Too Lumpy? Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve.Follow these steps, and you will be rewarded with a show stopping gravy!  

If you don’t have a degreasing cup, a Pyrex cup measure works a treat. If not, any bowl. If your turkey is dry, it is overcooked. Get a meat thermometer. If your potatoes are lumpy, run them through a ricer.  If your dressing is bland, add some spices and a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes. If your veggies are flopsy, try roasting them for great flavour and texture, instead of boiling. If you look like hell, do all this earlier in the day, tidy up the kitchen, have a shower, wear something sparkly – and a smile. Reheat.

You got this!  Out of the park!