Gravy. It’s pretty much the best part of Thanksgiving or, at least, the best parts aren’t the best without it. Since gravy is so beloved, there’s a lot of pressure to make it good and in quantity. Of course, making good gravy can get a little tricky, especially on Thanksgiving when it comes together at the end of a long day of cooking. But the beautiful thing is that knowing how to make gravy requires just a little simple know-how.
I’ve got two secrets and a foolproof recipe that will have you covered every time, so don’t even think about buying that pre-made gravy packet.
Secret #1: White Roux
The key to silky, perfectly thickened gravy is white roux. I know, it sounds fancy and complicated, but it’s not. White roux is used to thicken sauces and is made with nothing more than butter and flour on the stove. You can even make it up to one month ahead of time.
If you’ve never worked with roux before, the most important thing to remember is that the roux should be the opposite temperature of whatever liquid you are thickening. For Thanksgiving (or any) turkey gravy, you’ll use roux to thicken turkey broth. So, it’s either hot broth + cold roux (my preference) or cold broth + hot roux.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need roux made from 1 ounce of butter + 1 ounce of flour for every 1 cup of broth that you plan on thickening. So if you want to make about 4 cups of gravy, like in the recipe below, you’ll need 4 cups of turkey broth, which is thickened with roux made from 4 ounces of butter + 4 ounces of flour. Get it? So easy!
Secret #2: Turkey Parts
Yup, you read that correctly. Good gravy starts with great broth and turkey parts are the key. To make a quick, but flavorful turkey broth, you’ll want to simmer those parts that come inside the bird—the neck, heart, giblets, and sometimes even the tail—with water. Honestly, that’s all it takes to get a broth full of flavor for gravy. If you want to go all out, though, you can also add carrots, celery, leeks, onion, bay leaves, parsley, and other aromatics normally used to make stock.
With a roux and very simple turkey broth made out of nothing more than turkey parts and water at the ready, you’ll have a rich, velvety turkey gravy and plenty of it for everyone to douse all their fixings. Which will pretty much make you a Thanksgiving hero.
The Best Turkey Gravy
makes 4 cups
For the roux
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
4 ounces (about 12 tablespoons ) all-purpose flour
For the turkey broth
Turkey parts that come with the turkey
Optional: a few halved & washed carrots, celery stalks, leeks, onion, bay leaves, parsley, and/or other aromatics
4 ½ – 5 cups water
For the gravy
Turkey broth (above)
Drippings from the turkey
Salt and ground pepper
1. To make the roux: Melt butter in a medium pot set over medium heat. Have a whisk ready to go! Once the butter has completely melted and begins to foam, whisk in the flour. It will be thick and pasty at first, but will start to thin out as it comes to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil for about 4 minutes, at which point it will transform, yet again, into a foam with tiny bubbles. Let it cook another 5 minutes, until it liquefies. Once the roux reaches a liquid state, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, whisking all the while, for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Use room temperature roux immediately to thicken hot broth or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. (I like to store my roux in a zip-top plastic bag that I lay flat in the refrigerator. This makes it easy to break off pieces as I add roux to the broth in step 3.)
2. To make the turkey broth: Place the turkey parts and aromatics, if using, in a large pot and cover with 4 ½ – 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to medium-low to maintain a simmer for 45 minutes. The liquid should reduce to about 4 cups, though you can make slight adjustments by adding more water or reducing the brother longer if you need slightly more or less gravy. Once done, strain broth through a sieve and either use immediately or store in refrigerator for later use.
3. To make the gravy: If the broth has cooled, heat it to a simmer on the stove over medium heat. Whisk in cold or room temperature roux until gravy has thickened. Stir in turkey drippings and continue to cook, whisking throughout, until the gravy thickens to desired consistency. Remember, gravy will thicken a bit more once you take it off the stove. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding ¼ teaspoon at a time and checking flavor as you go.