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Homemade gravy. Who knew those two words could hold so much meaning. In my opinion, making gravy is a lost art. Like so many other foods, I tend to see gravy in the canned food aisle or in purchasable packets that just need the addition of water. If this is your first Thanksgiving and you’re stressed, maybe gravy deserves a shortcut. But if you’re not making gravy because you’ve never made gravy before, or the mere thought alone strikes fear in your heart, let’s give it a try this year!
Growing up, I took gravy for granted. I never realized the finesse and skill my family possessed to mix together a gravy with such ease. Often, we see memes of gravy being poured over dry, tasteless meat. Instead of being the butt of a joke, gravy is the ultimate way to reduce food waste. Instead of throwing out the drippings from a turkey or chicken, which have the most condensed flavor, they’re made into a well-seasoned sauce.
How do you make gravy?
The easiest gravy is simply a combination of drippings, stock, and thickening. It’s not many ingredients, but if the ratios are off, you’re left with a too-thick gloppy gravy or too-thin water-like sauce.
First component: Stock
For stock, you have many choices:
- Go all the way and make turkey stock from the neck fortified with chicken stock.
- Use chicken stock that you have on hand.
- Use the leftover water from cooking potatoes for mashed potatoes as my grandma does. Potato water has a lot of starch left over from the potatoes, so it will be somewhat cloudy from the starch. The potato water can be saved from previously boiled potatoes if kept in the freezer – another bonus tip from Grandma Alice.
Second component: Thickener
The next important part is the thickener. Flour and cornstarch both work but have slightly different outcomes.
Flour is only part starch and will take twice as much as cornstarch. It gets cooked into the fat and then thinned down with stock. Once thickened, the flour will produce a gravy cloudy.
Cornstarch, on the other hand, is pure starch. To use, it needs to be mixed with a cold liquid and poured in slowly to the drippings. Cornstarch will leave the gravy clear and shiny with a clean texture.
Third component: Drippings
Drippings are the liquids that pool in the bottom of a roasting pan. After roasting, pour the drippings into a fat separating measuring cup (or another measuring cup). Allow to sit for 10 minutes, which will allow the fat to float to the top of the container.
It’s important to know that you should never salt the gravy before it’s made. Usually, the turkey is seasoned well enough that more salt is unnecessary.
To enhance the sauce, I add a bit of cognac. Cognac is a brandy that complements the robust flavor of the drippings and gives that “zhoosh” that you cannot place but will make everyone want your gravy. Or the recipe at the very least!
Here’s to making a homemade gravy this Thanksgiving season!
Watch how to make this homemade gravy recipe:
How to Make Homemade Gravy
- 1 cup pan drippings from roasting turkey
- 2 cups potato water (or stock)
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp cognac (optional)
- Start by pouring all the turkey drippings into a fat separator or large measuring glass. Allow the drippings to sit for 15-20 minutes or until the fat separates from the stock in the drippings.
- Add the drippings back to the roasting pan with the browned bits remaining from roasting the turkey. If the drippings do not reach 1 cup, add stock to supplement. Set the roasting pan with the drippings over medium heat. Using a whisk, work up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. If using, whisk in the cognac.1 cup pan drippings from roasting turkey, 2 tbsp cognac (optional)
- In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch and potato water (or stock) until smooth.2 tbsp cornstarch, 2 cups potato water (or stock)
- Whisking constantly, slowly add the combined stock and cornstarch to the drippings mixture. Thin with more potato water/stock or thicken with more slurry as needed. Taste for seasoning.