How to Make Turkey Gravy from Scratch
Making turkey gravy from scratch at the very last minute is a hard ask of many Thanksgiving cooks. There are SO many things to be done at the last minute, if you don’t have a lot of helping hands available, the gravy might get overlooked or just plain cancelled. And what a shame that would be — naked slices of turkey and mounds of mashed potatoes looking for some adornment.
My mom almost always starts our gravy the day before, and it makes the gravy making process much faster, and the results even richer. Over the years we’ve gotten the make-ahead gravy process down.
(Oh, and for white gravy, click here!)
How to Make Gravy
Cooking Flour in Fat: Making a Roux
Gravy gets its body and thickness from flour, usually, or some other thickener. But if you’ve ever added flour directly into gravy, or any other dish as it’s cooking, you probably noticed a raw flour taste. Flour should be toasted before it is incorporated into dishes (other than baked goods). The best way to do that is in some sort of fat, and the combo of fat and flour is then called a roux (pronounced roo).
In the case of gravy, and many other dishes, butter is the best fat to use, and all you have to do is melt the butter, and then stir in the flour and cook, stirring, over medium heat for several minutes, until the mixture starts to turn golden brown. That and the smell of toastiness is your indication that the flour is being cooked.
You can let your roux cook for a short while and take it off when it is a golden shade, or stir a bit longer and let it brown more for a deeper richer flavor — make sure to stop before it starts to burn; trust your sense of smell.
Making Smooth Thick Gravy
Warming the stock before stirring it into the roux means that there is less of a chance of lumps forming. Adding the stock slowly, and using a whisk to blend it together as you add the stock is also very helpful in making smooth gravy. Make sure to get into the corners of the pot where the roux may be sticking. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, which activates the flour’s thickening ability, then quickly turn it down and continue to simmer and stir frequently for another 10 or so minutes until thickened.
Keeping Gravy From Forming a Skin
If you place a piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap on the surface of the gravy as it cools, it will keep from forming a skin. However, when you reheat the gravy, you will stir it all up so any skin that has formed will really blend right back into the gravy.
Make Ahead Turkey Gravy: If you start your gravy the day before, it makes the gravy making process much faster, and the results even richer.Tweet This
How Much Pan Juices Should I Add to the Gravy Once the Turkey is Cooked?
The answer is pretty much all of it, or for a measurable amount 1 to 2 cups. If you have a fat separator (worth it! even for once or twice a year!) pour all of the cooking juices into the cup, and wait for the fat to rise to the top. You should be able to pour out the pan juices, and leave most of the fat behind.
You don’t want to waste a drop of those flavorful juices, so if for some reason you have a lot of pan juice, more than you want for the gravy (in that the juices will thin out the thick gravy base), then just add what you want to get to the desired consistency. Keep the rest and use it in soup and stews and sauces later in the week, or freeze for another time. A little more pan juice will make the gravy richer but thinner, a little less will keep the gravy thicker.
Make sure you taste the gravy before you salt — whether you have made the stock from scratch or bought it, it can vary a lot of terms of saltiness. Plus, you when you add the juices from your cooked turkey, those will also have salt in them, especially if you brined your turkey. You may not need any additional salt at all.
Roasting Turkey Bones Before Making the Stock
This step is optional, but it will give your gravy an extra layer of deep flavor. Hopefully your turkey comes with the neck bone tucked inside, which you can roast ahead of time and use to deepen the flavor of your stock, and therefore your gravy. If by chance you have spatchcocked your turkey, you will also have the backbone to roast.
Simply put them on a baking sheet (lined with parchment or foil) in the oven at whatever temp you are cooking something else, and roast until dark brown. At 400°F they should be done in about 35 to 45 minutes. No exact science here; you are looking for browned and somewhat crispy. So, if you have a casserole cooking at 350° F, place the bones on a baking sheet and slide them in at the same time. Just add another 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time.
Then to enrich store-bought stock, simmer the neck and any other bones available in the stock for about 30 to 40 minutes. Strain the stock into a liquid measuring cup and discard the bones.
What to Serve with Turkey Gravy:
- Easy Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey
- Instant Pot Turkey Breast
- Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
- How to Cook Turkey Breast
Other Thanksgiving Recipes:
- Classic Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Cranberry Orange Sauce
- Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
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Make Ahead Turkey Gravy
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups chicken or turkey stock , homemade or store-bought (see Note), warmed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ½ cup dry white wine (optional)
- Juices from your cooked turkey or turkey breast (2 to 3 cups)
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the mixture is combined; it will still be clumpy and thick. Continue to whisk frequently until it turns golden brown and the flour and butter mixture smells a bit toasty.
- Slowly pour in the warm stock, whisking all the while, until all of the stock is added. Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer the gravy, whisking often, for 10 minutes until the gravy is thick and smooth. It will be thick – more liquid (turkey juices, wine, water) will be added when you finish it right before the meal.
- Place a piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the gravy base, cover the pot with a lid, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Put it in the refrigerator.
- On Thanksgiving (or Christmas or any other time you are making a turkey!), take the gravy base from the fridge once the bird is out of the oven. Remove the parchment or wax paper, or plastic wrap from the top of the gravy. It will be very thick from being chilled, and will thin and smooth out when heated.
- Remove the bird and the roasting rack (if using) from the roasting pan, tipping the bird so that any juices that have collected in the turkey pour out into the pan. Pour all of the juices from the pan into a fat separator or a liquid measuring cup. Let the fat rise to the top.
- Place the saucepan with the gravy base over medium-low heat and heat until hot, stirring occasionally.
- If using a fat separator, pour the juices into the pot with the gravy base, then discard the fat. If using a measuring cup, spoon the fat from the top and discard, reserving the juices, then add those to the pot. Add the wine, if using. Stir to combine, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. If for some reason your gravy feels too thick and you are out of pan juices you can add some water to thin it out slightly, but that shouldn’t be the case.
- Transfer to a gravy boat or small pitcher and place right between the turkey and the mashed potatoes!
Roasting Bones Before Making the StockHopefully your turkey comes with the neck bone tucked inside, which you can roast ahead of time and use to deepen the flavor of your stock, and therefore your gravy. If by chance you have spatchcocked your turkey, you will also have the backbone to roast. Simply put them in the oven at whatever temp you are cooking something else, and roast until dark brown. At 400°F they should be done in about 35 to 45 minutes. No exact science here; you are looking for browned and somewhat crispy. So if your casserole is cooking at 350° F just add another 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time. Then to enrich store-bought stock, simmer the neck and any other bones available in the stock for about 30 to 40 minutes. Strain the stock into a liquid measuring cup and discard the bones.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
I’d been looking for a way to ensure I didn’t end up with a gravy that was too thin or lacking in flavor – tried it for the first time and super happy with the result! Made it the night before Thanksgiving and added pan drippings – yummy and no lumps!