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How to make the best Thanksgiving gravy

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Tips for great gravy

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but there is no harm in collecting a few recipes here and there to create the best ever Thanksgiving.
Gravy being poured

One of the most important components of an outstanding Thanksgiving Day menu is the turkey gravy - and, no, not from a can! Rich and satisfying gravy made from giblets, and succulently flavored by the turkey bones will make your celebratory meal memorable. Here is a recipe for the best ever turkey gravy from stock to finish.

Quick tips for turkey gravy

To make a fail-proof gravy, you need three components: liquid, thickener and flavor.

  • Liquid: Ideally, the liquid should be homemade turkey or meat stock. If you don't have homemade stock, low-sodium turkey or meat broth will suffice. Using low-sodium broth gives you control over the amount of salt in the gravy.
  • Thickener: The thickener is a starch such as flour or cornstarch, which will give gravy a delectable mouthfeel.
  • Flavor: You can add a tasty number of ingredients to flavor your gravy. Excellent choices include wine (sherry, marsala, and madeira work well), liquors, dried mushrooms, and dried or fresh herbs and spices.

For best results, the gravy should also include browned bits from the stock as well as turkey pieces. And keep in mind that the more starch you add, the thicker your gravy. To avoid a lumpy gravy, add the starch in gradually. You can also add a few tablespoons of butter to increase richness.

Homemade turkey stock recipe

Makes about 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds turkey wings and legs or bones from a turkey
  • Turkey neck and giblets
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium celery rib with leaves, chopped
  • 6 parsley sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions:

  1. Chop wings, legs, and neck into 2-inch pieces using a heavy cleaver. If using bones, keep whole. Cut away any fatty membranes from the giblets.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add wings, legs, neck, bones and giblets in a few batches, cooking until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Move to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook 6 to 7 minutes, or until tender. Place turkey pieces back into pot and fill pot with cold water (turkey should be covered by about 2 inches). Bring mixture to a boil and skim off any foam that is created.
  4. Mix in parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf and reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for at least 2 hours or up to 12. Continue adding water to keep the turkey pieces covered.
  5. Strain stock through a sieve into a bowl. Save all meat. Let stock rest for 5 minutes then skim off the top layer of fat that rises. Let stock cool fully before using. It can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen in a well-sealed container for up to 3 months.

Quick tip

An alternative to cooking on the stovetop for 2 hours is to use a slow cooker on low for up to 12 hours. This stock can also be used to make soup or stuffing.

Classic turkey gravy recipe

Makes about 8 cups

After you cook your turkey and transfer it to a carving board, the roasting pan will be full of succulent juices and browned bits. You will use these flavorful components for the gravy.

Ingredients:

  • Pan juices from a large (10 to 15 pound) roasted turkey
  • 1 stick of unsalted melted butter or less
  • 9 cups homemade turkey stock
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Pour pan juices through a fine chinois or sieve into a large measuring cup and let rest until fat rises to top. Skim off fat and reserve – if the fat measures less then 1/2 cup add enough melted butter to make 1/2 cup.
  2. Add enough turkey stock to pan juices to make 8 cups of liquid. Place turkey roasting pan on burners and pour in remaining 1 cup of turkey stock. Boil pan over high heat for about 1 minute while scraping bottom of pan to release browned bits. Pour mixture through a fine chinois or sieve into cup with stock.
  3. Pour fat mixture into a pot and whisk it over low heat with flour for 5 minutes. Gradually pour in stock and pan juices, whisking continually, while bringing to a boil. Add in any turkey meat you have from making the stock (see recipe above). Cook for about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sage and white wine turkey gravy recipe

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds turkey wings or legs, cut apart at joints
  • 1 small red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups homemade turkey stock
  • 4-1/2 cups water
  • 3 large fresh sage leaves
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • Pan juices from a large (10 to 15 pound) roasted turkey or additional broth

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange turkey pieces, onions, celery, and carrots on a roasting pan or baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour, until turkey is browned.
  2. Move turkey and vegetables to a pot when finished and add stock, 4 cups of water, and sage.
  3. Lay roasting pan on burners and add wine and cook over high heat scraping off browned bits from bottom of pan for about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour wine into pot with turkey and vegetables and bring to a boil. Cook over low heat for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Strain liquid into a measuring cup and remove turkey pieces and vegetables. Skim fat off of top. If liquid is less than 4 cups, add water to make 4 cups.
  5. Pour liquid back into pot and bring to a boil. Whisk flour and 1/2 cup of water together and pour into pot and bring to a boil, cooking for 1 minute.

Make a note

Gravy can be frozen or kept refrigerated until ready to use. Before serving, add pan juices from roasted turkey to gravy if desired.

Traditional vs. Modern Thanksgiving

More Thanksgiving tips

How to roast a terrific turkey
New Thanksgiving traditions for families
A prescription for a healthy Thanksgiving

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