On the Side: Turkey Gravy

Useful Tools | Making Gravy | Tips

There are many recipes available for making gravy but you will find that most use the turkey drippings, browned pieces from the bottom of the roasting pan, and a small amount of fat to give it great flavor and color. Following the guidelines shown below will help you produce smooth, flavorful gravy from the drippings produced when roasting the turkey.

Useful Tools

There are a few tools that can be used to make the gravy making process a little easier. Although these tools are not essential to gravy making, they are great in assisting the process.

Gravy Separator

A kitchen utensil that is used to separate the fat from the juices of the meat. The hot meat juices or any hot meat stock containing fat is poured into the separator and the fat rises to the top while the layer of the meat juices remain on the bottom. The spout that extends down to the bottom where the juices are located allow them to be poured out while the fat remains on the top, making it easy to separate the two.


A wire whisk works goods when combining the fat and flour to make the thickening for the gravy. Also, when the cooking liquid is added to the thickening the whisk is the best tool for preventing lumps.


The strainer is a good tool for eliminating unwanted particles in broth, dripping juices and the finished gravy. The liquid is poured through the mesh of the strainer and the particles are caught in the strainer because they are too big to flow through the openings in the mesh.

Making Gravy

When making gravy, it is often difficult to know how much fat (or butter if not using fat from drippings) and flour to use for thickening the cooking liquids. Start by determining how much cooking liquid you have to make the gravy and then use the equation of 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of fat (or butter) per cup of cooking liquid. This is a good starting point, and then additional thickening or stock can be added to adjust the thickness of the gravy if necessary. The cooking liquids include stock (homemade or store purchased broth) and juices from the drippings created during the roasting period. Follow the steps below for making smooth and flavorful gravy.

Making Stock

The stock can be prepared while the turkey is cooking or it can be made a day a head of time and refrigerated until needed.

Place the neck, heart, and gizzard in a saucepan and cover with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of table salt or 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and cook on high until boiling.

As the stock begins to cook, foam will form on the surface of the water. Skim off as much foam as possible and discard.

Once it starts to boil, cover and turn the heat down to low. Allow the stock to simmer for approximately 45 minutes.

Remove giblets from the water and then pour into a bowl. If the stock contains a lot of unwanted pieces, you may want to pour through a strainer to separate them from the stock. Allow stock to cool slightly and then refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: Store purchased broth can also be used in place of the homemade stock.

Making Gravy

After removing the turkey from the roasting pan, pour the drippings (juices produced while turkey was roasting) into a gravy separator. If you do not have a separator, pour into a glass liquid measuring cup or a bowl.

Allow this liquid to settle for 4 to 5 minutes, allowing the fat to separate from the juices. The fat will rises to the top and the juices settle on the bottom.

If using a gravy separator, pour juices into a 2-quart measuring cup until only the fat remains in the separator. After juices are removed, pour fat into a smaller bowl.

If not using a separator, remove fat from the top of the juices by skimming it off with a spoon and putting it in a smaller measuring cup or bowl.

Any remaining fat on the surface of the juices can be removed by gently wiping a paper towel or piece of bread over the surface to soak up the fat.

Set juices and fat a side.

If after roasting the turkey, there are few browned bits on the bottom of the pan, add a few pieces of skin and a little meat from the neck or the bottom of the turkey and brown them in the roasting pan. This will produce browned bits that will add color and flavor to the gravy.
Add 2 cups of stock to the roasting pan and place it on the stove over medium heat.
Stir the stock and scrape the flavorful bits from the sides and bottom of the roasting pan to deglaze.

Pour the deglazed liquid into the gravy separator to separate fat and juices or pour into a bowl and skim fat off the top after juices set for a few minutes.

Pour the deglazed juices through a strainer and into the 2-quart measuring cup with the other separated juices.
Pour the remaining stock into the 2-quart measuring cup with the other juices to make up the amount of gravy desired. If there is not enough stock to make the desired amount of gravy, add store purchased broth or water to make up the amount.

Using a 1 tablespoon of fat to 1 tablespoon of flour ratio per cup of cooking liquid, add the required quantity of reserved fat to a saucepan (the roasting pan can also be used if desired). Place over medium heat.

Note: If you are making 6 cups of gravy, use 6 tablespoons of fat and 6 tablespoons of flour.

Add flour to the fat in the saucepan and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat but do not allow the flour to brown. Continue to whisk the mixture as it cooks.
After the fat and flour mixture has cooked for 3 or 4 minutes, continue whisking and slowly add the cooking liquids.
Whisk the gravy as it continues to cook over medium heat. As the mixture cooks it will begin to thicken. Bring the gravy to a boil and then turn heat to low and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste and then keep warm until ready to serve.
To serve, pour the gravy into a gravy boat or a serving bowl.

Adjusting Gravy Consistency

If the consistency of the gravy is not as desired, there are methods that can be used to correct it. Follow the suggestions below.

Gravy Too Thick

  • Add a small amount of broth and whisk into the gravy. Check consistency and if it is still too thick continue to add a little at a time, whisking in completely after each addition, until the gravy is at the desired consistency. Be sure to heat the gravy back to a boil after adding the broth.
  • If there is not broth available to thin the gravy down, water can be used but if too much is used, it will start to dilute the flavor of the gravy.

Gray is Not Thick Enough

  • If time allows, simmer the gravy on the stovetop. This will evaporate some of the liquid in the gravy and help thicken it.
  • Thoroughly mix 1 tablespoon of flour in 3 tablespoon of cold water until flour is completely dissolved in the water. Gradually add to the gravy, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. If gravy is still not thick enough, repeat this process. Be sure the gravy is heated back to a boil after adding the flour and water mixture.
  • Cornstarch can also be used to thicken the gravy. Mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 1 cup of cold water and blend thoroughly. Add to the gravy in the same manner as indicated above with the flour and water mixture.

Alternative Method for Making Gravy

There are several alternative methods that can be used for making gravy. All have the same basics to them, such as the use of pan drippings, broth and some type of thickening agent. Show below is an alternative method to the one shown above.

Prepare a Beurre Manié to use as a thickening agent.

In a small bowl add equal amounts of flour and butter. When determine how much flour and butter to use, figure the amount needed based on 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of butter for each cup of liquid being thickened. You may want to make extra to be sure you have enough when thickening the gravy.

Stir the flour and butter together until well blended using a small spatula, spoon, or fork. You can also use your fingers to knead the flour and butter into a smooth paste. Any leftover beurre manié can be stored for later use. It can also be made a head of time and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Prepare broth and juices as shown above up to the point where all the cooking liquid has been gathered and poured into the 2-quart measuring cup. Fat has also been removed.
Pour the desired amount of cooking liquids into a saucepan. Heat over medium heat. When juices are hot, begin thickening by adding a teaspoon of the beurre manié at a time, whisking it into the hot juices until well incorporated.
Continue to add a teaspoon at a time of the beurre manié, consistently whisking, until the gravy is the desired consistency. After the gravy is the thickened, bring it to a boil and then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 4 to 5 minutes before serving.


Gravy Tips

  • Be sure to use a roasting pan that is heavy enough to use on the stovetop.
  • To fix greasy/fatty gravy, soak grease up with a slice of fresh bread or drag an absorbent paper towel lightly across the surface.
  • To thicken runny gravy, whip 1-2 tablespoons of instant potato flakes into gravy.
  • Fix overly salty gravy by adding raw, sliced potatoes and cook them in the gravy until the potatoes appear translucent. Remove potatoes before serving.
  • Slightly salty gravy may also be remedied by adding a couple pinches of light brown sugar. Be careful on how much is added or the gray may end up too sweet.
  • To smooth lumpy gravy, try a whisk or rotary blender. If lumps remain, strain the gravy through a mesh strainer.
  • To darken the color of gravy, add a ½ teaspoon of instant coffee.
  • A teaspoon of peanut butter will erase the burnt taste from gravy without altering the taste.
  • A circle of wax paper placed on the top of cooling gravy will prevent the layer of skin from forming.
  • Roast your turkey between 325°-350°F for the best pan drippings. Higher roasting temperatures will decrease the amount of pan drippings available for gravy. If roasting at a higher temperature is unavoidable, add turkey broth to the roasting pan. Pan drippings consist of the clear liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the pan while the turkey is roasting.

Flavor Tips

  • For a twist, roast the turkey on a bed of celery and minced garlic. The flavors will be absorbed into the drippings used to make gravy.
  • Stir a dash of soup stock, brandy, or port for a boost of flavor.
  • If gravy is dull in flavor, add chicken or turkey bouillon.
  • Proper seasoning is what can make the difference between good gravy and great gravy. Remember to add salt and freshly ground pepper.

Safety Tips

  • Use a thermometer to ensure that your gravy has reached the proper heating temperature of 165° F before serving (a rolling boil).
  • Store left over gravy in a shallow container, separate from potatoes and stuffing to prevent cross contamination. Leftover gravy is safe for up to 2 days when refrigerated but must be boiled to 165º F before serving (bring to a rolling boil).
  • As with all leftovers, throw out any gravy that has been at room temperature for 2 hours.

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