Thursday, February 16, 2012

So You Wanna Make a Kickass Gravy? (a tutorial for the gravy-tationally challenged)

Today's Specials: A Stew of Apology for Taking a Whole Week to Post with a Hunch It'll Be Worth The Wait

Set to the Tune of Beck's "Mixed Bizness"

I get asked a lot of things:

"Rob, how do I choose the right knife?"
"Rob, do you have any recipes for a college student living on a budget who still wants foie gras with his ramen noodles?"

"Rob, would you please get your hand out of there?"

But by far the most requested is, "How do I make a decent gravy?"  Well have no, fear, Braisers.  You friend and humble narrator is here to show you the ins and outs of it all.

but first a cautionary tale
We've all been to that meal haven't we?  The turkey or roast is all sliced up, looking like something to which you want to make passionate and thorough mouth love.  The veggies are cooked but still flavorful with just the right amount of give-back.  The mashed potatoes are creamy AND fluffy at the same time.  That's right....potatoes that defy the laws of physics.  And then....this...this....abomination is unceremoniously jettisoned onto your plate.  Shitty gravy.  You know...the lumpy kind.  Or the greasy kind....or (and I swear I actually saw a blurry CIA photo - like Sasquatch or a UFgoddamnO because it's so rare and amazing):  Lumpy AND greasy gravy.


This mass of gelatinous evil doesn't love you.  It won't respect you in the morning.  If given half a chance it'd probably rape your uncle.  In front of his favorite TV show, no less.  No, you don't need that.  I respect you too much to allow you to either eat, or allow your guests to eat that sort of culinary manslaughter charge.  So we're gonna do it right.

Yer Gonna Need:
Some Fat
Some Flour
Some Liquid

I know what you're saying, "Hey Rob!!  What the hell, guy (which we all know is code for 'douchebag')?  Why aren't you giving us actual amounts!?!?"

And here's why, dickfer.

I have no idea how many you're gonna be serving and I would hate for anyone to miss out on the kickass gravy you're about to make, so instead of rigid measurements, I'm gonna give you a ratio:

1:1:8  That is, 1 part fat to 1 part flour and 8 parts liquid.  This is the golden gravy ratio and is almost foolproof (of course now that I've said that one of you is gonna find a way to screw it up).  But what that translates to is:

2 Tbl Fat
2 Tbl Flour
16 Tbl (1 cup) Liquid
(yields about 1 cup)

or if you're serving a small army:

1 Cup Fat
1 Cup Flour
8 Cups (1/2 Gallon) Liquid
(yields about 1/2 gallon)

Now a cool thing about knowing the ratio, is that you can reverse engineer it.  Meaning that if you know how much fat you have, or how much gravy you want, you can adjust the other amounts easily.

Just The Fats, Ma'am
So what kind of fat/oil can you use for gravy?  Turns out you can use just about any of them; butter, chicken fat, beef tallow, duck fat, vegetable oil, olive oil.....YES. You CAN make an olive oil gravy.  And, YES!!  It absolutely will suck!  I like to stick to animal fats enhanced with butter, which is what we've got here

FLOUR?  I Barely Know Her!!
For the purposes of this recipe, we'll be using plain 'ol all purpose flour.  It provides the prefect amount of protein and thickening power.  If you'd like to use other flours for flavor or nutritional reasons, you may have to adjust the amount, we're going with the plain 'ol all purpose stuff.

Liquid Assests
The great thing about the thickening medium, is that it doesn't care what liquid it thickens.  It's not prejudiced like your grandmother when she's drunk.  Water, stock, booze, anything will be thickened by this method so, again, sky is the limit.  As long as the sky is a liquid....yeah, I don't know either.  At any rate, we're using a vegetable stock fortified with a little chicken stock.

Alright, you've stuck with me through the dry stuff.  Let's get to it.  Here's what we're using today:

From left to right:  Used roasting pan, gravy separator, butter (I took the liberty of sauteeing the giblets - that little bag of alien meat that comes shoved inside the turkey with the neck - in it before we started), all-purpose flour, coarsely chopped garlic, vegetable stock (more than you'll actually need), coarsely chopped thyme.

Here's how it usually works out:
Once you've roasted your (in this case) turkey, you're gonna have a pan that looks roughly like this.  This is exactly what you want.  All those little browned bits and juices are the hero of your gravy.   It's called fond and you should be fond of it....geddit?  I....nevermind.  

Note, this entire process is the same regardless of the meat you're cooking

Take that bad boy and place it over two burners if it'll fit and only one if it won't, and turn on some low heat.  Using a whisk or wooden spoon, scrape up some of the fond.  Be careful not to start burning this stuff, otherwise your gravy will taste like it.  And no one will ever fall in love with you again if you serve burnt turkey goo gravy.

Once things start warming up again and loosening up, add the garlic and thyme.  If there isn't enough rendered fat in the pan (you shouldn't have any dry spots), add a little butter to fill in.  Keep stirring and loosening.  Oh, and you don't need to get all vigorous on this....just a nice conversation with the whisk 'Hey, how are's yer mom doing?"  . We're not discussing politics.....yet.
Add a little bit of the stock (you won't need all of it) to the mix.  This will help dissolve some of the pan drippings.  It also helps loosen up still more.  The fancy cooking word for it is deglazing and you're doing it just like those fancy folks on the Food Network.

Then just let that goodness simmer for a little bit....just a few minutes is all you need.  While that's going on lemme talk little about that gravy separator:

Now, Braisers, I'm no fan of one trick ponies.  You know, those things that perform one function pretty well, but just that one function?  Cherry-pitters, strawberry-hullers, ...that band, Everclear.  But a gravy separator is an exception I'm willing to make...partially because it makes the job a LOT easier, but mostly because I make a lot of gravy.  Besides, since it has a few graduations on the side, it can double as a regular wet measuring cup.  And I DO suggest getting the variety with graduations because then you can see at a glance exactly how much fat you have and (using your golden gravy ratio of 1:1:8) determine how much flour you'll need.  

Plus they're pretty inexpensive at your local Store-That-I-Would-Be-Happy-To-Mention-But-They're-Not-Giving-Me-Money-So-Fuckem.

So you take all that rich tasty goodness and pour it into your gravy separator.  You'll see the fat and liquids are very clearly distinct and easily accessible.

Incidentally, as a result of deglazing, your roasting pan should be relatively clean.

See...the gravy I'm teaching you to make is courteous and kind.  Helping you do the dishes and it's not even made yet.  That's love if I've ever seen it.

Ok, gang.  Here's where the rubber meets the road.  It's time to get our roux on.  What's a roux (pronounced rhoo)?'s just the 1:1 ratio of fat and flour, cooked to get rid of the raw flour flavor, and used as a thickener.  There are several kinds of roux from white, to blonde, to brown, to brick/black.  They each have their own unique flavor, color, and thickening power.  For today's roux, since we're using this for turkey gravy, I'd like to keep it relatively light, so we're gonna go with a white roux (lightest)......just making the transition into blonde (2nd lightest).

Step 1:  Heat up your fat (I added a touch of the butter for flavor and to get to the amount I needed).  Medium High heat, here, gang.
Step 2: Sprinkle in the flour while whisking.

tight and clumpy
The texture we're looking for is that of wet sand.  Here's something a little interesting....while you're whisking/stirring it'll be really tight and clumpy....but when you let it sit for a few seems to relax....that's when you know you've gotten it right. 

Now you can turn down your heat a little and just let that raw flour taste cook out.

relaxed once stirring stops

Step 3:  Here we go, Braisers!  It's showtime!  Starting with your reserved fond liquid, whisk in your stock a little at a time.  NOW'S the time to talk politics with your roux (and to increase the heat back up to Medium High)....add some stock, whisk vigorously until thickened, add more stock, whisk vigorously until thickened....repeat until you're satisfied with the consistency of your gravy.  

Now lower or turn off your're done....and the world will sing your praises.

Now before you ask....No.  I'm not just gonna leave you with a flat-looking pic of gravy in a pan as your last image of Braised In Captivity: Gravy Edition.  I'm gonna put it in context for you....but first, a few things to rememer:

*As you cook your gravy the proteins in the flour and stock will sorta come to the surface and are easily removed.  If you have the time (and it's ok if you don't), let this process happen for a while.  Cook your gravy on very low heat for 15 mins at least....and up to an hour.  The result will be an incredibly smooth, velvety gravy that men will want to be, and women will want to be with.
*The gravy will thicken further as it cools, so serve it a little thinner than you'd like
*On the flip side to that coin, it's a lot easier to thin out a too-thick gravy than to thicken up a too-thin gravy....adjust accordingly
*Your liquid and roux should be at opposing temperatures.  That means that if your roux is hot (which it is at this point), then your liquid should be cool (room temperature is 'cool' in this case).  We won't get into the hows and whys here, but trust works better this way.
*Have a spoon on hand to get into the corners of your pot that you're making this in if your whisk is too broad to do the job.

So without further ado...our gravy.

 Thanks again, Braisers.  Hope this one was a helpful one.  As always, there's the Facebook Page, and E-Mail subscription at the top of this page.

Keep cookin.


  1. Say FOND again. I love when people use the technical name for the remaining bits. This is just one of the reasons my friend calls me a good vegetarian. Nice work, sir.


  2. Holy macaroni.. how did I JUST notice this one?
    Heh.. Gravytationally Challenged. Brilliant.

  3. Muchos gracias for the kick ass gravy made simple!