Nothing is better than delicious, old-fashioned pan gravy. Pan gravy derives its flavor and character from rich stock, and the wonderful juices and dripping fats from the roasting bird that collect in the pan.
Although deceptively simple, pan gravies or sauces are rather sophisticated cuisine. In fact, in French cooking they are highly regarded as mother sauces. You will know a good one when you taste it because it is pure ambrosia, and delicious enough to eat all by itself. It may surprise you how easy they are to make.
Fond of Stock
You start by making two different types of fonds – or bases. The first fond is stock, which will be the hearty liquid foundation for your gravy. You can read about that process in our chicken stock post. For turkey giblet stock, use the neck and the giblets (excluding the liver), and cook it down.
The second fond is a deglazing sauce made with the pan drippings. Once the turkey is out of the roasting pan, resting on a board loosely tented with foil, it’s time to deglaze the pan. Pour wine or stock into the pan, and stir and scrape up all the little bits, which will bring the flavor.
Once you make the stock and deglazing sauce, you are done with most of the heavy lifting.
Roux La La
The third element for rich, brown pan gravy is a brown roux.
- Start by heating about 1/4 cup of clear turkey roasting fat, or the same amount of duck fat, in a heavy saucepan or large, deep skillet over medium heat.
- Once it is heated, add about 1/4 cup of flour distributing evenly over the fat, and stir with a wooden spoon until blended and smooth.
- Continue to cook, stirring steadily for several minutes, as it bubbles and thickens, and begins to slowly brown.
- Cook until it reaches a beautiful, toasty walnut color. Voila! A brown roux. Lift the pan from the heat, and stir until it stops bubbling.
Return the pan to the heat and gradually add about 3 cups of hot turkey stock, and whisk vigorously the whole time to blend and smooth it as it thickens. This is your gravy base. Adjust the heat until this sauce is simmering. Keep it at a simmer for several minutes, giving it a good, thorough stirring every other minute or so. If it starts to bubble too hard, adjust the heat down until it is simmering again.
Combine it All
Now it’s time to add the deglazing sauce to the cooking gravy base. Once added, stir the gravy to blend in the sauce, and simmer for several more minutes. This simmering cooks off any residual alcohol from the deglazing sauce, and reduces the gravy, which also concentrates the flavors. Skim off any fat that rises. Continue to let this simmer until it is the consistency that you want. If it starts to bubble too hard, again reduce the heat to keep it at a gentle simmer.
Taste it. Carefully make any light-handed flavor corrections. Once you have finished any necessary seasoning, this wonderfully rich and delicious pan gravy is ready to serve. Keep it warm right up until serving.
- The only way to make good thick gravy is to cook it longer to reduce and thicken the liquid.
- If you are making a considerable amount of gravy using flour, allow extra time to cook your gravy to overcome the raw flour taste.
- Always taste your gravy while you are making it, and before adding any seasoning.
- Keep a couple of quarts of good quality, sodium-free chicken stock on hand for extra or emergency gravy. Better yet, make your own and stash it in the freezer.
- If you want to give your gravy a slightly creamier mouth feel, stir in a few tablespoons of butter just before serving. If you want super-creamy gravy, gradually whisk in a generous 1/2 cup of heavy cream about 10 minutes or so before serving. Adjust to a simmer, and reduce and rethicken the gravy to the desired consistency.
- If your gravy is too salty, add sodium-free chicken stock to dilute the saltiness, then continue cooking the gravy until it reduces and thickens to the proper consistency. Once it has reduced, taste it again, adjust accordingly.
- If your gravy is lumpy, mash the lumps between the back of a wooden spoon and the side of the pan, and continue to stir or whisk them in until smooth. Doing this by hand is best. Mixers/blenders may get rid of the lumps, but will change the consistency of your gravy.
- You can also strain the gravy through a sieve or fine strainer to eliminate lumps. It may take a few minutes, but will catch the majority of them. Depending on how lumpy the gravy is, be prepared to add stock and reduce and thicken, to make up for lost volume.
- If your gravy gets too thick, add stock to thin, and continue cooking until you reach the desired consistency. Taste again, and carefully make any flavor corrections.