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Gallons of Great Gravy from Ellen's Kitchen

Here are all the things I do to make my lump-free, beautifully brown gravies.

Quantities for gravy

Lots of tables designate a 2 tablespoon serving of gravy. Phooey on them! If you want a feeling of abundance, make at least 1/4 cup per person; I always make at least 1/3 cup per person. Leftover gravy freezes perfectly well, and it is the basis for wonderful dishes. What is creamed turkey and turkey pot pies, or the Sunday- after- Thanksgiving turkey soup without its portion of gravy added? Freeze gravy within 24 hours after making and use within 1 month.

Gravy Calculator

As a general rule, use about 1 tablespoon of fat and 2 tablespoons of flour or 3-4 tablespoons of browned flour for each cup of finished gravy. We used to use 2 tablespoons of fat; not necessary.
number served liquid fat flour
6 2 cups 2 tablespoons 3 tablespoons
8 2-2/3 cups 2-1/2 tablespoons 1/4 cup
10 3-1/3 cups 3 tablespoons 5 tablespoons
12 1 quart 1/4 cup 6 tablespoons
14 4-2/3 cups 4-1/2 tablespoons 7 tablespoons
16 5-1/3 cups 5 tablespoons 1/2 cup
100 34 cups (2 gallons, 1 pint) 2 cups 3 1/4 cups

Fresh Mushroom Sauce OR
Vegetarian Gravy

Makes 1 gallon, 50 1/3 cup servings
Vegetarian if made with mushroom stock instead of chicken stock

4 pounds fresh mushrooms
2 sticks butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or green onions
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts chicken stock or mushroom stock, hot
2 cups whole milk, half and half or cream
2 tablespoons nutmeg
Salt and ground pepper to taste
OPTIONAL 1 cup sherry

Clean, trim and slice mushrooms. Melt butter in a large 6 quart saucepan or stockpot. Sauté onions and mushrooms, sprinkle on nutmeg.
Add flour and blend well. Cook and stir, 5 minutes.
Whisk in stock and milk while stirring constantly.
Cook until thickened. Stir in optional sherry.
Taste for seasoning, add salt if needed, simmer an additional 5-10 minutes.

Basic Meat Gravy

1 gallon, about 50 1/3 cup servings

1 cup hot meat drippings and/or other fat/oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 gallon meat or poultry stock

To a large 3 quart or larger saucepan add the hot meat drippings or fat. Add the flour and blend well. Stir in the salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Gradually add the stock, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Cook until smooth and thickened

Giblet Gravy: Add 1 quart cooked giblets- NOT the liver- chopped (may also be ground in the blender with part of the gravy
Onion Gravy: Lightly brown 1 pound thinly sliced onions in hot fat before adding flour
Seasoned Gravy: In water or meat stock, cook until tender, 1 pound diced carrots, 1/2 cup chopped celery and 11/2 cups chopped onions. Stir into flour and fat mixture just before or after adding the stock.

The pan

Select a big enough pan for the amount of gravy you need to make. Avoid making gravy in a regular aluminum (anodized is okay) pan as it can turn the gravy gray. A heavy cast iron skillet is excellent. Some cooks use the roasting pan, I prefer to deglaze the roasting pan and use a different pan to cook the gravy. Less risk of too much fat cracking the gravy.

The fats

The most desirable fat for gravy-making is that which dripped off the meat, but the biggest gravy mistake is to use all the fat you have. Pour off and separate the fat as discussed below, and MEASURE the fat you return to the pan, based on the amount of gravy you need to make.

You can baste the bird or roast with butter during the roasting, if you are concerned that you won't have enough fat. Some cooks cover the roast or the poultry breast with bacon. This provides extra fat, but you have to watch the salt when seasoning gravy made with part bacon fat.

The flour

Cornstarch makes the glossiest gravy, but it breaks down rapidly if boiled or reheated, so I generally use wheat flour. The best flours for gravy are wheat flours that are low in protein and high in starch, such as instant blend "Wondra", cake flour, pastry flour or southern all-purpose flour. Lower protein helps prevent a "skin" from forming on gravy as it sits.

If you use browned flour ("fat free roux") for part of the flour, your gravy will have a deep rich brown color. You can brown the flour in a hot dry saute pan at the beginning of gravy making, before adding any fat, or make a brown roux with flour and fat, but this can take up to 30 minutes. Instead, make the browned flour weeks ahead and keep it in the refrigerator until needed. Browned flour has only half the thickening power of fresh white flour, so you need twice as much to thicken your gravy.

The meat drippings or pan juices

If you are roasting meat and want to use the roasting pan drippings in the gravy:
  • Don't let the meat drippings burn. This happens if the roasting pan gets too hot. Drippings usually won't burn in a heavy-based roasting pan that's just large enough to hold the roast or turkey. If the pan is too big, the area not covered by the meat will get too hot.
  • A too-thin pan can also cause burned juices. AVOID those folded aluminum roasting pans; the sides are too high, interfering with the browning of your entree, and they are too flimsy (unsafe) for anything over six pounds.
  • If your pan is too big or thin, coarsely chop onions and sprinkle them under and around the roast or turkey in the pan to act as a heat absorber. If you do this, leave the onion out of the giblet broth because the drippings will be oniony enough. You can also add some carrots, celery and whole garlic cloves to the vegetable mix for the sake of the coming gravy.
  • At the end of roasting, move the meat to a serving platter to rest. Pour all the drippings from the roasting pan into a large heat-proof measuring cup to separate the pan juices from the fat. The juices will sink to the bottom while the fat floats on top. Pour off all the fat, you will measure out what you need for the gravy after checking the gravy calculator above. The rest of the flavorful fat can be frozen for another day. You will use all the pan juices in your gravy.
  • You want to get all the brown bits out of the pan, this is called "deglazing" the pan. Add enough unsalted broth, wine, or water to cover the bottom of the pan completely and turn the heat to high. Cook, stirring and scraping, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the bottom of the pan is clean, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add additional broth or water if you need to, while stirring. The final rich brown liquid is poured away from any vegetables left in the pan and added to the pan juices.

The giblets, giblet broth and gravy stocks for gravy-making

For the best gravy, with poultry, you make both a giblet broth and a turkey/ chicken stock. With a beef or pork roast, you just want a stock. Unsalted, please; you need to taste the gravy before you know how much salt to add, and the drippings are sometimes VERY salty.
  • Liver alert! Turkey liver gets bitter with long cooking; I usually leave it out of the giblet broth and saute it up for the cat. Chicken livers, I flour and roast or fry with the chicken.
  • "Giblets" are the heart, gizzard and liver. They are in a little paper or plastic sack in one of the cavities- be sure you take them out before cooking. The neck is also included. All poultry gravy is improved by making a giblet broth. If you chop up the giblets and put them back in the gravy, then it is a "giblet gravy". If you put them in the stuffing, it is a giblet stuffing.
  • To make the giblet broth: In 3-quart saucepan (one bird), combine gizzard, heart, neck, and enough water to cover. Add a halved onion stuck with two or three cloves, about 20 small sprigs of parsley, a bay leaf. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat; cover and simmer at least 45 minutes, up to 1 1/2 hours until giblets are tender. If a sticky foam rises to the top, just skim it off and discard it. If you want to include the liver, add it after the neck is tender and cook just 15 minutes longer. Strain giblet broth through sieve into large bowl.
    Pull meat from neck; discard bones or throw into the stock pot. Trim off the pale, stringy thin bits from the gizzard, this resembles the connective tissue in beef. Dice, thin slice or coarsely chop neck meat and giblets if you plan to make giblet gravy. Cover and refrigerate meat and broth separately.
  • To make stock, use all the bones and trimmings from either raw or cooked meat. If you are cooking ahead, use the carcasses after deboning.

    Pour off the dripping, separating the fat and the pan juices. Add the skimmed, defatted drippings to the giblet broth.
  • Deglaze the roasting pan using some of the giblet broth, add stock if needed to cover. Add the deglazed, brown liquid back to the giblet broth. When the fat separates, skim it out; you just want the pan drippings here.
  • Select a pan large enough to hold all the gravy, set it over medium heat. Add the flour, brown it if you mean to. Add the fat and whisk it all together energetically. Cook 10 minutes to get rid of the floury taste, the flour turns golden brown.
  • Stir in the giblet broth in a slow, steady stream, whisking or stirring constantly.
  • If you need additional fluid, use unsalted stock. Cook stirring over medium heat another 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the giblets if used. Some cooks use the blender to mince the giblets, adding some gravy or broth. If you do this, hold on to the lid! Hot liquids tend to blow the top off the blender.

    Finishing touches

  • Pureed roasted garlic adds great flavor to gravy and thickens it slightly, too.
  • Ground meat, sausage or giblets added to gravy should be fully cooked, drained and chopped, and added after the gravy has thickened.
  • Other flavor embellishments: for each two cups of gravy, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley, chervil, basil, or tarragon, or 1 or 2 tablespoons of soaked, drained, and chopped dried porcini mushrooms or morels, a few minutes before serving. Mushroom soaking liquid can be added to the gravy stock.
  • Not quite satisfied with the color? Add one single teaspoon of instant coffee granules, unsweetened instant tea granules or cocoa for each two cups gravy to enrich the flavor as well as darkening the color. Stir this into the measured broth before it is added to the roux/ flour.
  • Watery? Gravy should be smooth and pourable, not too thin. It can be thickened by stirring in instant mashed potato flakes or Wondra Instant Blend flour. NEVER try to add regular dry flour to hot gravy. If you need to use flour, blend 2 tablespoons flour with 3 tablespoons water and add this, a bit at a time, to the simmering gravy until it thickens. Then simmer the gravy for 10 more minutes to cook off the floury taste.
  • Too thick? Use unsalted broth or wine instead of just water to thin without losing flavor.
  • Whisking in a tablespoon of butter or heavy cream just before serving will give gravy a rich, satiny texture.
  • Hot is good when it comes to gravy. If serving buffet style, use a crockpot or chafing dish to keep the gravy hot.
  • When reheating gravy, bring it to a full rolling boil, internal temperature of 165 degrees, before serving. That is why you don't use cornstarch in gravies you expect to reheat.
  • As mentioned above, freeze gravy within 24 hours after making and use frozen gravy within 1 month. If you expect to freeze a milk gravy, consider using diluted evaporated milk instead of fresh.