Not Recipes

How to Make Gravy Without a Recipe

By • November 18, 2013 • 22 Comments

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Gravy is spectacularly easy, and -- spoiler alert! -- even make-ahead friendly. Here's how to make it happen. 

How to Make Gravy by Food52

By this point in November, you're likely eyeball-deep in recipes: The one for the perfect bird, the most genius cranberry sauce, the root vegetable pie you'll carry proudly to the table, turkey or no. You've printed out this pie dough recipe (or this one, or both), and it's only a matter of time before these pies are added to the mix. You're tired. Your printer is equally so. 

You deserve a Thanksgiving classic you can make without a recipe (and we're talking more than mash) -- one you can make with your eyes closed and with one hand tied behind your back. Listen up, people: This year we're winging gravy.  

(The best part of all of this? Contrary to what Thanksgiving legend says, your gravy can be made ahead of time -- up to 4 or 5 days. Just make good on your turkey drippings by whisking them in right before you serve.) 

How to Make Gravy Without a Recipe 

1. If you're making your gravy ahead of time, skip to step 2 -- you'll do step 1 on Thanksgiving day, immediately before serving. If you're doing this whole thing last minute like a ninja, place your roasting vessel on the stove, and deglaze with a healthy splash of wine, or stock, or -- in a pinch -- water. Add aromatics like rosemary for fun. Remove from the heat and strain. 

How to Make Gravy from Food52 

2. Make a roux. As you have previously learned, this will be the magic that thickens your gravy. Here's how it works: Melt butter, whisk in flour, cook until it's a nice, golden brown. If you're doing this on the day of while the bird rests, feel free to use some of the fat from the drippings as a base for your roux. All in all, for ten to twelve people, go with 1 stick of butter (or a half cup of fat) and a half cup of flour to 4 or 5 cups stock. If you have a cozier Thanksgiving planned, halve that. 

How to Make Gravy from Food52

3. When your roux is where you want it to be, whisk in the deliciousness you made in step 1. (If you're doing this in advance, just use that amazing homemade turkey stock we know you have on hand.) You want your heat around medium-low here, and adjust as necessary. 

More: Can't get on board with the whole turkey thing? Make this vegan, gluten-free gravy instead.

How to Make Gravy from Food52

4. Keep adding your warm, remaining liquid, and keep whisking -- hard. Remember your Aunt's lumpy gravy? Yeah, you don't want that. 

How to Make Gravy from Food52

5. Simmer your gravy over medium heat until it's thickened to your liking. At this point, it's very forgiving: Just add more liquid at will if you over-thicken. When it's right where you want it, season. We like to keep it simple with salt and pepper, but have also been known to whisk in a bit of soy sauce. You do you. 

How to Make Gravy from Food52

If you're making this ahead, let it cool before storing in the fridge, with plastic wrap snuggled against its surface, just like it'd be for pesto. 

How to Make Gravy from Food52

Have any gravy secrets we missed? Let us know in the comments!

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

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Tags: holiday, thanksgiving, gravy, how-to & diy

Comments (22)

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8 months ago Eric Carlson

Seems unusual to use butter in a pan gravy. I just put 2-3 tablespoons of flour and make the roux right in the roasting pan.

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8 months ago soupcon

Forgot to say, DON'T POUR OFF THE FAT. Fat = flavour. It's Thanksgiving or Christmas or some celebration. Diets be damned. Besides you can never have enough gravy like you can never have enough bacon.

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8 months ago soupcon

Forget deglazing with anything. Add flour to make roux, cook roux over very low heat for at least 10 minutes to cook but not burn the flour, add liquid (wine, turkey/chicken stock, beer, water, whatever) slowly until desired thickness whisking to bedevil the lumps. Continue to cook over very low heat. Season to taste. Serve.

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8 months ago foodluver

So glad that a few people commented about using fat saved from the turkey stock for making the gravy. I made the stock last week and froze it, freezing and reserving the fat separately. It seemed to sense to use fat from the stock, rather than butter, but am happy to know that others have done it successfully.

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I recommend using a bit of butter in your roux, even when using the turkey fat. The butter lends a nice flavor -- you don't taste "butter," but it does make a difference -- plus, a roux made just with the poultry fat seems rather heavy. Also, you can use that wonderful turkey fat for drizzling over your pan-baked stuffing before putting it in the oven. It's a great way to add some rich turkey flavor to the crispy topping of your stuffing. ;o)

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8 months ago Michael Levin

If it is not a recipe what is it called. The last time I read anything with ingredients and instruction it was called a RECIPE.
Now look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

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8 months ago BillH

I take the organ meat with the cartilage cut out,(except, not the liver) and meat from the neck and blend in into a slurry. I add this back into the gravy. Makes a very rich full bodied without using flour.

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8 months ago Trifin

Always add an onion, sliced in half, to the pan when roasting a bird or beef. The caramalization will add great flavour to the gravy. Leave the skin on the onion to help colour the gravy.

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8 months ago kim

never heard this- going to try it.

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8 months ago abbyarnold

Brown the flour! My friend Kate taught me that 20 years ago, and I have been able to make perfect, tasty gravy ever since.

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8 months ago Jrdinmo

I just use the broth from roasting the turkey, poured from a fat separator. Then simmer with milk as needed, add cornstarch mixed with water, stirring constantly until thick. Add salt & pepper if needed. My entire family lives for this gravy. Easy and not so unhealthy.

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8 months ago Bianca4s

Oops and I forgot I deglaze with brandy!

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8 months ago Bianca4s

mrslarkin yes I too dream of dining with Antonia James she is quickly becoming my foodie hero as I scroll the comments of each recipe in search of her nuggets - can't wait to try that brining for brussels sprout recipe, they are my husband's favorite and even the kids love them! Ms. James we are in the E. Bay and avid mushroom hunters, my husband dives for abalone and we keep bees and have the most glorious honey - renowned E. Bay chefs vie for it - we barter our surplus ... so we might have to take you up on that invite to hike and dine and we'll bring you the most delicious honey - you cannot imagine how it changes throughout the year from pale gold to deep amber - yum!

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Bianca4s, you are so kind! I'd love to get together. I'll send you an email message privately. Thanks so much for this enthusiastic and friendly post. ;o)

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8 months ago kim

Gravy made ahead…. my grandmother's ghost would be knocking on my kitchen door , kind of like Marley's ghost in A Christmas Carol. Thanksgiving turkey gravy , in our family , is a trust of hallowed culinary simplicity that involves a mason jar, flour and cold water , vigorously shaken and then poured into a molten pan of delicious drippings to be watched and stirred until it becomes a golden brown. It's the ultimate , the crowning culmination to what my grandmother called "a noble bird "

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8 months ago Soozll

The past few years of buying smaller turkey, I just haven't gotten as much juice as I need to make enough gravy. So I've started making stock a few days before using turkey wings. I roast them (400F about 45 mins) with mirepoix until brown, add them to a stock pot, deglaze the pan into the stock pot and add water. Simmer for 3-4 hours and strain (discard solids) into 2 quart measuring bowl, chill and scrap off the fat. Some fat saved to be used as roux if necessary. I then have stock to augment my turkey drippings but also for use in the dressing and for whatever else I need stock. Can add any seasonings you like to the stock pot, I try to keep it simple with salt and pepper.

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8 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Ohhh I made my stock yesterday but I didn't think about saving the fat for the roux - now I will do just that!!!

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Deglaze with a couple tablespoons of Cognac + double that amount of dry white wine. Add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce per quart of stock. (I don't measure, though. I just give the bottle a couple of good shakes.) Finally, put a thumb-sized chunk of salty smoked ham in your stock pot. (If using pre-made stock, put the same-sized piece of ham in your roasting pan with the turkey, to flavor the drippings.) ;o)

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8 months ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Does anyone else dream about having Thanksgiving at AJ'S house?

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

mrslarkin, you're invited! Bring your hiking boots for a great view of the Pacific, the Golden Gate Bridge and the hills of San Francisco, beforehand. You'll work up a pretty good appetite, too. ;o)

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8 months ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Try deglazing the pan with apple juice (in step 1), a trick I learned from Cuisine magazine a bajillion years ago.

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8 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Ohh, I like.