Thanksgiving

The 1-2-3 Gravy You Can (& Should) Make in Advance

You can thank yourself on Thanksgiving.

October 31, 2018

I have a Thanksgiving confession. I always thought you couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't make gravy before the turkey was out of the oven. Those pan juices are crucial for the biggest, boldest flavor, right?

Wrong. In our shiny new video series, Dear Test Kitchen, our test kitchen director Josh Cohen answers questions just like this—inspired by our Hotline—and brings along his own tips, tricks, mini recipes, and mashed potatoes. (Josh is just like that.)

Here's what he taught me: Good gravy doesn't have to start with good turkey. It has to start with good stock. And good stock can be made any time of the year. Like (checks watch) right now, weeks before Thanksgiving. (Worth noting: There are also milk-based gravies, but that's another talk for another day.)

Let's call Josh's method the 1-2-3:

  1. Roast the stock ingredients—yep, before you boil them. Give chopped onion, carrots, and celery, plus a standout ingredient (say, chicken wings or assorted mushrooms) a spin in the oven until deeply browned.
  2. Simmer into the most flavorful stock, then save it for later. Add these roasted ingredients to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 4 to 6 hours. Strain. Refrigerate for a few days. Or freeze for a few weeks, even months (months!).
  3. Make a classic roux-and-stock gravy, on a moment's notice. Josh's go-to formula: 2 tablespoons fat (such as butter) + 2 tablespoons flour + 1 cup stock = gravy. Season with salt to taste and, well, that's it. This, too, can be done in advance: Just keep in the fridge for a few days before the holiday, then rewarm gently on the stove.

Because he's an overachiever, Josh shows us another method: Order turkey necks in advance (just ask your butcher nicely), then boil those with the same vegetables mentioned above (no need to roast them too). Josh loves this method just as much as the 1-2-3 because it yields a bonus. I'd tell you what it is, but I don't want to ruin the fun for Josh (he really loves talking about it).

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Whichever method you pick, they're both great for one big reason: They can be made in advance. And they're just as wonderful as pan drippings–based gravy. And they eliminate any last-minute scrambling when your turkey comes out of the oven. Which means, when you would have been making gravy, now you can do whatever you want. Football-watching? Wine-drinking? The world is your plate of gravy-covered mashed potatoes.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I get that that un-roasted turkey necks yield a bonus, but if the gravy is not as good (and from the tasting it seemed like it was not as flavorful) then what's the point? This is Thanksgiving - I don't want to serve chicken gravy! I want the best make ahead turkey gravy I can make. What I usually do is roast turkey wings and necks and make a stock from them. I also fry up the giblets that come with my actual Tday turkey and add them in the day of. You can also make the whole gravy in advance and freeze, then just rewarm before serving, making sure to whisk out any separation or lumps.”
— Kimberly F.
Comment

If you’re wondering about the turkey itself—we are, too. Stay tuned for more from Dear Test Kitchen next week!

What are your best gravy tricks? Spill ’em in the comments!

40 Comments

loyalt November 18, 2018
How much water for the roasted vegetable and turkey neck version? I am going to make this for a large group, like 20 people...how much would I need for that many people? Thank you in advance for your help!
 
donna November 18, 2018
I made my stock today. Roasted turkey wings along with onions, carrots and celery. Simmered for ~ 5 hours. Smells awesome! I ended up with 7 cups of stock. Therefore I should use 7 TBL of butter and 7 TBL of flour for the roux?
 
loyalt November 18, 2018
What were your ratios of ingredients to water for your stock?<br />
 
donna November 18, 2018
I don't know. i just added enough water to be about 2 inches above covering the roasted wings/veggies. After simmering I strained it and the remaining turkey broth was 7 cups.
 
Molly S. November 16, 2018
Is there a recipe for the mushroom stock?
 
Glenn B. November 16, 2018
Josh,<br />How many onions, carrots, celery stalks do you use? Can you roast the vegetables and then boil them with the turkey necks to get a darker gravy?<br />Thanks,<br />Glenn
 
Josh C. November 16, 2018
Hi Glenn,<br />I used one onion, and two carrots and three celery stalks - you can certainly roast them and then boil them with the turkey necks to get a darker gravy
 
Bebe7 November 12, 2018
How long and what temperature do you roast the vegetables and chicken wings, or just vegetables?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 13, 2018
Hi! Figure anywhere between 375°F and 450°F—and long enough so that all the ingredients are deeply browned. Since they're just going toward flavoring the stock, this step is very flexible and forgiving.
 
Josh C. November 16, 2018
If you have a convection setting on your oven, use convection at 475 for about 20-30 minutes. If you don't have convection, you can do 500 for about 20-30 minutes.
 
judy S. November 10, 2018
Josh, I really need to know the quantity of each vegetable. I am going to go with the chic wings and roasted veggies. I want to make sure I have a hearty stock. Please, can you give the actually amount of veggies and how many chicken wings. I tried printing bu even so, no quantities specified.
 
Debbie November 14, 2018
Me too, please.
 
Glenn B. November 16, 2018
How many vegetables and turkey necks? Can you roast the vegetables and then boil them with the turkey necks to get a darker gravy?<br />
 
Josh C. November 16, 2018
try 2 pounds of chicken wings, 1 onion, 2 carrots, and 3 celery stalks. After they are roasted, cover with water in a large pot and simmer for a few hours (3-4 hours). It can be inexact, your stock will taste delicious even if you make slight alterations to the quantities and/or cooking time.
 
Josh C. November 16, 2018
4-6 turkey necks should work well (they can vary in size, 4 large ones or 6 smaller ones)
 
Rhonda35 November 9, 2018
I've made my Thanksgiving turkey gravy ahead of time for years. My method is similar to Josh's (using turkey necks or wings and roasted vegetables to make stock), but I have an additional step: once my stock is ready, I roast a few turkey parts (drumsticks, thighs, wings) so I have the pan drippings that add rich flavor to gravy. When the parts are done roasting, I use the stock to make gravy with the drippings and then freeze it, thawing the night before Thanksgiving and gently rewarming on the big day. The bonus is I have some delicious roasted turkey meat for "pre-gaming" a few weeks before the holiday!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 13, 2018
Thanks for this great tip, Rhonda!
 
Heather G. November 8, 2018
I love these ideas! How could I do this with my insta-pot? Or is it best on the stove?
 
Josh C. November 16, 2018
insta-pot works well for making stock
 
Julie November 7, 2018
Oh my -- this was a great video! It really takes the pressure off to prepare the gravy ahead -- I always dread it and I am usually disappointed in the results - but this gives me hope. Thanks so much!!!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 7, 2018
So happy to hear that, Julie! You got this!
 
Alicia November 6, 2018
Great information! Thanks so much! What fat would you recommend if you are preparing the mushroom gravy for vegans?
 
Josh C. November 7, 2018
You can use a neutral oil like canola oil or grapeseed oil if you are making this for vegans
 
Alicia November 7, 2018
Sweet! Thank you! Have a fantastic day!
 
Kimberly W. November 6, 2018
I understand from the reply to the other comment that a "recipe" wasn't provided because these gravy methods are so adaptable; however, can we know the quantities used for the chicken wing method - for a starting point? Also, how much water was used for the boiling of the roasted chicken & veggies? I've never made homemade stock (I know - shame on me!), so my worry would be I'd either start with too little water and it would simmer away - or too much water and my stock wouldn't be flavorful enough. If I can get some additional guidance, I'm definitely going to give this a try this Turkey Day! Thanks in advance!
 
Josh C. November 7, 2018
Hi Kimberly, a good general ratio for stock is 1 gallon of water for every 2 pounds of chicken. The addition of veggies and/or herbs and/or dry spices won't change that basic ration. Homemade stock is wonderful, and you won't have any trouble making it. All the ingredients in the stock pot should be submerged in water. You're stock won't simmer away to nothing and it will be flavorful.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 7, 2018
Thank you for these tips, Josh!
 
Kimberly W. November 7, 2018
Thank you so much!! I can't wait to give this a try this year!
 
JP November 13, 2018
That would make for some weak stock! I recommend a pound to a pound and a half bones per quart of end product broth.<br />
 
Madeline M. November 5, 2018
Is there a written recipe for this gravy?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 5, 2018
Hi Madeline! We didn't create a recipe page because it's such a flexible, adaptable method. Follow the steps above and you should be all set. If you have a specific question about one of those steps, let me know and hopefully I can help.
 
Victoria C. November 3, 2018
This is a good video, and you have a SAVE button, but no print button. How come?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 5, 2018
Hi Victoria! The save button saves it to your recipe/article collections on Food52 (not to your computer). Depending on what browser you're using, it should still be easy to print. I use Chrome and just go up top to "File", then click "Print."
 
Victoria C. November 3, 2018
This is a really good video, and you have a Save button but no print button. How come?
 
mollenne November 1, 2018
Thank you so much for posting all of this weeks in advance! Loved the video - I learned so much! I'm inspired to try these different approaches - best part is to be able to do this in advance and not sacrifice quality!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 1, 2018
Thanks, Mollenne! So glad you learned a lot from the video. (I did, too!)
 
Kimberly F. November 1, 2018
I get that that un-roasted turkey necks yield a bonus, but if the gravy is not as good (and from the tasting it seemed like it was not as flavorful) then what's the point? This is Thanksgiving - I don't want to serve chicken gravy! I want the best make ahead turkey gravy I can make. What I usually do is roast turkey wings and necks and make a stock from them. I also fry up the giblets that come with my actual Tday turkey and add them in the day of. You can also make the whole gravy in advance and freeze, then just rewarm before serving, making sure to whisk out any separation or lumps.
 
Gloria F. November 1, 2018
Yep - turkey wings are the base of my gravy base, too.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 1, 2018
Thanks for sharing these tips, Kimberly! It's cool to hear that your approach is a mix of Josh's methods (roasting first and using turkey necks). My family is still debating which gravy we want to serve this year (my vote is for mushroom), but we're super excited about making it in advance.
 
fisher6188 November 6, 2018
Trader Joe's sells turkey broth this time of year. It is housed with the chicken, beef, and vegetable broths.