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.)
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.
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!).
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.
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!
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now, she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter.