Perfect Gravy

October 30, 2010
Author Notes

I'm mystified by folks who are plagued by lumpy gravy. Traditional Southern gravy couldn't be simpler to make, and I have never had it be lumpy. It's gravy, so you have to get over using fat to make it, and you must salt it adequately. This gravy, made with flour instead of cornstarch, thickens well and does not have the iridescent translucency of cornstarch-thickened recipes. - BethShortt —BethShortt

Test Kitchen Notes

A minimalist recipe for when you need gravy in a matter of minutes and have no time to run to the store. Taking the time to create a bronzed flour before adding the butter results in a sweet, nutty flavor that makes the finished gravy taste like it took much more time to create than was actually necessary. Since there are so few ingredients, the quality of each is essential to this turning out well. - Maddy —The Editors

  • Serves 6-8
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or rendered fat (from turkey, chicken, or beef, depending on what you're serving)
  • 4 cups stock (chicken, turkey, or beef, again depending on what you're serving
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In This Recipe
  1. Using a 10" skillet or 2 quart saucepan, cook the flour over medium heat until it turns a light golden brown. Watch carefully and whisk constantly--once the flour begins to color, it can scorch in seconds. If the flour does burn, throw it out, wash the pan, and start over. There is no recovery from burned flour.
  2. When the flour is a light brown, add the fat. Butter works fine when you don't have "drippings" but the flavor will be less intense. (Do not use oil!) Stir well, blending the flour and the fat. The consistency will be pasty.
  3. Slowly add half the stock, stirring as you pour, and continue cooking over medium heat. It does not matter if the liquid is hot or cold when you add it. The gravy may look lumpy or curdled at first, but as it cooks, it will smooth out. When the gravy comes to a slow boil, it will thicken considerably. Add the remaining stock, continuing to stir at a simmer, until the gravy has the thickness you prefer. You may need a little more or less than 4 cups of liquid.
  4. If the gravy thickens too much, it can be thinned with additional stock or water.
  5. Once the gravy has the consistency you prefer, add salt and pepper to taste. It is very important to add salt gradually, 1/2 teaspoon to begin, and then by 1/4 teaspoons, tasting after each addition has been stirred in, but being sure to add enough salt. Gravy needs salt.
  6. Variations: Pinches of herbs such as thyme and sage may be added if you like. A few tablespoons of white wine may be substituted for part of the liquid.
  7. Gravy can be kept warm for an hour or so, but it will form a skin which should be skimmed before serving. It may also continue to thicken as it sits, so it may be necessary to whisk in a little hot water or stock to thin it just before serving.
  8. Variation: to make "cream" gravy for biscuits, substitute sausage drippings for the fat and use milk (or cream thinned with water) as the liquid. A dash of hot sauce or pinch of red pepper flakes may be added to the salt and pepper as seasoning, and cooked, finely chopped sausage can be mixed in.
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