- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 3 hours
- Makes about 4 cups
When we started developing our test kitchen’s best turkey gravy, we focused on three key components: the giblets, drippings, and deglazing liquid from the roasting pan. Let’s delve into each.
By “giblets,” we mean the turkey neck, heart, gizzard, and liver. In this recipe, we decided to skip the liver because its taste can verge on bitter and metallic in a stock or gravy. The rest of the giblets, however, are full of savory turkey flavor. We’re going to sear the giblets, and then use these to make stock.
Stock may be the most important component of gravy. Of course, you could skip the homemade giblet stock entirely and replace it with store-bought stock (either turkey, chicken, or even vegetable). But, to us, the resulting gravy misses that tiny bit of magic. It would taste good, but today we’re going after the best.
Drippings are the juices that caramelize in the roasting pan as the turkey cooks. Using these in the gravy is another reason why this is our ultimate turkey gravy. Adding a bed of sliced onions, carrots, celery, and herbs at the bottom of the roasting pan ensures your drippings won’t burn, and adds more flavor to the gravy.
The last essential component of our gravy is deglazing When your turkey has finished roasting, the bottom of your roasting pan will be filled with caramelized turkey drippings. Add a splash of stock to the roasting pan and use a wooden spoon to unstick these browned bits. This captures tons of caramelized flavor and ensures a deeply flavorful gravy.
But before you get started, make sure that you own a fat separator. This simple tool will help you distill the drippings into pure turkey flavor, while getting rid of excess fat. If you don’t own a fat separator, you can always use a ladle, but it’ll be a slower process.
Some folks say that the drippings from a brined turkey can make your gravy too salty. But in this recipe, we don’t add any salt until the very end of the cooking process, which means that this gravy should work even for brined birds. When your gravy is thick and ready, taste it. For a brined bird, you may not need to add any extra salt. If you’ve roasted a non-brined turkey, you can then season your gravy to taste.
Lastly, when it comes to gravy, many people want a smooth, silky texture, and dark, rich color. To achieve a silky texture with no lumps, simply add your liquids slowly, while whisking constantly. And the key to that deep rich color is cooking your roux until it turns a nutty dark brown color.
Now, go forth and make gravy! —Josh Cohen
Test Kitchen Notes
I don’t care what anyone says: Never in my life have I experienced a truly foolproof turkey gravy. For starters, I believe in the power of a super-flavorful dry rub loaded up with kosher salt, poultry seasoning, and citrus. The problem? When I make gravy using the pan drippings, the gravy is always, always, always too salty. (What can I say, I like a salty bird!.
The solution? This recipe, which entails adding salt at the end, and adding ¼ cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan intermittently as the turkey roasts. This helps dilute the pan drippings and prevent burning, thus preventing a bitter-tasting gravy.
The other problem I encounter year after year is a general gravy shortage. No matter how much I make, it’s never enough (especially for leftovers, and we all know the secret to great-tasting leftovers is a generous helping of gravy). This recipe promises to make at least four cups of gravy, but it’s not the worst idea to double the batch (you’ll just need to add a little more water). Since there’s no cream involved, you can freeze any excess in a plastic pint or quart container. (But frankly, there won’t be excess if you’re doing Thanksgiving right.)
The other mistake that some home cooks make is overdoing it on gravy components. For this one, we don’t call for much at all—a classic mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrots), fresh thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Gravy should be an accessory to all of the other foods on your plate, without distracting with overpowering flavors. This one hits the mark.
large onion, peeled and cut into ¼-inch half moons
stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
a few sprigs fresh thyme
bay leaves (dried or fresh)
water, plus more as needed
turkey giblets, excluding the liver (so, that leaves you with the neck, heart, and gizzard)
unsalted turkey or chicken stock (preferably homemade, low-sodium works in a pinch, just reduce salt elsewhere accordingly)
whole black peppercorns
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
- Scatter the onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and bay leaves along the bottom of a large roasting pan (where you’ll roast your turkey) Add 1/4 cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast your turkey, using your preferred roasting method. Every 30 to 45 minutes, check the bottom of the roasting pan. If it looks like it’s caramelizing too much or verging on burning, add another ¼ cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan. (Depending on the size of your turkey and roasting pan, this may not be necessary, but better safe than sorry.)
- While the turkey is roasting, make a giblet stock: Place a medium pot over high heat, and add just enough canola oil to cover the bottom of the pot. When the oil is hot, add the turkey giblets and sear them on all sides, flipping them every minute or two, until browned and caramelized. Add the stock and the peppercorns. Simmer for 90 minutes until the stock has taken on a pale golden color and a hearty aroma. Strain the stock and set it aside. You can discard the giblets and peppercorns, or reserve and dice the meat to make a giblet gravy.
- When the turkey is done cooking, carefully tip the turkey sideways so that any extra juices drip into the bottom of the roasting pan. Collect all of the liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan, along with the vegetables and herbs. Strain this liquid, gently pressing on the cooked vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Use a fat separator to separate the fat from the drippings. Get organized: You should now have giblet stock, drippings, and fat, stored in three separate bowls.
- Deglaze your roasting pan by adding ½ cup giblet stock to the pan, then use a wooden spoon to scrape up any caramelized bits stuck to the pan. (If needed, you can place the entire roasting pan on your stovetop over medium heat to help unstick the caramelized bits.) Pour the deglazed liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and combine this with your pan drippings.
- Set a medium pot on the stove over medium heat and add ½ cup of the fat you collected earlier when you roasted the turkey. Add the flour, and whisk to combine. (You’ve just made a roux!) Continue to stir regularly for 8 to 12 minutes, until your roux had toasted and darkened to the color of peanut butter. Work patiently, and resist the urge to turn the heat up—you don’t want to scorch your roux.
- When your roux is a nice deep brown color, slowly add your drippings, whisking continuously the whole time. Your roux should turn into a paste, and then into a thick liquid. While still whisking constantly, slowly add 1 cup giblet stock. Continue thinning your gravy with the giblet stock until you reach a consistency you like. Simmer for 5 minutes until the gravy has reached a thickness that you find desirable.
- Taste your gravy, and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you are making a giblet gravy, add your diced giblet meat now.
- Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days. If your gravy has been chilled in the refrigerator, add about ¼ cup of water when you reheat it to achieve the proper consistency.