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6 Pro Tips for Perfect Gravy

These guidelines will help you create the most turkey-rich results you’ve ever tasted.
By Published Nov. 15, 2021

Gravy should be the Thanksgiving host’s pièce de résistance, not a last-minute afterthought that’s thrown together amid the chaos of getting all the food to the table. This approach produces a full-bodied gravy that truly tastes like turkey and can be almost entirely prepared days (or even weeks) ahead of time. Best of all, you don’t need drippings to make it taste great (though you should certainly add them if you have them). Read on and I’ll review the key points.

1. Start with Seriously Flavorful Stock

The most critical component in building flavor is creating a good fond: the flavor-packed browned bits and evaporated juices that form on the bottom of a pan when meat or vegetables are browned. Most gravy recipes build fond by searing turkey parts such as the neck and giblets, but I found that first simmering the turkey parts in chicken broth until the liquid evaporates actually extracts the juices and fat much more thoroughly. Once the liquid evaporates, the entire bottom of the vessel is coated with a gorgeously browned layer of fond. To maximize the effect, do the simmering in a large Dutch oven instead of a saucepan, since it offers almost twice as much surface area for fond development.

2. Bolster The Fond with Fat and Skin

Trimming excess fat and skin from the raw turkey (found at the top of the breast and the bottom of the cavity) and adding it to the pot along with the neck, heart, and gizzard will generate more drippings to enrich the fond. (The roasted bird will look prettier, too.)

3. Don't Defat the Stock

Turkey fat is integral to making gravy that tastes like turkey—not just generically like poultry—because an animal’s fat is a repository for its unique aromatic compounds.

4. Brown the Roux

Before adding the stock, take the time to cook this fat-and-flour paste until it’s deep golden brown, since that color translates into a gravy with equally rich color and nutty depth. Browning the roux also yields a gravy that stays fluid longer (a boon to dinner guests who go back for second helpings) because the starches in the flour break down into smaller molecules that are slow to link up with one another as the gravy cools.

5. Add Drippings (If You've Got Them)

Drippings aren’t essential, but will make the finished gravy taste even better. Be sure to defat them first (the stock adds enough fat), and don’t add more than 1/4 cup or the gravy will be too thin.

6. Make It Ahead

To cut back on last-minute work, prepare and refrigerate the turkey stock up to three days in advance. Alternatively, prepare and freeze the gravy up to two weeks ahead and gently reheat it with the drippings (if using).

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.