Gravy 101: Tips, tricks, and all your pressing gravy questions, answered
I am a gravy fan. Make it rain gravy! I like my food saucy, not dry. A little pot of glistening, glossy gravy should be on the side of every meal. Rice? Tastes better with gravy. Toast? Have you tried toast and gravy?! Meats? Yep, they NEED gravy. They crave it. Gravy is such a integral part to a good meal. Don’t settle for bad, lumpy, flavorless gravy. To make the gravy of your dreams, read on.
I never realized gravy was such a contentious food item until one year, while we were over at a buddy’s place, someone drunkenly took over the gravy making. The gravy ended up lumpy and lifeless and Thanksgiving dinner, while far from being ruined, went from spectacular to lackluster. The host had graciously let the guest make the gravy but I could see the pain in his eyes. Gravy is the soul to a good holiday meal. Give your holiday meal a good soul. Make the best gravy you can make.
What is gravy?
At it’s simplest, gravy is a sauce. A super simple sauce made from three things: fat, flour, and liquid. Gravy is easy to make but far too often people turn to those little powdered packs because they’re scared of lumps. Don’t fear lumps friends. If your gravy ends up a bit lumpy, you can just strain it with a fine mesh strainer! Don’t let lumps stop you.
This is my personal golden ratio. Not too thin, not too thick, the goldilocks of gravy.
- The golden gravy ratio: 1:1:12
1 tbsp fat to 1 tbsp flour to 3/4 cup (12 tbsp) liquid.
- If you want a thinner gravy, go for: 1:1:16
1 tbsp fat to 1 tbsp flour to 1 cup (16 tbsp) liquid
- If you want a thicker gravy, go for: 2:2:16
2 tbsp fat to 2 tbsp flour to 1 cup (16 tbsp) liquid
How to make gravy
Heat up the fat over low heat in a pan.
Sprinkle on the flour and whisk in to make a roux.
Cook the roux until light brown while whisking or stirring. The roux will look like a sandy paste.
Slowly stream in stock or drippings while whisking constantly. Whisking constantly during this step eliminates lumps!
Bring the heat up to medium-high and cook, until the gravy starts to thicken, whisking occasionally.
Taste and season with salt and pepper!
What kind of fat for gravy?
You can use the fat that comes off your meat when you cook it or you can use butter. Really, any kind of fat works: bacon fat, sausage fat, fat from roasts, any fat goes.
What are drippings?
Drippings are the liquid at the bottom of your roasting dish when you make a roast. They’re a mix of fat and meat juices and have a huge amount of rich flavors. To separate the fat from the stock, carefully transfer your drippings to a liquid measuring cup. The lighter stuff floating on top is fat and the darker stuff underneath is stock or meat juices.
What if my roast doesn’t have any drippings?
Sometimes you roast a piece of meat and there are no drippings. Maybe your roast was lean or on the small side. Help out your future self by adding a tiny amount of no-sodium stock to your pan while you roast, about 1/4 inch or so. The resulting drippings will be supplemented by the fat and meat juices from your roast. If you need to top up your drippings, just pour the drippings into a liquid measuring cup, scoop off the fat, then top it up with no sodium broth or bouillon.
What is a roux
A roux is a mix of butter and flour cooked together into a paste that can thicken liquids. There’s a bunch of science behind why it works but all you need to know is: roux is flour and fat.
The secret ingredient to the best gravy
The secret to the best gravy is a boost of color and umami thanks to one of my favorite ingredients ever: soy sauce! Soy sauce will make your gravy naturally deliciously golden brown and add just a hint of umami in the background. No one will know why, but your gravy will be absolutely addictive. Just add 1-3 teaspoons at the end when you’re seasoning, depending on how much color and saltiness you want.
What if I don’t want to use flour?
If you’re gluten free or just avoid flour in general, you’re probably wondering, can I make gravy without flour? The answer is yes, you can make cornstarch gravy using the slurry method. Cornstarch gravy is glossy and shiny without the opaqueness that you get from gravy with flour. It’s a bit lighter on the palette and silky smooth. Some people swear by it, some people think it’s a travesty. I think cornstarch gravy is great! It’s never ever lumpy so if you’re a novice gravy maker, cornstarch gravy is for you!
To make cornstarch gravy:
- Make a slurry: whisk together 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp water until smooth.
- Bring 3/4 cup of drippings (you can leave some fat in there for flavor) up to a simmer in a pot over medium heat.
- Whisk the slurry into the drippings and let come to a simmer.
- Taste and season.
Classic is best, but if you want a couple of fun gravy flavors, these are here for you!
Remove one sausage from its casing and cook in a heavy bottomed skillet, breaking into pieces, until brown and cooked through. Whisk in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly stream in 3/4 cup milk while whisking. Let simmer and thicken. Season generously with freshly ground pepper.
Finely chop some fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary and stir in at the end, when you’re seasoning.
Cook sliced mushrooms in the butter. Add an extra tablespoon of butter and whisk in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly stream in the stock while whisking. Let simmer and thicken.
Red wine and shallot gravy
Melt the butter, then add the shallots and cook until soft. Whisk in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly stream in a mix of 3/4 cup stock and 1/4 cup wine while whisking. Let simmer and thicken.
Sage brown butter gravy
Melt the butter and add the sage leaves. Let the butter brown over low heat. When nutty and aromatic, whisk in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly stream in the stock while whisking. Let simmer and thicken.
What to eat with gravy
- Gravy and crispy potatoes always!
- And um, am I the only one who likes to drown their stuffing in gravy?
- Turkey is always a good choice
- English roast, anyone?
- Biscuits and gravy will forever be the BEST breakfast
Bonus gravy posts
- Crispy Chicken Fried Steak Bites with White Wine Sausage Gravy
- Köttbullar med Gräddsås: Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce
- The Ultimate Breakfast Poutine: Fries, Crispy Quail Eggs, Cheese Curds and Bacon Gravy
Classic Gravy Recipe
- 1tbspbutteror fat from drippings, or other fat, see notes
- 1cupchicken stockno sodium preferred, or pan drippings
- 1tspsoy sauceoptional
Add the butter to the pan and melt over medium heat.
Sprinkle on the flour and whisk in. Cook for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden and sandy.
Slowly whisk in the drippings or stock and cook, whisking constantly until the gravy starts to thicken.
Which thick and gravy-ful, remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, stirring in the optional soy sauce, if using. Enjoy warm!
Other fat options: bacon fat, sausage fat, fat from roasts, any fat goes.