I have been making gravy for Thanksgiving and Christmas for years--before I went on to host Thanksgiving on my own. I grew up watching Food Network and my mother would defer to me when it came to how to make gravy from turkey pan drippings. Over the years, I've really mastered this and it is one of the recipes I'm most proud of at the holidays.
There are a lot of opinions about how to make gravy here on the internet. I've seen cornstarch vs. flour, I've seen people make it with water, and some people make it and freeze it. My method uses the fat and pan drippings to make the silkiest, tastiest, most luscious gravy you can serve. Seriously, I get shivers thinking about how much I like it.
What makes gravy taste good?
In order to have the most delicious turkey gravy, you need delicious turkey stock. Don't know how to make turkey stock? Check out my Make Ahead Turkey Stock for Thanksgiving post. It is important and worth the extra step. If you still want to pass on it, make a fortified turkey stock (similar to the process I use in my Chicken Soup recipe) with the turkey neck and Thanksgiving herbs.
Use the turkey fat and the drippings to make your gravy delicious. I see so many recipes toss the turkey fat, but that is a huge no-no. In order to make a gravy, you need to make a roux. While many reach for the butter, you can use that flavor dense turkey fat instead to make an even more delicious and turkey-flavored gravy.
How do you make turkey gravy without pan drippings?
Honestly, it is not ideal, but it is possible. By not having the pan drippings, you are missing the flavor of the turkey and the turkey fat. One solution is to use store bought (ideally from a butcher) schmaltz. Not only is this a non dairy solution, but it is more flavorful than butter. You can always use butter, though.
If you are not using pan drippings, you should use homemade turkey stock for the best flavor. Since the flavor of the gravy will rely solely on the turkey stock, bare minimum you can doctor up some store bought stock. Bare minimum doctored turkey stock:
- Saute the turkey neck and one quartered onion for about 5 minutes on medium.
- Add two-three cartons of low-sodium turkey stock.
- Add 2 bay leaves, 2 rosemary sprigs, a small handful of thyme (like 10 sprigs), and a whole stem of sage leaves.
- If you have some carrots, garlic cloves, or celery chop some up and throw them in too.
- Simmer for about 2 hours on low.
- Strain everything when you are ready to use.
Again, preferably homemade but this will be delicious.
Scrape the pan to loosen the pan drippings
The brown bits at the bottom of the pan have some of the best flavors you can add to your gravy. The technical term for brown bits is called fond. Typically you would deglaze with wine for other dishes and you are welcome to try it here, but I use a ladle or two of my turkey stock.
Hot broth may not need any extra heat all all, but you may have to put your roasted directly onto your stove top to heat and release the brown bits. Before you do this, make sure you are using a roaster that can be used on the stove. This is one of the big reasons why I am anti-aluminum foil turkey pan--something you can read about on my Essential Items for Thanksgiving Post.
How to separate fat from pan drippings
You don't need a fat separator for pan drippings. If you don't have one, all you will need is a glass measuring cup or jar. Pour the pan drippings into the class container. The fat will rise to the top.
From here, you can ladle out the fat into a separate container or directly into the pan.
How to make pan dripping gravy from scratch
Pan dripping gravy is all about a ratio. Here is the ratio I go with:
I like my gravy with a viscosity that will coat your spoon if you dunk it--not too thick, but I hate thin gravy. Remember, you can always thin it out with more stock.
All you need to do is pour the fat (whether you use turkey fat, chicken schmaltz, or butter) into your pan and let it heat on a medium heat. Next, whisk in the flour. Finally and slowly, pour in the pan drippings and stock while whisking. You need to pour slow and whisk fast to prevent lumps. Always, always, always taste and season at the end. I don't salt my stock so I can control the final flavor of my gravy.
- 2/3 cups turkey fat (or shmaltz or buttter)
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 3 cups turkey stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk equal parts fat and flour and cook on medium for about 1 minute.
- Slowly pour in stock while whisking vigorously. Simmer for 2 minutes.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper.
For a deeper flavor, I sometimes add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce.
For a more herby flavor, I like to simmer with a sprig of rosemary.