Gravy is a simple sauce made by thickening the juices (broth or stock) and fats obtained from meats or vegetables during cooking. Herbs, spices, salt, wine and other flavoring agents may be added. Flour, corn starch, potato starch, arrow root, and tapioca are among the many possible thickening agents.
The first step in gravy making is to obtain your base of broth or drippings. Depending on how you cooked your meat, you will need to do this in varying ways.
If your meat was cooked in a crock-pot, then it is likely that you can just pour the liquid from the crock into a measuring cup. I always strain the broth or drippings through a fine mesh strainer so that I don't get any unwanted solids in the gravy. You generally want your gravy to be smooth, not chunky style.
If you roasted your meat, or sautéed (fried) it on top of the stove, then you may need to deglaze your pan. If you added water to the bottom of the roasting pan while cooking your meat, then this may not be necessary. To deglaze a pan, pour a measured amount of water, equal to the amount of gravy you want, into your pan, and heat it until it starts to simmer. Stir, scraping the sides of the pan to remove any fond that is on the pan. "Fond" is the residue sticking to the pan after browning food. Continue to stir while simmering to dissolve as much as possible of the browned and caramelized bits of meat stuck to the bottom and sides of the pan. When done, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup.
Alternatively, you can use wine; I recommend white wine, or canned broth, to deglaze your pan. Or you can use a combination of water and wine or broth. Using wine or broth will add more flavor to your gravy. If you do use wine, then you need to bring it to a good boil to boil off the alcohol before you add any thickening agent.
If your base seems too thin, or you are just starting with broth, then you may want to reduce the base by simmering it allowing the flavors to concentrate. If you do not reduce it, then your gravy may end up being bland and without much flavor.
Here I will go over how to use flour as a thickener, and how to use corn starch as a thickener. These two thickeners will make a nice smooth gravy. Other thickeners can give your gravy a less smooth or even stringy consistency. There are advantages and disadvantages with both corn starch and flour. Corn starch is good to use if your broth already has a bit of fat blended into it, because you do not need to add fat to the corn starch to combine it with the broth. Gravy made with corn starch doesn't freeze or reheat well though, and can un-thicken, go thin, upon reheating. So if you plan to have leftovers, then flour may be a better thickening agent. Flour thickened gravy will reheat well, but you have to add fat to the flour to combine it with the broth, and it is slightly more difficult to use.
Use All Purpose Flour for this. Other types of flours may have some unexpected results. To make gravy using flour, you make a roux (pronounced "roo"). A roux is a mixture of equal amounts of flour and oil or grease. If you can get oil or grease from the meat that you have cooked or from the broth, without getting any other liquid, then you can use that. If not, then I recommend real butter.
You will need about ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup of fat for every 2 cups of broth to be thickened. For the fat, I recommend butter for its flavor. Other fats like olive oil, bacon grease, chicken fat or lard will also work. In a sauce pan large enough to hold all of your broth or drippings, melt the butter, or grease on low, or if the fat is already in a liquid form heat it on low. Once the butter or grease has melted, whisk your flour into the fat to get a uniform mixture. Heat this mixture at least until it starts to bubble. If you wish you can slightly brown the roux which will add color to your gravy and give it a nuttier flavor. I generally do not brown my roux, as this decreases the thickening properties of the flour, and I don't really care for that browned flour flavor. Pour in the broth or drippings and heat over medium heat until it starts to simmer, whisking well to smooth. Allow it to simmer until the gravy thickens, then remove from the heat.
You will need about 2 Tablespoons of corn starch for every 2 cups of broth or drippings to be thickened. Put your broth and drippings into a sauce pan, and heat to simmering. While this is heating, in your measuring cup put your corn starch and about ¼ cup of cold water for every 2 Tablespoons of corn starch. Stir well. It may be difficult to stir at first, but just keep working at it and you will be able to get the corn starch stirred into the water. When your broth is simmering, turn up the heat slightly, start stirring the corn starch and water mixture in your measuring cup (the corn starch sometimes settles to the bottom, so you need to stir it again). While stirring the corn starch and water mixture, pour it into your simmering broth. Stir well, or whisk, to mix the corn starch mixture into the broth. Bring the gravy back up to a simmer again, and simmer until it thickens, stirring as necessary, then remove from the heat.
Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat, but also in barley and rye. If you want to make gravy that is gluten free, then do not use any wheat, barley or rye products in your gravy. So this means you can not thicken your gravy with All Purpose Flour, or any flour made from barley, rye, or wheat, which is what your typical flour is made from. Thicken with corn starch as outlined above, or use other thickeners.
Season your gravy with salt and pepper to taste. Or instead of salt you can use soy-sauce, which will darken your gravy and add salt and soy flavor. You can also add other darkening flavoring agents like Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master. You may also consider adding minced cooked mushrooms, minced cooked giblets, fresh or dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, or sage), and (or) heavy cream to your gravy. If you are using some herb in your gravy, then use just one, and use about half the amount you think you should, this will make the flavoring much more subtle. The gravy can then be put into a nice gravy boat for serving.
Tip #1: For more flavor, instead of using flour or corn starch, purchase instant gravy packets. Use your broth or drippings instead of water with the instant gravy mix. If necessary, add enough water to make up any shortage of broth/drippings. Treat the gravy mix like you would corn starch, mixing it with a little cold water first, or you will end up with broth with a lump of gooey gravy mix in it.
Tip #2: If I know I will be having guests for a Turkey dinner, the week before I am to have the turkey dinner, I make chicken in my Rotisserie oven, and save the chicken drippings. I store these in the refrigerator and remove the fat from the top. I can then use the chicken drippings and possibly the fat along with the turkey drippings to make my gravy.
Tip #3: You generally do not want much fat in your gravy, or it will separate out and you will have grease or oil floating on top of your gravy -- probably not what you want. If the fat does separate out of your gravy, then use paper towels to soak up as much of the oil as you can, discarding them. Reheat the gravy, stirring well and it should all come together again.
Tip #4: Lumps in gravy are generally masses of your thickener that didn't get properly mixed into your gravy. With flour, this happens if you get moisture into your flour and then heat it before it is fully mixed either with fat or with your drippings. Trying to thicken gravy with flour, but using no fat, is difficult at best, and will often result in lumpy gravy. So to avoid lumps, make sure you are mixing your flour only with fat first, and then add that mixture to your broth. With corn starch, you get lumps if you attempt to mix the dry corn starch into a warm (or hot) liquid. Make sure you mix your corn starch with cold water. To fix lumpy gravy, you can just strain your gravy through a mesh strainer, and then discard the lumps. Do not mash the lumps through the strainer.
Look forward to recipe pages for Vegetarian Gravy and Red-Eye Gravy.
This site is protected by copyright and trademark laws under US and International law. © 2002-2015 M. Craig Weaver All rights reserved.
Rendered: Friday July 03 2015
My opinions are not regulated by any recognized authority - I am neither competent nor authorized to dispense advice of any kind. It is probably best to ignore me.