Gravy 101: tips, tricks and all your pressing gravy questions, answered
I'm a sauce fan. Make it a rain sauce! I like my food that is tasty, not dry. A small pot of bright and shiny sauce should accompany every meal. Rice? Tastes better with the sauce. Toast? Have you tried toast and gravy ?! Meats? Yes, they need the sauce. They want it. Sauce is an integral part of a good meal. Don't settle for a bad, lumpy, flavorless sauce. To make the sauce of your dreams, read on.
I never realized gravy was such a controversial food for a year, when we were at a buddy's house, someone took over the making of the sauce. The gravy ended up lumpy and lifeless and Thanksgiving dinner, while far from ruined, went from spectacular to drab. The host had graciously let the guest make the sauce but I could see the pain in his eyes. Sauce is the soul of a great holiday meal. Give a good soul to your holiday meal. Make the best sauce you can make.
What is the sauce?
At its simplest, the sauce is a sauce. A super simple sauce made from three things: fat, flour and liquid. Gravy is easy to make, but all too often people turn to these little packets of powder because they're afraid of lumps. Don't be afraid of friends. If your sauce ends up being a bit lumpy, you can simply strain it with a fine mesh strainer! Don't let the bumps stop you.
This is my personal golden ratio. Neither too thin nor too thick, the golden curls of the sauce.
- The ratio of golden sauce: 1: 1: 12
1 C. 1 tablespoon of fat for 1 tbsp. Flour for 3/4 cup (12 Tbsp) of liquid.
- If you want a thinner sauce, go for: 1: 1: 16
1 C. 1 tablespoon of fat for 1 tbsp. Flour for 1 cup (16 Tbsp) of liquid
- If you want a thicker sauce, go for: 2: 2: 16
2 tbsp. Tablespoon of fat for 2 tbsp. Flour for 1 cup (16 Tbsp) of liquid
How to make sauce
- Heat raise the fat over low heat in a saucepan.
- Sprinkle over the flour and whisk to make a roux.
- cook the roux until light brown, whisking or stirring. The roux will look like a sandy paste.
- Slowly drip in stock or drip while whisking constantly. Whipping constantly during this step eliminates lumps!
- To bring heat to medium-high and cook until sauce begins to thicken, whisking occasionally.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper!
- Heat raise the fat over low heat in a saucepan.
What kind of fat for the sauce?
You can use the fat that comes off your meat when you cook it, or you can use butter. Really, any type of fat works: bacon fat, sausage fat, roast fat, all fat goes.
What are drops?
Drips are the liquid at the bottom of your roasting pan when roasting. They are a mixture of fat and gravy and have a tremendous amount of rich flavor. To separate the fat from the broth, carefully transfer your cooking juices to a liquid measuring cup. The lighter substance floating on top is oily, and the darker substance below is broth or gravy.
What if my roast has no cooking juices?
Sometimes you roast a piece of meat and there is no cooking juices. Maybe your roast was lean or small. Help yourself in the future by adding a small amount of sodium-free broth to your pan while you roast, about 1/4 inch or so. The cooking juices obtained will be supplemented by the fat and the gravy of your roast. If you need to top up your drops, simply pour the drops into a liquid measuring cup, remove the fat, and then top it off without broth or sodium broth.
What is a redhead
A roux is a mixture 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 in the best sauce
The secret to the best sauce is a burst of color and umami from one of my favorite ingredients: soy sauce! The soy sauce will make your sauce naturally deliciously golden and add just a hint of umami in the background. No one will know why, but your sauce will be absolutely addicting. Just add 1-3 teaspoons at the end when seasoning, depending on the color and salty taste you want.
What if I don't want to use flour?
If you are gluten free or just avoid flour in general you are probably wondering if I can make gravy without flour? The answer is yes, you can make cornstarch sauce using the slurry method. Cornstarch sauce is bright and shiny without the opacity you get from flour sauce. It's a bit lighter on the palette and silky smooth. Some people swear by it, others think it's a travesty. I think the cornstarch sauce is excellent! It's never lumpy, so if you're a novice sauce maker, cornstarch sauce is for you!
To make a cornstarch sauce:
- Make a porridge: whisk together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water until smooth.
- Bring 3/4 cup of the cooking juices (you can leave a little fat in it for flavor) and simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Whisk the slurry in the juice and simmer.
- Taste and season.
The classic is the best, but if you want some fun sauce flavors, these are the ones for you!
Remove a sausage from its casing and cook in a heavy-bottomed pan, breaking it into pieces, until golden brown and cooked through. Stir in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly add 3/4 cup of milk while whisking. Simmer and thicken. Season generously with freshly ground pepper.
Finely chop some fresh sage, thyme and rosemary and stir them at the end, when seasoning.
Cook the sliced mushrooms in the butter. Add an extra tablespoon of butter and whisk in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly filter through the broth while whisking. Simmer and thicken.
Red wine and shallot sauce
Melt the butter, then add the shallots and cook until tender. Stir in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly add a mixture of 3/4 cup broth and 1/4 cup wine while whisking. Simmer and thicken.
Sage brown butter sauce
Melt the butter and add the sage leaves. Let the butter brown over low heat. When it is nutty and aromatic, whisk in the flour and cook lightly. Slowly filter through the broth while whisking. Simmer and thicken.
What to eat with sauce
Bonus Sauce Posts
Classic sauce recipe
Classic sauce with soy sauce to increase your gravy sauce to new gravy heights.
- 1 tablespoon Butter or fat from cooking juices, or other fat, see notes
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 Chopped off chicken stock no sodium preferred, no cooking juices
- 1 teaspoon soya sauce optional
Other fat options: bacon fat, sausage fat, roast fat, all fat is gone.
Classic sauce recipe
Quantity per serving
Calories 75 Calories from Fat 52
% Daily Value *
Fat 5.8 g9%
Saturated fat 3.7g23%
Cholesterol 15 mg5%
Sodium 106 mg5%
Potassium 132 mg4%
Carbohydrates 3.5 g1%
Sugar 0.5 g1%
Protein 2.5 g5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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