Gravy isn’t just a way to cover up a less-than-moist turkey (it happens to the best of us), or to use as the hot lava in a mashed potato volcano (you’re never too old for this). A good gravy makes sure one of the best tasting things that’s been created in your kitchen doesn’t end up getting poured down the drain: pan drippings! As your turkey roasts, it slowly renders fat and releases natural juices, which end up creating exceptionally flavorful brown bits as they concentrate and caramelize in the bottom of a scorchingly hot roasting pan. Not taking full advantage of them with be a crime against turkey. And, since the turkey needs to rest for well over half an hour before it’s ready to carve, you’ve got plenty of time to make a gravy so good, you may be tempted to skip the bird all together and enjoy gravy by the spoonful for dinner.
First Things First, The Turkey Stock
To make gravy, you’ll need some turkey stock. Some people make their own using turkey necks, wing tips, gizzards and whatever else. If you can do that, more power to you! There’s a lot going on while making Thanksgiving dinner, and space on the stovetop is at a premium, so if you can manage to do make your own stock you’re already a champion. If you can’t, though, it’s not a problem: store bought turkey or chicken stock is more than fine. There’s two “hacks” you can try if you’re happy with the plain stock out of the box.
The Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Method
First hack: use a small slow cooker or pressure cooker to make your own stock without sacrificing stovetop space. Add your turkey pieces, vegetable scraps gathered from cooking (onion and garlic skins, carrot peels, celery tops, stems from herbs), and enough water to cover it all by about 4 inches. If using a slow cooker, set it on low for at least six hours.
Set it up right before bed the night before Thanksgiving, so in the morning you’ll have a hot pot of stock, as well as a house that smells simply amazing.
For an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, cook on high pressure for 45 minutes, then allow it to naturally release for at least 15 minutes before venting, or let it naturally release completely if you’d rather just ignore the pot completely. Drain your stock, discard the solids, and allow to cool until the fat rises to the top, which you’ll skim and discard.
The Stovetop Method
The second stock hack is great if you don’t have any special equipment and need to use your stove, or if you simply do not have the time to make your own turkey stock: put store bought stock into a large saucepan with the turkey neck and some vegetable scraps (same as above), then bring to a boil and drop down to a simmer for at least 15 minutes.
This is an especially great method to use if you’ve pulled the turkey out of the oven and realize that, in the madness of making dinner, you’ve completely forgotten to make turkey stock.
You can make this enriched stock and make homemade gravy in less time than it takes to properly rest a roasted turkey, so no matter what your timing or prepping situation is, you can relax and know that you’ll have a delicious gravy ready to go when it’s time to eat.
Gather Your Ingredients
Now that you’ve got your stock and turkey drippings, you’ll also need a bit of flour, a few pats of butter (or non-dairy butter substitute), and, if you’d like, a bit of white wine. You can also add some fresh herbs at the end if you’d like, but truthfully, if you’ve got flavorful stock, rich pan drippings, and caramelized, unburnt bits stuck to the bottom of your roasting pan, you’re going to have a beautifully flavored turkey gravy that doesn’t need any additional flavorings. The addition of fresh herbs is entirely up to you.
Refrigerate The Drippings
Pour all the drippings from the pan into a liquid measuring cup or gravy separator. Place on a flat surface in the freezer or refrigerator while you begin making the gravy, which will hasten the separation of fat from the drippings.
Heat The Stock
Heat up ½ cup of stock or white wine in either a saucepan or the microwave until steamy, then pour into the hot roasting pan and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up all the brown bits (“fond,” in kitchen speak) stuck to the bottom.
If the pan is a bit too cold to get all the fond off of it, pop it back into a hot oven for a few minutes to heat up, or put it over two stove burners over medium-low heat while scraping.
Pour the liquid off into a mug or small bowl and set aside.
Mix Drippings and Stock
Take out the measuring cup full of pan drippings — the fat should have risen to to the top. Use a a spoon to skim off all the fat into a small bowl. Determine how many cups of gravy you’d like to make, then mix together all the turkey drippings and enough turkey stock to reach that amount.
Make a Roux
Put a large saucepan over medium-high heat. For every cup of gravy you’d like to make, add one tablespoon of turkey fat, and one tablespoon of all-purpose flour (if you run out of turkey fat, use butter or cooking oil). Cook for one minute, while stirring, to make a thick roux.
Add in Turkey Drippings
Whisk in ½ cup of the turkey drippings stock to loosen the roux. When it thickens, add another ½ cup. Repeat this process, adding 1 cup of stock at a time, until you’ve added all your stock. Turn heat up to high, bring to a bare simmer, then reduce heat to low.
Don't Forget the Butter
While whisking, add one ½ tablespoon-sized piece of butter for every cup of gravy you’ve made. Taste for seasonings, adding salt, pepper and herbs as desired. Serve immediately.