Making homemade gravy is a must for holiday meals and lucky for us, it’s not that hard to do. But sometimes we need a little help, a little tweak, to get things just right.
Here are a bunch of tips and tricks for jazzing up this oh-most-flavorful sauce that I’ve collected from my notes and cookbook collection (and gleaned from years of experience roasting meat a time or two).
It’s my personal “Master Tip Sheet” that I refer to and I’m happy to share it with you here on Tipnut.
Too lumpy? No problem, it’s a quick fix.
Too pale in color? Lots of easy solutions.
Too thick or thin? Help is here!
Whether it’s chicken, turkey, beef or even vegetable stock gravy, these all pretty much apply.
If there’s a special trick you’ve learned along the way that’s not listed here, please feel free to share it in the comments section below so we can try it out.
Now on to the goodies…I’m confident you’ll find a trick or two to add to your own collection of notes.
Last Minute “in a pinch” Fixes To Darken Gravy
- Instant Coffee Granules
- Soy Sauce
- Dark Molasses
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Try enhancers like Kitchen Bouquet
Kitchen Bouquet Copycat Recipe
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
- Cook brown sugar slowly in a pan on stovetop till it burns, stir slowly throughout entire cooking process.
- Once the sugar turns dark brown in color, add the water. Bring to a boil, stir well.
- Remove from heat after sugar is near black in color.
- Once cooled, seal in sterilized jars or small bottles. Use as needed, normally just a few drops at a time will do the trick.
Burnt Sugar Caramel Darkener (Idea similar to above)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 TBS water
1 cup boiling water
- Cook brown sugar and the 2 tablespoons water over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
- Slowly add boiling water and continue cooking until mixture becomes syrupy (approximately 15 minutes).
- Bottle and use as needed.
Dark Roast Flour for Roux & Thickener
2 cups flour
- Roast flour in oven, stirring frequently to brown evenly.
- Process will take several hours, brown until the color of light cocoa.
- Store in airtight container and use as needed.
- Use for thickening and making roux, the roasted brown hue of the flour will deepen the color too.
Caramel Powder Recipe
2 cups brown sugar
- Line baking pan (10x15x2 inches) with foil–make sure to line sides as well by folding foil up and over edges.
- In a large nonstick saucepan or frypan, cook sugar over medium-high heat. Shake pan frequently until most of the sugar is syrup, approximately 10 minutes.
- Reduce to medium heat and continue swirling the syrup until all sugar is dissolved. After 3 to 5 minutes the color should be a deep, rich amber.
- Pour hot syrup into the foil lined pan, spreading into a thin layer. Be very careful, it’s HOT! Set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes.
- Once completely cool, lift caramel out and remove foil. Break caramel into chunks.
- Using a food processor, grind chunks down into a powder.
- Store in an airtight container.
- Add as needed for darkening
You can also cook your spices in with the syrups and roasted flour if you’d like, or simply add at the time you are preparing the gravy (preferred method).
When Using Roux
Brown roux to the color that you want your sauce to be, the roasted flour (recipe above) helps achieve the rich hue more quickly.
Getting Rid of Lumps
It happens to the best of us: lumps…it looks nasty but no worries, this is an easy fix! Simply:
- Pour the sauce through a sieve or metal strainer, this will remove the lumps. Return to pan and simmer until ready to serve.
- You could also use an immersion blender (just stick it right in the roaster & go at it).
- If you have only a few lumps to contend with, one simple solution is to smash them with a rubber spatula then whisk well into the sauce.
Two easy ways to make sure that the sauce is flavorful and not too fatty:
- Pour pan juices into a fat separator, let it sit for a few minutes then pour out of the spout (the fat will float to the top).
- Pour pan juices into a large bowl or measuring cup, allow to cool until a layer of fat settles on the top.
- Remove fat with a spoon or sweep a piece of bread across the top to absorb the fat.
Once you have removed all the fat, return juices to the roaster and begin making your gravy.
Too Thin? Here’s How To Thicken It
Sometimes all it takes is allowing it to simmer for awhile (stir frequently) so it reduces more. If you’re out of time or see no progress, here’s a simple fix:
- Make a slurry by adding 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or flour to 1/4 cup of cold water, whisk well to blend until smooth.
- Pour into gravy, stirring constantly.
- Allow to simmer and it will thicken.
Turkey Giblet Flavor Booster
One thing I learned years ago that helps enhance the flavor is to take the neck and giblets (usually found in a paper bag stashed inside the bird), put into a medium pot and cover with water.
- Add a healthy pinch of Kosher salt, a few peppercorns, a celery stick chopped in thirds (keeping the leaves on), part of a carrot, an onion wedge and a bay leaf.
- Herbs can be added too (such as thyme, rosemary, etc.). There are no hard and fast rules!
- Bring to a low simmer then turn down the heat until all you see are tiny bubbles at the surface.
- Skim surface with a spoon to remove the scum then cover.
- Leave on the stove for a few hours while the turkey is cooking, keeping the pot barely bubbling and continuing to skim surface if needed to remove any scum.
- Strain out all the bits then add this liquid to the drippings when making gravy (this will replace water).
Boxed Broth Rescue Recipe
No drippings? No problem! Here’s a quick recipe you can make using a box of Beef, Chicken, Turkey or Vegetable Broth. Adapted from: Betty Crocker.
2 cups broth
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder*
1 teaspoon onion powder*
1/4 teaspoon salt*
pepper to taste*
Worcestershire sauce* (optional)
Bring 1 1/2 cups broth to boil in a saucepan then reduce heat to medium.
In a small bowl, stir remaining broth, flour, seasonings with a whisk until smooth.
Slowly pour this mixture into the broth, stirring as you add it.
Cook and stir until thick & bubbly.
*adjust seasonings as desired and feel free to add or replace with dried herbs of choice.
More Quick Tips For Making Gravy
- Try adding cooking water from vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, it greatly improves the flavor. Potato water will also act as a bit of a thickener due to the starch content.
- Add a healthy glug of heavy cream or half & half right before serving to make it creamy and luscious.
- Too thick? Adding a little at a time until you get it just right, whisk in stock or a healthy splash of cooking water (ideally from your vegetables).
- Thickening can be made smooth by using a small jar with a tight lid. Put the mixture of milk or water and flour into the jar and shake well until all lumps disappear.
- Prevent lumps by first mixing your thickening agent well in a small bowl or mug (either flour or cornstarch and water), then once smooth, add a ladle full of the hot juices, stirring until fully incorporated. Pour this mixture into the pan, whisking the whole time and voila! Smooth as can be.
- Salty taste can be eliminated by dropping a piece of raw potato into the liquid for a few minutes before removing from the fire.
- Gravy freezes nicely, just portion out leftovers into small freezer bags or plastic containers.