Gravy is a relatively simple dish, yet it's remarkably easy to mess up. We've all experienced the disappointment of excitedly pouring gravy onto our mashed potatoes, only to realize it's too runny, too lumpy, or too bland. And because gravy is so simple, even if you don't mess it up, it's still challenging to make it memorable and delicious.
With these ten tricks and tips, you can avoid a gravy disaster while also making something genuinely delectable.
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The first step to making gravy is to create a roux with flour and fat — this thick base will ultimately carry the flavor of your gravy. However, it's a common misconception that any flour will work.
When making gravy, you want to use a high-starch, low-protein flour, such as all-purpose (cake flour also works). These flours help prevent your gravy from having the dreaded skin that forms when you finish.
The most common mistake people make with gravy is not cooking the roux long enough. After adding the flour to your fat (either butter or drippings), you need to cook the roux for at least five minutes before incorporating any liquid. If you add liquid immediately, the flour in the roux never cooks, and your gravy will have a faint flavor of raw flour. Not appetizing.
Instead, cook your roux until it changes from a light brown to an amber color. The smell will also change as well; The aroma shifts from that of raw flour to a nutty scent that is similar to freshly-baked cookies.
Even if you're using pan drippings, which are full of flavor, you should always use a quality stock when making gravy. You want to build multiple flavor levels, and you can't do that by just adding water or a dull stock.
For extra flavor depth, steep some dried mushrooms (such as porcini, shiitake, or chanterelle) in the stock for about a half-hour before making your gravy. This will give some rich umami elements to your gravy.
When you use the stock, either remove the mushrooms or chop them up into small pieces and incorporate them into the gravy.
If you're making a gravy with drippings, be sure also to use the coagulated fatty bits that have either fallen into the roasting tray or are stuck to the roasting rack. These bits of fat may not look appetizing, but they're the most flavorful part of the meat you're roasting, and they will easily dissolve and incorporate into your gravy.
Garlic is an ideal flavor in gravy, as it pairs perfectly with the rich, earthy flavors of stock or drippings. However, a lot of recipes call for throwing in minced garlic at the end of the gravy, which results in uncooked and unevenly incorporated garlic.
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Instead, use a garlic press or make a garlic paste, then add that to your gravy. This allows the garlic juice to incorporate better into the gravy, resulting in a divine and subtle garlicky flavor.
Many gravy recipes call for dried herbs, while other recipes omit them altogether. But fresh herbs make almost every savory dish better, and gravy is no exception.
My favorite herbs to use in gravy are rosemary and parsley, but you can use any herbs that you choose. Hard herbs (such as rosemary and thyme) should be incorporated at the same time as the stock, while soft herbs (such as parsley and tarragon) should be added after the gravy has been removed from the heat.
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Add a tiny bit of each — just a dash — and you'll add new layers and depth to the gravy. The soy sauce adds savory richness, while the vinegar provides a little bit of acid that balances the richness and fattiness.
When people find that their gravy is too thin, they tend to add more flour as a thickening agent. But raw flour has an unpleasant, chalky taste, so I recommend you stay away from adding it.
Instead, make a slurry by mixing corn starch with an equal amount of cold water. Add the slurry a teaspoon at a time and stir; continue to add until your gravy is the desired thickness.
Right before serving your gravy, turn off the heat and add a pat of butter and whisk until it is fully incorporated. This adds a glossy sheen to your gravy that will make it look luxurious — and add a velvety texture that you and your guests will find irresistible.
None of these tips and tricks are complicated, but when combined, they'll help you create a foolproof and wildly delicious gravy. Let us know if we've forgotten any other pro tips that you use at home for better gravy in the comments below.