For the past couple of years, we’ve grilled our turkey outside on our charcoal grill. I love the subtle smokiness of the meat and I love the way it frees up space in the oven. But there is one downfall. The gravy suffers. Why? The secret to the perfect gravy (flavor-wise) is those delicious brown caramelized bits you get at the bottom of the roasting pan. And you can really only achieve those if you roast your bird in the oven.
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So I’m dedicating this Thanksgiving to gravy. I’m skipping the grill and roasting my bird the old-fashioned way so I can slather everything on my plate with the richest, most amazing gravy ever.
It’s not hard to make perfect gravy, but there are a few tips to keep in mind when doing it. Here they are:
Tip 1: Start with good stock or broth.
I’m all for the convenience of canned broth, but for Thanksgiving I like to start with the homemade stuff. I usually make a batch of chicken broth a week or two before Thanksgiving and freeze it in 4-cup packages to be ready to use on Thanksgiving Day. Of course there are good store-bought stocks and broths out there that you can use. If you go that route, choose one you know you like and that has reduced sodium—you’ll run less risk of ending up with gravy that’s too salty. It’s always easy to add salt back in if the gravy needs it at the end.
Tip 2: Maximize flavor.
Once you know what broth you’re going to use, it’s time to bring on the flavor. I start with more broth than I need and simmer it on the stove for about an hour to concentrate the flavor. And the neck and that package of turkey parts that comes inside the cavity? Use it. I simmer the neck, heart and gizzards in my broth while it’s reducing. (I leave out the liver; it can be bitter.) These parts add tons of meaty flavor. You can also add vegetables, herbs and spices if you wish.
Tip 3: Use what’s left in the pan.
This is fundamental to good gravy. Once your bird is resting out of the roasting pan, pour off any liquid and fat that has accumulated into a gravy separator or heat- proof container. What’s stuck to the bottom of the pan are the pan drippings—caramelized bits of loveliness that will take your gravy from good to great. To get them incorporated, put your roasting pan over 2 burners on the stove over medium to medium-high heat and add a little broth, wine or other liquid to dissolve them. Using a wooden spoon to gently scrape them up is a good idea. (The drippings should be dark brown—not burned. Remove any burnt spots before you deglaze the pan.) Once the drippings are dissolved you can add more liquid.
Tip 4: Thicken your gravy.
Here’s where disaster can strike. For gravy, that means lumps. But they’re avoidable. To thicken, I like to make a “slurry,” which is just a little bit of broth mixed with a little bit of flour. Whisk the slurry into your gravy and it should be lump-free. If you do end up with lumps, don’t worry. You can strain them out. Continue cooking your gravy until it’s as thick as you desire.