The Turkey Gravy Thickener that Grandma Ignored

My Grandmother used cornstarch to make turkey gravy. My Mother inherited this procedure of dissolving cornstarch in water to thicken the drippings. Well, this generational laziness stops here!

If your family is like mine, your elders will be sliding the roasting pan from the oven in a few weeks. The bird is brown and fragrant with simmering and sputtering fats in the bottom of the pan. Just before she’ll carve turkey, Grandma will turn your holiday meal into Chinese food.

A cornstarch slurry thickener for your turkey gravy gives it a glassy slick mouth feel like Kung Po Beef. Butter has much better flavor, melts in your mouth, and gives a better texture when thickening sauces.

A simple butter/flour roux is the best way to make homemade gravy, and making your roux in advance will save you time, allow you the flexibility to make more gravy quickly, and improve the overall flavor of the sauce you’ll put on your mashed potatoes.

Don’t tell me that butter is more fattening. I already know that. But, we’re already eating cookies, pies, cakes, potatoes, turkey, stuffing, salad, rolls, and on and on. What’s the harm of a little more butter to make a great sauce?

Roux is simple to make by simply melting any quantity of butter in a sauce pan. Add an equal amount of flour, or just enough to make a paste-like consistency and start to cook out the proteins.

Proteins in the flour is what will give a pasty or floury taste to your sauce, so this combination of butter and flour must be cooked until it goes from yellow to white and gives off a nutty aroma.

You can continue cooking this blonde roux until it becomes brown if you prefer a darker turkey gravy, but keep in mind that a brown roux has half the thickening power of a blond roux. You’ll have to prepare twice as much brown roux to thicken the same amount of liquid.

Whether blonde or brown, store your roux in a ceramic ramekin, or allow it to cool and scrape from the pan into a plastic container. This is now your instant thickener for any type of liquid, whether poultry broth or milk for your cheese sauce.

The secret behind a great turkey gravy is roux instead of cornstarch. Butter and flour give better flavor and texture to all sauces. Perhaps even Grandma and Mom will catch on this year.

Blonde turkey gravy or brown turkey gravy? Which one in your home? Leave a comment below:

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About Chef Todd Mohr

Chef Todd Mohr is a Certified Culinary Educator who has empowered home cooks all over the world with the reliable, dependable, repeatable METHODS behind cooking that build confidence, generate creativity and enable anyone to cook with the ingredients THEY desire.


  • P Barry McGeough
    6:53 AM - 29 November, 2014

    Hello Sensi Moor:
    I have always used a roux for my Gravy as that was the way of my Grandmother.
    People that use cornstarch for gravy always disappoint on the gravy scale.
    Took your classes and loved them, still have the DVD's for reference when needed.
    Cornstarch is mainly Chinese to me as well as I use it for Sweet and sour pork etc.
    I never saw cornstarch gravy until I had bangers and mash in England. it is not the same as what I call the real thing. I think things like beastro Gravy came from Rationing in the UK and became a habit while we always used a flour roux in Canada.Even when they add onions, that cornstarch gravy is not something I like nor will I serve it in my Home.Keep up the good work Chef, making better home cooks one at a time on the internet!!

    • Chef Todd Mohr
      5:09 PM - 30 November, 2014

      Hi Barry!
      Thanks for the cornstarch history of UK and Canada. I didn't know about the rationing, but it makes sense.
      Thank you for your kind comment.

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  • Lonnie
    4:07 PM - 17 November, 2010

    Chef Todd,

    How long can the roux be stored for?

    • cheftodd
      5:04 PM - 17 November, 2010

      I'd say roux will last up to 6 months in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

  • Ward
    1:44 PM - 16 November, 2010

    We are butter freaks in my house so anything I thicken is done with the butter roux; the exception is when cooking beef -- I like the robust flavor of a brown sauce with beef products so a little longer on the stove turns the roux into an excursion for your nose and pallet. My wife does, however, prefer a lighter sauce/gravy for chicken-fried steak... that's another exception for me so I default to the lighter sauce.
    Mom and Grandma ALWAYS used corn starch, and too much salt, so my memories of their browned turkey gravy, or roast beef gravy, are skewed toward not making gravy or sauce that is really brown (underline really); I'm glad I can create my own now, and my sauces convey my love of cooking by their taste.

    • cheftodd
      5:48 PM - 16 November, 2010

      Amen! Well said.
      So, you can use the same procedure to make many different sauces for your and your wife's tastes.
      You don't need three different recipes, you alter your procedures.

      THAT'S what cooking is about.

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