Turn any Liquid into Homemade Gravy with this Secret

A great homemade gravy is within your reach this year.
Has it become a tradition to serve turkey gravy that's too thin, beef gravy a la lumps, or chicken gravy without chicken flavor? Is the texture of your gravy another great holiday surprise each year?

Sauce making is one of the most valuable skills in the home kitchen, as well as the commercial kitchen. Whenever I interview a chef for employment, my favorite test of skill is asking the prospect to make a sauce, any sauce. The skill and sensitivity involved in creating a homemade gravy from scratch, a smooth, shiny sauce that will compliment the flavor of the main item is greater than being able to sauté, or roast a piece of meat.

A great sauce will save a badly roasted piece of meat. A thin or lumpy turkey gravy will ruin an otherwise nicely prepared holiday turkey. A well created sauce will add flavor, texture, and eye appeal to any dish. Balancing these three elements of sauce making can be a challenge for anyone in the kitchen. Perhaps the biggest challenge is texture.

Any flavorful liquid can be used to create a sauce, but bringing it to the correct thickness to stick to your food and not wind up in a puddle on the plate is the hardest part. This degree of thickness is called “nappe’” (“nah-pay”) in French culinary. To test the nappe’ of your sauce, dip a spoon into it, wipe a finger across the back of the spoon to make a stripe. The quickness with which the sauce runs back together, covering your stripe, is the degree of nappe’.

Liquids thicken when starches “gelatinize”, they absorb liquid and swell. Starches like to stick together, and if not dissolved by fat or liquid, will stay together, creating lumps. The outside of a group of starch molecules gelatinizes, while the inside stays dry.

There are two basic ways to thicken liquids for use as sauces.
Although flavorless, cornstarch slurry has been used by Grandmas for years. The dissolved cornstarch thickens your pan drippings when it reaches the correct temperature for the starches to gelatinize.

Roux is the combination of fat and starch, usually butter and flour, and the most often used thickener for making homemade gravy. Roux has much better flavor and texture than cornstarch, but takes longer to prepare and involves a separate pan, and attention to cooking proteins out to avoid a floury taste. Most people like the flavor of a roux thickened gravy, but the ease of using a cornstarch slurry.

My secret for creating homemade gravy recipes with great texture is “Beurre Manie”. Beurre Manie is an uncooked roux and excellent for quickly thickening liquids. Squeezing flour into a pat of butter creates this quick fix in the kitchen. There are no measurements. The more flour you can get the butter to hold, the greater thickening power of your beurre manie. Your thickening agent is now ready to be crumbled into a simmering liquid to thicken it to the point that you desire.

Sauce making is a great opportunity for creativity for the home cook, once you become comfortable with the concept of gelatinization of starches, and how thickening agents work to create the texture you desire in your homemade gravy.

Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.

About Chef Todd

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.


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  • cheftodd
    4:00 PM - 5 December, 2009

    Thank you for your kind words, yes, cooking is a journey, not a destination. Hopefully, you never stop learning.

    Chef Todd.

  • Phillip Barry Mcgeough
    Phillip Barry Mcgeough
    7:32 AM - 5 December, 2009

    Love the Buerre Manie clip,I cook a Ricard Shrimp pie that my friends love.
    /when in a rush, I have used packaged Bercamel in the past, but the old fashioned roux is something my mother taught me before I left home and it works with everything! I am not a chef and have no aspirations in that direction, but I love to cook and enjoy your teaching style. Keep it up you are helping me to understand why I was taught to do things a certain way in the kitchen and I learn something with every lesson which is my mission in Life, to learn something every day!
    From the Bear in Spain!!

  • Dana Ashmore
    Dana Ashmore
    12:14 AM - 5 December, 2009

    I love to make stir fry in a garlic and ginger oil, and then add the soy sauce, and corn starch to make a nice glaze for the meat and vegetables.

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