Tomorrow, millions of people across America will once again make an attempt at the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving dinner. It has occurred to me that one of the most difficult tasks in the process is making lump-free gravy. The development of lump-free gravy has baffled many cooks for many years. I have mastered the making of such gravy and am offering my tips here. I hope this helps.
(Just a side note: If you cook your turkey properly, it will not be so dry as to require gravy. Indeed, my turkey is never dry. I brown the outside first in a 500-degree oven for 20-30 minutes, cover it with two layers of tin foil, and then bake it according to the package instructions. This is just an idea. You can continue to eat dried, overcooked turkey if you want to.)
Gravy begins with the roux. This is a French term that indicates the gravy base. It usually consists of either flour or cornstarch AND either milk or broth. Any combination of these ingredients will be found at the beginning of the recipe for any gravy. My preferred method for breakfast gravy is flour and milk, but for gravy with turkey, flour and turkey broth are common.
When you combine the flour and liquid, it is very important that it have no lumps in it. If you start with lumps, you will end with lumps. I begin by placing 2-3 tablespoons of flour into a large drinking glass, then filling it with milk. I use a fork to stir it thoroughly, making sure that none of the flour is stuck to the side of the clear glass. Using a fork will help to break up the flour lumps.
Next, use a skillet that has a very small amount of a fat in it. Bacon grease works very well and will take less than half a teaspoon. After I finish cooking bacon for breakfast or for a salad at Thanksgiving, I empty most of the grease into a holding jar, leaving very little behind. Turn the heat to a medium-high (my gauge reads 1-10 and I put the burner between 6-7).
The real secret lies in these two things: a wire whisk and the next three minutes.
I love using a wire whisk to stir the gravy while cooking it. My preferred tool is the large wire whisk by Pampered Chef (if you don’t have a dealer, just post a note on Facebook and 15 people will reply). Using a spoon will only push the lumps together where they will quickly breed, making even more lumps.
Carefully add the roux to the skillet and stir like mad, slowly adding more liquid (whichever your recipe requires – I prefer milk) a little at a time. You will notice how quickly the gravy coagulates, so continue to add a small amount of the liquid and stir. If you do not stir, your gravy will be lumpy. Stirring is the key. I actually discovered this when I was not yet a teenager. My mother always just added the roux and liquid and left the stove to do other things. She would come back a couple of minutes later and try to stir to no avail. When she left me to do the cooking once, I stirred the gravy non-stop for three minutes and received high compliments. You must stir at the beginning of this process.
You also do not want the gravy to be too thin. Do not be tempted to add more liquid than necessary. This is really a decision that must be made individually based on what you see and feel. If your gravy gets too thin, you will have to add either more flour, cornstarch, or instant potato flakes. Add this ingredient slowly while you continue to stir.
Gravy is the last thing you make before sitting down to eat. If it sits for more than a couple of minutes, it can develop a thick skin on top. No amount of stirring can remedy that, so serve it immediately.
Happy Thanksgiving, and may a lump-less gravy be yours!