Holiday Turkey Gravy Recipe: Follow These Directions and You Can't Go Wrong

Holiday gravy recipe -- turkey
Stick to the recipe: Holiday Gravy makes everything better. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Once, while cooking a fragrant family Christmas dinner, I made a mistake that truly could have cost me my life with my gravy-obsessed family.

At the last minute, I impetuously added fresh cranberry juice to my already-done turkey drippings-and-flour gravy, carefully stirred to previous perfection.

Thinking I was oh-so-clever and that cranberry juice must meld naturally with traditional homemade gravy and the flavors of Christmas, I couldn't wait to spring it upon my hungry family.

Tasting in a manner befitting the most dramatic cable TV foodie, I was shocked at its less-than-gravy taste. Undeterred, I served a big gravy boat of the on-the-spot concoction to family anxiously awaiting the final touch at the decked-out holiday table.

It did not go well. Their response was less than grateful. Sudden critics filled the dining room, like the Grinch bemoaning the Whos' cheerful caroling down in Whoville.

Even though my turkey roasted tender and juicy, my mashed potatoes and dressing buttery and light, my dinner rolls pleasantly un-scorched and my bacon-bedecked green beans savory, my homemade gravy utterly failed me – for the first and last time.

I was nearly tossed out of the family house that Christmas dinner, yet I persevered. Tossing aside the gravy bowl, all diners opted instead for real butter on their potatoes while I enthusiastically drenched my plate with my creation. I was determined to prove them wrong.

Boy, did I learn my lesson.

Gravy is the first honest taste-test of a bona fide Christmas turkey dinner and I tanked like Frosty the Snowman in a heat wave. Now I make sure to follow my mother's traditional recipe exactly.

For holiday cooks bent on staying on their loved one's nice list this Christmas, I gift you two traditional last-minute but professionally proven turkey gravy recipes – severely untouched by me – starting with Food Network, which offers a quick-cheat recipe in the notes to upgrade pre-made gravy from the store. Happy eating.

Food Network's Classic Turkey Gravy

Ingredients

For the broth:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion or leek, or 2 shallots, sliced

Neck and giblets from your turkey (discard the liver)

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 sprigs thyme, parsley, rosemary and/or sage

1 bay leaf

For the gravy:

Turkey drippings from your roasting pan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons cold butter

Directions

1. When your turkey goes into the oven, start the broth: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and turkey neck and giblets; cook, stirring, until the giblets are browned, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth, herb sprigs and bay leaf; cover and simmer while the turkey roasts, about 2 hours. Strain the broth and keep warm; reserve the neck and giblets, if desired.

2. When your turkey is done, transfer it to a cutting board and pour all the pan drippings into a degreasing cup. Add 1/2 cup of the prepared broth to the roasting pan and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. (If the bits are stuck, put the pan over a low burner to loosen them.) Add the bits and liquid to the degreasing cup.

3. Let the fat rise to the top of the degreasing cup, then spoon off 1/2 cup fat and transfer to a large saucepan over medium heat. Make a roux: Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the flour browns slightly, about 4 minutes.

4. Gradually add the hot broth to the roux, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Pour the dark roasting juices from the degreasing cup into the gravy, discarding any remaining fat. If desired, chop the giblets and shred the neck meat; add to the gravy. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the flavored butter, if desired.

Level: easy. Total cooking time: 3 hours. Prep time: 30 minutes. Yield: 8 cups.

Cook's Note: The Golden Formula for 8 cups of gravy -- 1/2 cup fat -- Use the oil that separates from your turkey drippings. If you don't have enough, add butter. 1/2 cup flour -- Cook the flour with the fat to make a roux for thickening the gravy. For a darker gravy, cook the roux longer (darker roux has less thickening power). 8 cups broth -- Upgrade store-bought broth by simmering it with a sliced onion, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, parsley and/or sage, and the turkey giblets for about 2 hours.

Quick Fixes:

Too Thick? Add a splash of water, broth, brandy or bourbon.

Too Thin? Mix equal parts flour and soft butter; whisk into boiling gravy.

Too Lumpy? Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve.

All Recipes Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Recipe

Ingredients

6 turkey wings

2 medium onions, peeled and quartered

1 cup water

2 quarts chicken broth, divided

3/4 cup chopped carrot

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Arrange a single layer of turkey wings in a large roasting pan. Scatter the onions over the top of the wings. Roast in the preheated oven for 1-1/4 hours or until wings are browned.

2. Place browned wings and onions in a 5-quart stock pot. Add water to roasting pan and stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour the water from the pan into the stockpot. Stir in 6 cups broth, carrot, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1-1/2 hours.

3. Remove wings from the pot and place on a cutting board. When the wings are cool, pull off the skin and meat. Discard the skin and save the meat for another use. Strain contents of stock pot through a large strainer into a 3-quart saucepan. Press on the vegetables to extract any remaining liquid. Discard the vegetables and skim the fat off the liquid. Bring the contents of the pot to a gentle boil.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk flour into the remaining 2 cups chicken broth until smooth. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the simmering turkey broth; simmer 3-4 minutes or until the gravy has thickened. Stir in the butter and pepper. Serve immediately or pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze.

Prep Time: 30 minutes. Cooking time: 2 hours.