Rich, savoury and full of flavour, gravy is the essential component to a roast dinner. But make it badly and it has the power to ruin the whole thing. Master the basic rules and you’ll be able to make perfect gravy time and again whatever meat you’re roasting. Want to make vegetarian gravy? We’ve got that too. Farmdrop’s in-house chef and recipe developer, Alice King, shares her top tips on how to make gravy from scratch.
How to make proper gravy. Where to start?
A good gravy starts before your meat even goes in the oven. Season your joint of meat or bird on a board, not in the roasting tin. That way you won’t over-season the gravy before you’ve even begun. Once roasted, remove the meat from the roasting tin, then cover and rest it while you get on with your gravy. Put the tin with all the meat juices on the hob over a medium-high heat. Remove any burnt bits at this point as these will make your gravy bitter.
There are ways you can make gravy ahead, especially if you want to get organised for Christmas. Jamie Oliver does it by roasting chicken wings. Alternatively, you can just use a stock, but make sure you use a good-quality one for more depth of flavour (more on that below).
Do I have to add flour?
One way to make gravy is by using flour to make a roux. This is added to the roasting tray after cooking, and mixed in with the cooking juices. Stock is then added gradually as you whisk it continuously. The flour thickens the liquid, which results in quite a thick gravy. The problem, I find, is the addition of flour makes the overall consistency quite gloopy, and there’s a danger of it tasting of raw flour if it isn’t cooked out enough. Instead of flour, I tend to reduce the gravy on the hob right at the end. This way you can get a thick gravy, without compromising on flavour.
A good way to achieve depth of flavour is to add a splash of alcohol to your meat juices, scraping the base of the tray as you do so. The alcohol helps to deglaze the baked-on flavour stuck onto the bottom of the pan. Add it at a high heat so that the alcohol burns off, leaving just the flavour behind. Deciding on which alcohol you use depends on the type of joint that you’re roasting. Red wine and port are great additions to beef gravy, while white wine, Madeira and sherry go well with poultry and pork.
Using a good-quality stock to make your gravy is the best way to guarantee maximum flavour. Making your own requires organisation and a bit of effort, but the results are game-changing. The best stocks are made from either beef bones or a bird carcass as well as vegetables that have been browned in the oven first to release their flavour, then added to a stock pot with herbs and water and left to simmer quietly for a few hours. I’ve included the recipe below.
You can get hold of beef bones or a chicken carcass for next to nothing from either your butcher’s or here at farmdrop.com, and you can make it ahead and freeze it for whenever you might need it. The next best option is a good quality ready-made stock, but avoid stock cubes as they really don’t add the same depth.
What about extra flavourings?
Different ingredients can be added to your gravy to enhance the flavour, depending on which meat you’re cooking. Redcurrant jelly and mustard are delicious additions to gravy with red meat, and garlic and thyme work well with poultry. Add your chosen flavourings when adding the stock, then leave the flavour to infuse while you reduce your gravy.
How do I make vegetarian gravy?
For a vegetarian gravy, roast onions, carrots and celery until caramelised, then blend, pass through a sieve and return it to the tin. Use quality vegetable stock with a lug of alcohol and some seasoning, as if making a meat gravy, and you’ll be given equally delicious results.
How to make gravy for any roast
For the homemade stock (optional):
– beef bones or 1 poultry carcass
– 2 onions
– 2 carrots
– 2 sticks of celery
– olive oil
– 1 bay leaf
– a bunch of fresh thyme and/or parsley
For the gravy:
– the meat juices from your roasted joint or bird
– 2 tbsp sherry, white wine or Madeira (for poultry) or 2 tbsp red wine or port (for red meat)
– 500ml quality stock
– your chosen flavourings, such as ½ a bulb of garlic, fresh thyme, 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly or 1 tsp mustard
– sea salt and black pepper
If you are making a stock in advance:
1. Rub oil onto your bones or carcass. Cut the onions, carrots and celery into large pieces and rub with oil.
2. Place it all into a large roasting tray. Roast in the oven at 200ºC until the bones or carcass are nicely browned, but not burnt, and the vegetables are golden.
3. Transfer to a large stock pot, along with the herbs. Cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for at least 2 hours, skimming the surface of fat every now and then. If you’ve got the time, ideally allow 4 to 5 hours for poultry and 5 to 6 hours for beef or lamb stock.
4. Strain the stock and return to the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce until thickened and tasting good. Lightly season.
To make your gravy:
1. Remove the joint of meat or bird from the roasting tray, place on a carving board and cover with tin foil to rest.
2. Place the tin with the meat juices on the hob and spoon away any burnt bits and pieces (these will make the gravy bitter). Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the alcohol. Use a spatula to scrape up all the lovely bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 30 seconds to burn off the alcohol.
3. Add the stock, along with your chosen flavourings. Bring to the boil, then cook on a high heat to reduce until desired consistency. Strain and serve.
Find beef bones, quality stock and everything else you need to make the perfect gravy at farmdrop.com.
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