How To Make The Perfect Gravy

Learn the ABCs of sauce-making to get the most of those delicious drippings at the bottom of your roasting pan.
An extreme close up horizontal photograph of a hand holding a gravy boat and pouring some beef or turkey gravy. Isolated on white. Image courtesy of iStock.

I’m not a winter person. I’m not good with anything slippery under my feet whether it be skates, skis, or icy sidewalks. The truth is I love heat, and since it's scarce during a Canadian winter, my go-to source of it is to crank up the oven and get roasting. And as a bonus, I usually don’t fall down doing it.

There's an art to roasting; It’s a dry-heat method of cooking that in most cases, produces a rich, caramelized outer crust and a tender, juicy centre. And the byproduct—those delicious drippings that fall to the bottom of your roasting pan—are arguably the best part. They’re the foundation for simple, perfect gravy.

The variations of sauces you can make with roast drippings are endless. However, the method to making them is quite standard. Follow these steps with your next roast, whether it be a turkey, duck, pork, lamb or beef roast, and you’ll be impressed with what a great sauce you can make without a recipe. (And keep at it, because one thing is for sure when it comes to pan sauces: practice makes perfect.)

To make a great pan sauce, you will ideally roast your meat on a rack, inserted into the same pan you intend to make the sauce in. This allows proper “dry-heat” roasting where the meat forms a perfect crust and doesn’t sit in the liquids released from the protein. This also allows you to transfer the pan from the oven to the stovetop, making the most of every last dripping that hits the pan.

Once the roasting is done, skim the fat from the pan. All of it. It can be tedious, but it's crucial: leaving too much fat behind results in greasy gravy. It can sometimes be difficult to determine which of the pan drippings are fat and which are juices, but the former is clear and will tend to sit on top. The juices, the element you want to keep for your gravy, have colour and are thinner in texture. If you have difficulty distinguishing the two, try roasting your meat a day in advance, and chill your sauce to allow the fats to solidify and peel them off with a spoon.

The Steps To Gravy

Deglaze with wine. Determine if you want your sauce to be red wine- or white wine-based. Either will do, and both make great sauces. I tend to determine which wine I will used based on which wine I intend to serve with the meal. Transfer your pan to the stove top and bring to a simmer. If you don’t have enough drippings to boil, then just allow the pan to get very hot. Add wine and bring to boil. The wine adds a layer of flavour, as well as helping to release all those yummy bits that are encrusted to the pan. Scrape them up, incorporating them into the sauce as it simmers down and has almost dissolved. Remember: brown bits equal flavour, and flavour is good!


Add the liquid. In general, I add 2 cups of stock (ideally homemade, but not necessary) to produce 1 cup of sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, and generally yielding 1 cup.

Season at the end. Never salt or pepper a pan sauce until after it has been reduced. The concentration of flavour from the roast, as well as how it has been seasoned will intensify as your sauce cooks.

Flavour boosters: You can customize a sauce any way you like. Sometimes, portions of the stock will be substituted with additional wine or juices. Fresh herbs or spices can be added at any point to achieve a certain flavour profile.

Add thickening agent. A purist might argue against artificially thickening a sauce, but chances are they haven’t had to feed upwards of 20 who all want a helping of gravy. If you are looking to make a “quantity” focussed sauce, chances are you will need a thickening component to counter the amount of stock required to make enough sauce. To do this, reserve a few tablespoons of fat that you have skimmed off your sauce, and heat that fat in the pan at the first stage of the process. Add 1/4 cup flour to the pan and cook, stirring in the fat until the flour is golden in colour. Add the wine and proceed with the recipe, doubling the amount of stock needed.

But, if you are making a small quantity of sauce but would prefer it to be slightly thicker (without reducing it any further), remove your sauce from the heat and immediately whisk in 1 tbsp of cold, unsalted butter. This should do the trick.




Subscribe to our newsletters for our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.