Making good gravy can be a tricky job. Many very good cooks never learn how. What is good gravy?
* It should be flavorful.
* It should be thick, but pour easily (the exception being thin gravy such as au jus)
* It should have the proper color, i.e., white should be white; blond should be blond; brown should be brown)
* It should NOT have a flour taste.
* It should NOT be greasy.
* It should not be lumpy.
So, what's the secret to good gravy?
Mostly experience and knowing the tips that follow here. The best recipe (and tips) in the world will not make good gravy if you do not cook it right. And that only comes with experience. You have to know when the gravy "looks right". And, of course, taste right. I can try to tell you what it looks like when it is "right", but you will not make good gravy, every time, until you know from your own experience when it is right.
The most important tip is to get the roux right first. Roux (pronounced "ruu") is a mixture of flour and oil. Properly prepared roux is the key to good gravy. It determines the color of the gravy. Also, the thickness of the gravy (along with quantity of liquid and cooking time).
Tips for Making Roux
The oil used can be bacon drippings, grease left in the pan after cooking meat, cooking oil or olive oil. Bacon drippings add a lot of flavor but you can use any type oil.
Although not a hard rule, start with about equal parts of oil and flour, perhaps 4 tablespoons of oil and 4 tablespoons flour.
Heat the oil first, then add a little flour while stirring. The mixture should be bubbling hot. Watch the consistency of the roux closely while continuing to stir and add flour.
You are looking for two things. One, the thickness. You want a thin paste with no visible oil or lumps. If it is oily, add flour. If it is lumpy or dry, make sure it is bubbling hot and you are stirring constantly. If still lumpy or looks dry, add oil. Remember, you want a thin
The second thing you are looking for while making the roux is the color. If you want a white gravy, cook just until you get a paste and roux is white. If you want a blond gravy, continue to cook until the roux is golden color. If you want a brown gravy, cook until roux turns a dark drown. Remember to stir constantly or it will burn.
When the roux looks right, start adding liquid. Generally water or milk is used, but other liquids can be used (chicken or beef stock, cola and others). If you start with a roux made from the above example of 4 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons flour, add 1 cup liquid, while stirring. Bring back to a simmer and continue adding liquid, watching thickness of gravy. You will probably end up using about 1-1/2 to 2 cups liquid. Be aware that the gravy will get thicker as it cools, so finish a slight bit thinner than you want the final gravy.
The longer you cook the gravy, the thicker it will get. So, this is a critical point in making good gravy. You must learn from experience when the thickness is what you want, then remove from heat immediately.
There you have the secret to making good gravy. But, let's look at a couple of tips on how to add flavor.
Nothing adds flavor like onion.
In the above example add 1/3 cup chopped onions in the hot oil before adding the flour. Cook the onions just until they are tender. Do not allow to start turning brown. When the onions are soft and tender, start adding the flour and continue making the roux.
Salt and pepper:
if your gravy is bland or slightly flour tasting, add salt. Good cooks that make great gravy always taste the gravy as a last step before removing from heat. And don't forget a healthy dose of black pepper for flavor.
Beef or chicken bouillon
will rev up the taste of your gravy. Add one or two cubes of bouillon as soon as you are finished adding liquid. Stir in well.
If you don't have bouillon cubes, add a few drops of liquid smoke. If you don't have that, add a few drops of BBQ sauce. Don't overdo it. You do not want your gravy to have a distinct barbecue flavor. You just want to spice it up a bit.
Garlic and Hot Sauce:
Experiment by adding a little garlic powder and/or Tabasco sauce. You might come up with a gravy that is distinctively your own. Everyone will want to know what the secret ingredient is.
The roux is the secret but nothing will help you more in making good gravy than experience. Unfortunately, no one can give you that. The only way is to keep on cooking. You will learn more each time you have a failure. And, the times you make that perfect gravy, you will notice the smiles around the table. After time, you will note that the perfect gravy seems to happen more and more