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Homemade turkey gravy advice?

Hi. My family has divvied up the components of Thanksgiving dinner and I'm making cranberry sauce and gravy.

I bought a 12 pound bird for the gravy. I was originally going to remove the breast meat and some thigh meat (for later use) and use the rest of the bird to make stock. I would use that stock to make gravy with the drippings from the roast bird (that my sister is making). However, I would rather just have it all done before hand and not depend on her drippings. Plus, I'm not sure how she is cooking it this year (no drippings from a fried turkey).

So what would you do? I'm trying to get both stock and nice roasty drippings from the same bird.

A) roast the whole bird (spatchcocked), pick off the meat and reserve, make stock from the cooked carcass, and combine stock with drippings

B) chop up the bird into parts and roast legs & wings, save raw breast meat for later, & make stock from the raw carcass?

C) chop up the bird and roast the breast/thigh and make stock from raw legs/wings?

I'm open to suggestions of any combination. What do you think is the ideal? I have time to do this in multiple stages. And if I DO roast in parts, what's the timing on leg vs breast vs wing? Do I separate the breast from the thigh portion?

Sorry for so many questions. I've never roasted a turkey.

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  1. Oh, and would you add carrots, celery, onion into the roasting pan and then add them to the stock pot or would they be way spent? half roasted carrot/celery/onion into stock pot? or plain carrot/celery/onion into stock pot?

    6 Replies
    1. re: seamunky

      I'd think you'd want your stock ready to go when the bird is done roasting, rather than leaving your drippings in the pan for several hours while your stock simmers. If so, this rules out option A.

      B makes sense, though I'd roast the carcass as well before making the stock. (Unless you want a white stock.)

      What happens to the carcass in option C?

      Option D: make stock from the neck and backbone (from spatchcocking). Meanwhile, roast the whole bird, use the drippings, and keep the meat for later.

      As for when to add the vegetables, I believe a traditional brown stock just adds them to the stock pot with the roasted bones. I don't think toasting the vegetables first would 'spend' them, but you might get too much sweetness from the caramelization.

      1. re: Scrofula

        I don't think there'd be a problem with roasting the bird and then pulling it out to get on with the stock making. You can deglaze the roasting pan with some wine, water, sherry... whatever you need to get the wonderful bits out of the pan. Reduce that down and then set aside to cool until you have made stock from the carcass. If it were me, I'd refrigerate the drippings/reduction until the next day (assuming a slowly made stock) and then start on the gravy. Really, making the gravy in the roasting pan is just to get the fond off of the bottom of the pan... right?
        I don't like the idea of roasting the veggies either - murky stock would result and it would be pretty sweet.

        1. re: Scrofula

          Thanks for your reply. I have all of next week to make it so I would make it in stages. I would deglaze the pan and save that while I make the stock. I was concerned that a stock from just the neck and backbone or even from the carcass with all meat picked off would not be flavorful enough. And you're right regarding the veggies. I probably would not leave them in the oven for the entire roast time. Thanks again for your thoughts.

          1. re: Scrofula

            If she boned / spatchcocked / broke up the bird before roasting, it should reduce the cooking time down significantly enough that the caramelized vegetables wouldn't be too sweet, don't you think?

            1. re: ePressureCooker

              It would probably be fine, but I've never tried it that way. I'd be inclined to stick to the traditional tried-and-true method for Thanksgiving, but really, it's probably not a big deal one way or the other.

              1. re: ePressureCooker

                I think if you just take it easy on the carrots- maybe even leaving them out of the roasting pan - it probably wouldn't be too sweet. It's hard to correct that sweet flavor once it's in there so I just err on the side of caution.

          2. I like option A. Part of the pressure of cooking the "perfect" bird is getting it done and timed correctly with the rest of your meal ... and with witnesses. If you're just roasting the bird for the sake of making gravy and having leftovers, the pressure is off and you can take the time to tend only to the bird. I also prefer stock from roasted bones - I think the flavor is deeper.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Sushiqueen36

              Thank you Sushiqueen. So stock from the roasted bones would be flavorful enough? No need to add actual meat?

              1. re: seamunky

                I do like to simmer the giblets and chop up the heart etc to add.

                1. re: seamunky

                  Stock from the roasted bones would be fine. While this may not work for a turkey, I roast chickens in my Le Creuset on a bed of onions and carrots and then strain the drippings. I dump the roasted veg and the bones from the carcass back into the pot and then add the water and simmer for 4 hours.

                  1. re: seamunky

                    There will be enough residual meat unless you're an amazing meat-picker. The bones and meat residue will definitely provide enough flavor.

                    I am getting so hungry for turkey and gravy reading and thinking about this discussion!!

                2. Option B...Remove both breasts with skin keeping the skin intact over both... you can roll and stuff your breasts at a later date. If you plan only to roast one breast at a time, then keeping the skin intact is not necessary.

                  Roast the carcass(neck & backbone included) with the wings,legs and thighs..along with carrots, celery and onion. The darkened bones will will make your stock darker and richer in flavor for when you make stock and with the added fond(roux)on the bottom of the roasting pan for gravy. I would reserve and eat the dark meat myself. Deglaze with stock or wine.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: fourunder

                    Thanks forunder. I read over Kenji's (at Serious Eats) rolled turkey breast and it looks so scrumptious and juicy. I think I may try it.

                    1. re: seamunky

                      Experimenting is a good thing. The rolled turkey cooks evenly and very quickly.

                      I would suggest you look up a Jacques Pepin video on YouTube to see his tutorial video on how to bone out poultry....it's very easy to follow and he does it in a matter of minutes....

                  2. My vote is for option A, which is what I do for my make ahead gravy. And yes, I would add onions, carrots and celery to my roasting pan for at least part of the time and use those in the stock, along with some fresh onions/carrots/celery, too. While you're roasting the turkey, also roast up a bunch of shallots and garlic.

                    As described above, deglaze your roasting pan with some white wine or dry sherry (my preference), and save that deglazing liquid and bits in the fridge. Make your stock from your carcass, strain, chill the stock, remove the fat and SAVE it to make your roux.

                    My gravy approach:
                    Make a deep golden roux, whisk in heated stock, then whisk in your drippings. Add in the roasted shallots and garlic and use an immersion blender to blend them into your gravy (or puree them ahead of time in your blender with a bit of stick, then whisk that into the gravy). Add salt and lots of freshly ground pepper to taste. If in need of an umami boost, I add in a glug or two of soy sauce.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      Thank you TorontoJo

                      How much roux do you make and what's your preferred fat to flour ratio?

                      1. re: seamunky

                        I do about a 1:1 fat to flour ratio. Sometimes a bit more flour.

                        I plan about a tablespoon of fat for every cup of stock. But I don't like my gravy to be super thick -- mine just barely coats a spoon. So if you like yours thicker, go with a higher ratio of roux to stock.

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          I made a batch of gravy the other night and about to do more. (I used turkey parts and didn't get enough drippings from them to make as much gravy as I need.) I already had a bunch of stock in the freezer, so didn't make stock from my parts. It turned out GREAT and I know we'll want more than the quart I made.

                          The other night, I used thighs. Today, I'm using wings. I roasted them with a couple of chunked up carrots, a stalk of celery, a couple of handfuls of left-over sliced onions, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a sprinkling of poultry seasoning. It only took about 30 minutes. Because I wasn't getting many drippings, I added a knob of butter towards the end.
                          Removed the meat/veg from the pan and deglazed with 1/2 C vermouth. Dumped the drippings/vermouth into a pan and whisked in 1/2 C flour. Let that cook as long as I could w/out burning it, then whisked in a quart of my very rich stock. Added lots of black pepper and some salt. (The stock was unsalted.)

                          Oh my! That is some tasty gravy. It's in the freezer now and will soon be joined by a 2nd quart. Like Jo, mine is relatively thin gravy. I may make this 2nd batch a bit thicker.

                    2. Roast the bird first, and then use the carcus for stock. You really want those drippings to make your gravy extra good. You just can't beat it.

                      I start with homemade turkey stock and also use stock from boiling the giblets that I use for the dressing. After the bird is out, I put the drippings in a separator. I then use the stock to deglaze the pan to get all the glorious brown bits up.

                      Once the fat has separated from the drippings. I take several tbs and put in a pot with some flour to get a golden roux. Once the roux is the color I want, I add the drippings, stock, and add about a cup of the giblet stock. If the gravy isn’t the desired color, I add a touch of Kitchen Bouquet. Then let it thicken up, add touch of S&P, and serve.

                      1. I'm making the gravy but not the turkey so there will be no drippings for me to work with (just found out anyway that the bird will be fried) so I bought a packet of turkey necks today. They'll go into the slowcooker tonight with enough liquid to cover and be ready for picking in 8 hours. Stock will be refrigerated and de-fatted. I'm mixing that with roux 1 : 1 or so ratio plus reinforcements to make 3 quarts of gravy.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          I'd suggest roasting them for the fond and then slow cooking them.

                        2. I don't know if this is any help--I'm a gravy newbie--but I'm using Chef John's video and recipe here: http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2012/1...

                          I've got the stock simmering on the stove right now.

                          1. Have a story about just MAKING gravy. Have been ENJOYING T-Day for past several years with brother and his wife's family. The sweetest people and always a great time with them. The 1st time I went, I volunteered to do whatever needed to be done as soon as I arrived. My brother was in charge of the bird. When he took it out of the roasting pan and covered with foil to rest, I said... let me make the gravy! Was handed 2 JARS of "gravy"... something I had NEVER used in my life... I was confused?? The bottom of pan was LOADED with wonderful brown GUNK! Said, get me a jar/lid or t-ware container and some flour & just MADE gravy... became the Guardian of the Gravy on that day!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kseiverd

                              Wonderful tale - congrats on being dubbed G of G!

                            2. I've been using Michael Ruhlman's method for several years now and I can safely say that everyone who tastes it loves it. It's a stress free recipe!

                              It starts with roasting turkey pieces (we eat the sliced meat & leave the bones for stock), making stock from the roasted bones, then making gravy. I can do each part in the days preceding the feast. Here's the recipe:

                              http://ruhlman.com/2010/11/how-to-mak...

                              1. Simmer the neck all parts etc etc etc with some aromatics (trinity)while the bird is cooking to use as needed for a roux gravy......some white wine adds a jolt..

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Raffles

                                  This makes a very tasty gravy. I used this method for years before I turned to the Ruhlman method. The only difference is that I use the mirepoix of carrot/celery/onion instead of the Cajun holy trinity of onion/celery/green bell pepper. .

                                2. Well, here's what I would do:

                                  1. Roast the turkey on top of some onions and celery, possibly with a few carrots in a disposable pan or roaster lined with aluminum foil.

                                  2. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, let cool, and strip the meat from the bones. Save all the scraps and skin, as well as the veggies. (You can always freeze the meat for another meal after Thanksgiving, after you're no longer tired of turkey!). Strain the drippings, put them in a container, and refrigerate.

                                  3. Crank the oven up to around 400 F; add veggies and turkey scraps/skin, and roast for at least an hour (two is better!). This should give you the crunchy, crispy fond on the sides of the pan, and probably the turkey skin as well.

                                  If you want to go to the trouble, you can add the turkey scraps and some FRESH veggies to your slow-cooker and let it run on LOW overnight. Otherwise, take the solids out of the pan and deglaze the pan with water, wine, or, yes, canned broth. Strain and save the stock or deglazing liquid and put it in the fridge.

                                  Check the drippings you stashed in the fridge. If they're cool enough the fat will be congealed and floating on top. Save this fat to make your roux later. (If they're not cool enough yet, they should be in the morning).

                                  No matter whether you deglazed right away or used your slow cooker, strain and refrigerate the resulting liquid. If the container you put the drippings in has enough room, you can simply add it to them. The fat will STILL be risen to the top by morning.

                                  Gravy doesn't reheat well, so you'll probably want to make it fresh for the Thanksgiving feast. Assemble the turkey fat, drippings and deglazed liquids, the veggies and spices you'll want to use, some all-purpose flour, and if you're Southern, some sliced hard-boiled eggs. :)

                                  If you're using veggies in the gravy (like chopped celery and onions), sauté them in turkey fat until onions turn transparent; remove from pan and set aside. Make a blonde roux with equal parts turkey fat and flour. (This may take awhile, and you need to both stir and WATCH it constantly!). Add liquids and warm slowly, stirring all the while. Return veggies to pot, season to taste, and add eggs if you use them. Keep the gravy warm until eatin' time!

                                  Homemade stock makes SUCH a difference! You'll be the gravy champ!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Thank you for the tips, everybody. You've given me lots of food for thought. I realized that much of my concern came from whether I would get a rich enough stock from just the carcass or whether I would have to roast half the bird and use the other half for stock. But thanks for the assurance. The bird is still defrosting and I'll probably begin by the end of the weekend.

                                    Any additional input is welcome!