This Make Ahead Turkey Gravy is so easy and saves tons of time and stress on Thanksgiving Day! No more running around while the turkey gets cold, trying to skim fat and whisk out lumps while everyone stares at you because you misjudged your time and they are starving. (Oh, is this just me??)
Originally published November 18, 2015
Sometimes when I’m in public I pretend to be a more concerned mother than I actually am. Like when Truman falls and bumps his head and the ENTIRE populace of Starbucks stops in its tracks to make sure he’s okay. And what I say out loud is, “Aw, yeah, poor guy, he hit his head!” But what I really want to say is, come on people, this happens every day, let’s not get choked up here. Two-year-olds have heads made of STEEL.
It was actually kind of awesome. Truman fell from a barstool and hit the back of his head going down. Before I could maneuver myself to a position where I could pick him up, an Asian man came out of nowhere and swooped Truman up in his arms, then handed him to me. I wish more strangers would do this kind of thing for each other! It was so refreshing.
It reminded me of this video Eric showed me about a Japanese reality TV show that films kids as they complete their first errand. Apparently in Japan, parents start sending their kids on short errands when they are very young, like 3-5 years old. This would be impossible here in the US because 1) there are no stores close enough to walk to and 2) children are taught to mistrust adults they don’t know. It’s the opposite in Japan. Kids there are taught that they can trust adults, even if they are strangers.
I think this is how the world ought to be, personally. Our culture has taken the distrust so far that I can no longer leave my sleeping son in the car for 5 minutes while I pick up some milk without worrying that someone will take a video and turn me in to the police. We were all raised not to trust each other, and so we don’t. A bystander doesn’t trust that I’m not negligent, and I don’t trust a bystander not to turn me in. It’s so sad. I would much rather teach my children that MOST people are kind and well-meaning, with a few who aren’t, instead of the other way around.
So I really just love it when a random stranger (a MAN, no less, not a fellow mother-warrior) has the guts to scoop up my kid when he falls down, even if it goes against the American “mind your own business” culture. It fills me up when I see people taking care of people. Do you have any opinions about this? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
Make Ahead Turkey Gravy
Who loves making gravy at the last minute on Thanksgiving? I just love pulling that bird out of the oven and frantically pouring off the juices to whisk up my homemade gravy. Said no one ever! I feel like gravy is the most stressful part of the entire meal. You need the turkey juices to make it (pray there is enough!), but you can’t get the juices until the turkey is done, and then your turkey sits getting cold while you whisk like mad over a hot stove. It’s kind of a nightmare.
Enter make-ahead gravy! My mother-in-law Kris has been using this recipe for years and she just told me about it. You use turkey wings and whatever other parts you can find (neck, thighs, whatever), roast them, boil them, and then make a gravy from those drippings.
Below on the right is the broth after I froze it for 20 minutes. It makes it so easy to skim the fat! (Update Nov 2017: You can also use a Fat Separator Measuring Cup. They work amazingly well and are way faster. My sister sent me one in the mail after she read on this post (in 2015) that I still put my gravy in the freezer. Thanks Laura!!)
Then you stick it in the freezer and forget about it until a couple hours before you want to eat. You could literally make this gravy TODAY and have one less thing to do on the big day. Mine’s already in the freezer ready to go!
More great make ahead recipes for Turkey Day:
Sea Foam Salad (Creamy Pear Jello)
Make Ahead Creamy Italian Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Roll with Lots of Cream Cheese
Thanksgiving classics that never fail:
Aunt Shirley’s Famous Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Pecan Pie Recipe with Buttery Streusel Topping
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Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving
- 4 turkey wings or other parts, 4 to 5 pounds total
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 1 cup water
- 6 cups chicken broth, *
- 1-2 carrots, chopped
- ½ teaspoon thyme, dried
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth, *
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, more to taste
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. (I used foil in the photo above out of habit, but there is no need.)
- Place wings and other turkey parts on the pan. Scatter the onions over the pan.
- Roast at 400 for 1 hour, up to an hour and 15 minutes. Make sure the parts are browned on top.
- Remove the turkey parts to a large stock pot.
- Place the baking sheet over two burners on your stove and turn both of them up to medium. Add 1 cup water and use a wooden spoon to stir up all the browned bits. When the bottom of the pan is clean, scrape the water into the pot with the turkey.
- Add 6 cups chicken broth (or 6 cups water and 6 teaspoons turkey base.) Add the chopped carrots and the thyme.
- Simmer uncovered for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
- Remove the turkey parts and set aside. (You can pull off the meat and save it for something else, but I found that it was pretty tough.)
- Pour the remaining onion and carrot mixture through a colander into a bowl. (You can discard the veggies or snack on them).
- At this point I stuck the bowl in the freezer for about 20 minutes so that it was easy to skim the fat from the top.
- Pour the broth back into the pot. Bring to a gentle boil.
- Whisk together the flour and 2 cups broth, making sure to get out all the lumps.
- Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the broth. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring. Stir in butter, pepper, and salt.
- Taste it and see what you think. You can add more salt, pepper, thyme, or up to 1 teaspoon of turkey base.
- Let cool and freeze in ziplock bags. Let the gravy thaw in the fridge overnight, or just stick it in the microwave.
- If you are making a turkey on the day you plan to serve this gravy, add the fat-skimmed pan drippings to the gravy!
I am in the middle of making this recipe 2 days before Thanksgiving. I think I might have chopped my onions too small…more like what you would use in a sauce. After cooking the wings for an hour at 400 degrees, the onions were like charcoal! I think I need to chop my onions into larger pieces and maybe lower the temp to 375 degrees. I will try that next with new onions! The wings look okay…nice and golden brown. The rest looks pretty easy. I am looking forward to finishing this! It looks so good!
Hi! And Happy Thanksgiving!
I just made your ‘make ahead gravy’ and it’s my first successful attempt at gravy…ever. And I’m 68!
Thanks so much!
P.S. I’m keeping it in the fridge instead of the freezer. Is that okay?
Hi Jody! Yes absolutely, if it’s only a day or two before thanksgiving, keeping it in the fridge is just fine. Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m making this gravy as we speak. I already tasted the broth, so I know it is definitely 5 stars. My oven must be hotter than most because 400 degrees was too hot. I had to turn it down to 375. But that is the ONLY thing I have changed.
After Roasting and simmering on the stovetop and put through the strainer can I freeze it Then? Before adding the flour?
Hi Connie! Yes, you can roast, simmer, and strain, then freeze. When you’re ready to add the flour, make sure to bring the broth to a gentle boil (as described in step 11). Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving!
I tried this up to the point of putting in the fridge to skim fat. My problem is that the onions burned (cooking 400 degrees in the oven) so my broth has a burned taste. Should I have covered the turkey and onions with foil?
Hello Annie! So sorry to hear that your broth tasted burned. The turkey wings (and other turkey parts) and onions should definitely brown, but not burn. Placing the baking sheet in the middle of the oven, testing the accuracy of your oven temperature, and tenting the turkey and onions with foil if they start getting too dark can all help. I hope this recipe goes more smoothly for you next time!
I 100% agree with you about the “mind your own business” culture… I lOVE SEEING PEOPLE HELP RANDOM PEOPLE AND TALK TO RANDOM STRANGERS!!
I think you are so refreshing and I am so looking forward to more and more of your recipes and ‘talks’!!
Regarding the make ahead gravy …. absolutely a must! Looking forward to trying Aunt Shirley’s …
ps…. I totally agree with kids having heads of STEEL.
I mean, Upworthy has a whole business based on this now, right? haha. It’s nice seeing people being nice :) I’m so excited for you to try this with Aunt Shirley’s Potatoes!! Match made in heaven!! Happy Thanksgiving Karen 🦃 💕
Make-ahead gravy! GREAT idea!! I thought I was the only one who found gravy on Thanksgiving the most stressful part of the whole deal! Thank you thank you thank you!
I’m finding most stores have only smoked turkey legs, tails, and/or wings – will those work or do they need to unsmoked to roast them. Thank you very much for your help.
Hi Erin, great question. I checked in with my mother in law, she knows everything 😂 she said it will work fine but will definitely taste smokey! A different flavor profile. So it’s just up to you. If you want a more traditional poultry taste, you could do chicken parts instead. enjoy!
The gravy was my top anxiety trigger on Thanksgiving when I remarried. My husbands family didn’t even know gravy in a jar or packet existed and they thought gravy was the most important part of the meal. Our first Thanksgiving I had 25 people including mother in law. I was trying to have mashed potatoes, gravy, etc. all done at the same time. I hid a powdered gravy packet in case mine failed ha ha! If only I had this recipe then!! Thank you so much, my husband loves it and I can get it out of the way and enjoy cooking!
If my store only has turkey legs, will that work?
Yeah I think that will work fine Terri! Enjoy!
Thank you for your quick reply… I wanna tell you this is the VERY best turkey gravy I’ve ever had in my life… and I thought the the 2 generations of women before me, made the best♥️
Turkey legs work. I had to use them last year because I couldn’t find wings.
This was well worth it. Super yummy and I used the meat and vegetables to make a turkey soup for later.
Great idea with the soup Erika! I have mine simmering on the stove right now :) Thank you so much for commenting and reviewing!
Karen, your stories are so entertaining as always😊 Yes I agree with you – it is heartwarming, refreshing, satisfying, hope-inspiring when those crazy acts of caring, concern and kindness are shown instead of the usual: impatience, irritation, me-first. So I’m glad the gentleman scooped up Truman. It is a shame we don’t live in the world of 40, 50 or more years ago but we don’t – and unfortunately, we do have to have those guards up, we just do – especially when it comes to our children. That’s also an interesting story you shared, about the Japanese culture. I also have to laugh when you say that you have to pretend to be a more concerned mother than you might always be lol. I so remember feeling that way! Mine are now grown and we can laugh about it:) Anyhoo, look forward to trying this gravy recipe – I’m sure it will be a winner as all the others I’ve tried. Keep ’em coming!
Would this work for a steak gravy using pieces of steak and beef bouillon?
Hi Kelly! I definitely wouldn’t use steak to make the broth, that would be so expensive! Use a cheap cut of beef. And yes in theory it would work, but I don’t think you would need to roast the beef as long? I really don’t know. I would probably have to do a few tests on this idea before I would be confident with the recipe. Let me know how it goes if you try it!
Seriously! I could drink this! I don’t want to make an entire turkey because I like mashed potatoes with turkey gravy. Just finished making this for the second time. Fool proof! I am not a good cook and I haven’t screwed it up. Thank you!
That is so awesome Patricia! I’m so glad you are enjoying the recipe, and hey, I think this means that you’re a better cook than you think ;) Thank you so much for commenting! Merry Christmas!
Can I use frozen wings ?
Hi Maggie! Yes I think frozen wings would work great! I haven’t tried it though. If you have time, thaw them out. If not, bake from frozen and just add on some extra time. Tell me how it goes!