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Gravy Types

What kind of gravy do you need?

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Chicken smothered in gravy, with vegetables
Cultura/Diana Miller/Riser/Getty Images
Gravy (not to be confused with Italian tomato sauce gravy) is generally defined as a sauce made from meat juices, often combined with broth or milk, and thickened with a starch. It can also be the reduced juices left from cooking proteins such as meat, fish or poultry. Although it is fairly simple to make, many home cooks have a difficult time making flavorful, smooth gravy.

Understanding the process and learning a few tricks of the trade should help you make perfect gravy every time. First, you'll need to determine what type of gravy you want for your dish.

For a lighter touch, stick with a simple pan gravy. If you're looking for a heartier gravy to top a starch such as mashed potatoes, rice or pasta, you'll probably opt for a thickened gravy.

Simple Pan Gravy or Reduction Sauce

Most pan gravies are a simple reduction of the juices left in the pan after the food is cooked. Often a bit of wine or broth is added to the pan drippings, scraping up the cooked pieces from the bottom of the pan, then allowed to cook down and thicken on its own. A dab of butter is often added at the end to give added flavor and a glossy finish. This is the easiest gravy to make and virtually can't go wrong. However, often a more hearty gravy is desired, one that is thicker in texture and creamy in color.

Thickened Gravy

There are several popular thickeners for gravy including flour, cornstarch, arrowroot, and dairy products. The methods differ for different thickeners, but they all basically begin with the simple pan gravy described above. It's difficult to give an exact recipe, since it will depend on the amount of seasoning on the meat and its fat content. However, the measurements do not have to be extremely precise as in baking. You should be able to judge by eye. Gravy Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

More about Gravy:

Gravy Types
Making Gravy with a Roux
Other Gravy Thickeners
Gravy Storage
Perfect Gravy Tips and Hints
Gravy Recipes

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Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making
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