Expert tips for perfect Christmas gravy

Xenia Taliotis / 25 November 2014

Is Christmas lunch best served with gravy or jus? To thicken with flour or not? We asked our panel of seven experts to enter the great gravy debate and to give us their tips on how to make the perfect gravy.



Diana Henry

Cookery book writer and Saga Magazine's food writer

“I love jus for Sunday lunch, but for Christmas it’s always gravy. My tip is to prepare the stock ahead, using a chicken carcass plus extra wings. On Christmas Day, I’ll lift the turkey out of the tin and pour the juices into a jug with some ice cubes – cooling the fat makes it easy to remove. I put the juices, stock and some dry sherry back into the tin and bring to the boil, stirring in the sticky turkey residue on the pan. I reduce it until it’s the right consistency and voilà – gorgeous gravy. Traditional recipes recommend flour as a thickener, but if you burn off the alcohol slowly you won’t need it.”

Raymond Blanc

Owner and chef at the double-Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons

“The key to great gravy is to taste, taste, taste as you’re making it – it’s essential. This recipe is simple but delicious: lift the turkey from the roasting tray and pour away most of the fat. Add some red wine, and stir to de-glaze the pan. Let this bubble away and reduce in volume. Now add about a tablespoon of flour and some chicken stock, bring back to the boil and simmer. Add water and salt to your taste. Sieve and serve”.

Valentine Warner

Chef, cookery writer and presenter

“I’m the gravy peace envoy, because I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of making gravy – it’s down to personal choice. If my mum’s head of Christmas lunch, she’ll make a wonderful thick gravy with flour, using stock made from goose neck and those sticky-toffee-like juices left in the pan after the bird has been lifted out and most of the fat poured away. She’ll also add a slug of brandy before reducing it all down. If I’m hosting, then my guests will get a very rich gravy, again using goose-neck stock, with added Madeira and port. I reduce it down and beat in lots of cold butter to thicken. The best bit about any gravy, though, is mixing it up with bread and Cumberland sauces.  That’s the ultimate Christmas sauce."

Michael Wignall

Chef at the double-Michelin starred The Latymer

“My Christmas gravy golden rules are allow time to make it from scratch on the day, only use turkey parts for the stock (wings and necks), use good white wine and brandy, and never, ever add flour or salt. Last year, I used a pressure cooker for the stock with amazing results. Cook the turkey bones very quickly under pressure, pour off the gelatin and reduce what’s left to get a double stock – essentially, a stock of a stock. Add mirepoix – carrots, celery stalks (no leaves), leeks, white peppercorns and thyme – and Iet it simmer. Pass it off, add half a bottle of white wine and a quarter of a bottle of brandy and reduce it very slowly.”  

Marcus Wareing

Chef patron at the double-Michelin starred Marcus

"Sauces are a key element to any dish and you can’t have Christmas lunch without a beautiful gravy. My favourite is the one I make at home with my wife. We always make it on Christmas Day, using turkey or goose wings and giblets. We don’t use flour, though we do coat the wings and giblets in cornflour before adding them to a pan of foaming, melted butter with some garlic and shallots. Alcohol is crucial – either red wine or port. I add that, let it simmer for a while and then add stock – chicken is fine. Then I reduce it down until I’m happy with the consistency."

Rosemary Schrager

Chef and owner of The Rosemary Schrager Cookery School

The one thing I can’t be doing with is when people add the water from any veg to their gravy. My mother used to do it, but it’s an absolute no-no in my book – it taints the taste somehow. I know a lot of chefs avoid adding flour, but personally, I like to use a nice roux in all my gravies. It helps give a nice silky consistency. And my two top tips are to add brandy when you deglaze the pan, and orange zest when you’re cooking off your gravy."

Aaron Patterson

Head chef at the Michelin-starred Hambleton Hall

"The gravy I make for the restaurant is very different from the one I make at home. The restaurant gravy is a huge production that takes hours and hours to prepare, whereas my home gravy is a lighter jus, packed with Christmas aromatics such as cinnamon and star anise. I’m not a purist at home – it’s all about what works on the day. I do sometimes use thickeners – cornflour, or ultratex, or beurre noisette made with unsalted butter. The best jus are all about layers of flavour – make them from what you enjoy eating, and balance the flavours so that no one ingredient overpowers the others. And I’d recommend a fat-separating gravy jug. It’s a cheap but vital piece of kit."

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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