Food & Drink

Gravy 101: Learn the Basics

Good gravy is as easy as 3-2-1

Photo: Johnny Autry

Gravy only takes three ingredients: fat, flour, and liquid. It’s easy to make, but those lifeless powdered mixes at the grocery store are proof that plenty of home cooks are still afraid to do it. With the holidays ahead, we turned to an expert for tips on making gravy like mom does.

“Really, gravy is about what you like,” says Karl Worley of Biscuit Love in Nashville. “My mom used to like gravy you could attach drywall with, but I like it thinner.” He shared these suggestions for throwing together a gravy tasty enough to suit any palate.


Good gravy is as easy as 3-2-1.

That’s 3 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of fat, and 1 cup of liquid.

You might’ve learned to start a gravy with equal amounts of fat and flour, but there’s a good reason for the imbalance in this ratio: it’s based on weight, not volume. “In school, they taught us to use equal amounts of the two by weight, and the fat is going to weigh a little more than the flour,” Worley says. That base will thicken one cup of milk or stock.


Take it slow all the way through.

First, melt the fat—butter, sausage grease, or whatever else you have on hand.

Whisk in the flour and cook the resulting paste over medium heat for several minutes, until it’s barely golden. “It’ll get almost a nutty smell to it,” Worley says. “You’ll know.”

Add the liquid in three intervals, whisking thoroughly between each one to break up any lumps. Then turn the heat down a few notches and keep cooking the gravy until it’s thick, about five more minutes. If you rush any step in the process, it might not ever get there. The flour needs time to disperse evenly into the liquid, making a smooth, uniform sauce.


The secret to the best white gravy: half-and-half.

It’s thicker, richer, and slightly sweeter than milk.

“I don’t eat biscuits and gravy every morning anymore, so why not splurge when I do?” Worley says. “I shouldn’t say this, but we typically use half and half at the restaurant.”