Turkey bones for stock and gravy

Roasted Turkey legs and wings for stock and gravyPhoto by Donna Turner Ruhlman

If you’re making Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday and want delicious turkey gravy, make a small batch of easy turkey stock this weekend.  If you have delicious stock on hand, gravy is just a little roux away.  We’ll have ten at the table this year and I’m making a batch of stock this weekend from the above legs and wings.

It’s simple: Roast them till they’re good enough to eat, then try to eat as little as possible before you put them in a pot and bring the water to a simmer.  As soon as it’s at a simmer, put the pot in a 200 degree oven for 8 hours or so (the longer the better—because of some timing issues mine went 16, so I added a little more water).  Then, add sliced onion, chopped carrot, chopped celery, a couple bay leaves, peppercorns (cracked), some tomato paste, bring it back to a simmer then turn the burner to low and cook it for another hour.  Let it reduce until it’s strong and delicious.

Strain it and refrigerate it till Thursday.

To make gravy, collect all the turkey juices from the roasting pan.  I use this excellent fat separator to add the juices to the stock/gravy and I save the fat for making a roux to thicken the stock into gravy.

On Thanksgiving, when I’m read to make the gravy (it can be made at any time during the day), I’ll sweat plenty of minced shallot in some turkey fat or butter.  I may chop up the gizzard and heart if it looks good and cook that with the shallots.  I’ll deglaze this with a cup of white wine, then add my delicious turkey stock, bring it to a simmer and reduce it till it’s even more flavorful.  Then I’ll whisk in the cooled roux and cook it some more till it’s the consistency I want.

I love gravy and always make more for leftovers the next day, turkey sandwiches with hot gravy!  Hungry for it all ready!

Easy Turkey Stock

Yield: 2 quarts stock

  • 2 large turkey drumsticks
  • 2 large turkey wings
  • 2 spanish onion, sliced
  • 4 carrots, cut in pieces
  • 4 ribs celery cut in pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns, cracked beneath a pan or with mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • fresh parsley and thyme (optional)
  1. Roast the turkey (you should have 5 or 6 pounds/2 or 3 kilos) in hot oven till it looks delicious (see donna pix above).  Put them in a big pot and cover them completely with water, 3 to 4 quarts/liters.  Turn your oven to 180 or 200 degrees F/80 or 90 degrees C.  When the water comes to a boil, put the pot in the oven for 8 hours or over night.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients (if you don’t have enough room, remove the turkey, it will have cooked out by now).  Bring to a simmer, then reduce temperature to low, and cook for another hour.  Strain into a clean pot.  Cool, then refrigerate.
  3. Discard fat that’s congealed on top.  Reduce to 1-1/2 to 2 quarts/liters before making gravy.

Thanksgiving Gravy

  • Flour
  • Rendered turkey fat from the roasting pan or butter
  • 2 large shallots minced
  • kosher salt as needed
  • heart and gizzards, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup tasty white wine
  • 1-1/2 to 2 quarts/liters turkey stock (I use a cup/250 milliliters per person, and then a little extra)
  1. In a small saute pan over medium heat, combine a tablespoon each of flour and fat for every cup of stock you have and cook over medium heat till the flour is lightly browned, about ten minutes.  Set this roux aside to cool.
  2. In a 2.5 quart/liter sauce pan or larger, sweat the shallots in turkey fat or butter.  Hit them with a four finger pinch of salt.  Add the gizzards and cook.
  3. Deglaze with white wine then add the stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Whisk in the cooled roux.  A little at a time until you have the desired consistency.  Simmer on medium, skimming gunk off the surface as needed for a half hour or so till the flour cooks out.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary (a tablespoon or two of fish sauce will deepen the turkey flavor).  Remove from the heat an cover until ready to reheat and serve.
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60 Wonderful responses to “How To Make Thanksgiving Gravy:
It Starts with Turkey Stock!”

  • Dean Wolf

    I’ve been making a similar gravy for years. Only variation is that I make it in the roasting pan. After removing the turkey to rest, I drain off most of the fat and leave about 3 tbs. Then I deglaze with wine, boil it down add flour and shallots to make a roux, toast that a bit, then whisk in the stock.

    I like your approach of making the stock in the oven. I’ll try that this year.

  • Emilee

    It can be hard to have gravy @ the holidays if you are gluten free. My mother is, and we have to be vigilent about her diet. Lately, I’ve become aware of glutenfreegirl and have learned much already.
    Plus, she uses Ratios for her baking and the chemistry makes sense.
    I just made a beautiful rice pasta lasagna and prepared a yummy bechamel sauce thickened w/ potato starch…just as you would use cornstarch. The same can be done w/ your holiday gravy…thicken it w/ a little potato starch dissolved in cold water..
    It does not have the gelatinous quality of corn starch (like in bad
    Chinese food!)
    Enjoy gluten-free gravy too!

    • Berry

      I’ve found that rice flour also makes an excellent gluten-free roux. I have come to prefer it to wheat flour (and I’m not the celiac one in the household).

  • Warner aka ntsc

    The wings are the best part of the bird, don’t waste them on stock.

    I don’t specifically make a turkey stock, but I do make a turkey/chicken stock that is predominantly turkey. (I also do a chicken only.) We do this in large batches and then can it. 48+ pint yields are common.

  • Paul DeLuca

    Making stock is one of my favorite things to do now that I’ve been following your method. I get excited about all the great things I can do with it later. For ease of use, I pour it into ice cube trays, let it freeze, then store the ice cubes in freezer bags. That way I can use as much or as little as I need in a wide variety of ways.

  • Nancy Singleton Hachisu

    Thanks for this post, though I’m still a bit flummoxed by the history of gravy in our Thanksgiving culture. By all rights, we wouldn’t have had any extra bird pieces hanging around to make the stock needed to fashion the gravy, right?

    These days we never seem to manage to get the turkey chicks in the spring to have for the fall, so chickens it is once again. And I’ve moved on from the whole stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy thing. We have our new “traditions” but they work because that’s what we’re growing here. And I warn my guests. Though I still read from the Bradford Family History and talk about what the food means in a global sense. After all, it’s Thanksgiving, even in Japan.

    • Amy Davies

      Nancy, I don’t know the history of gravy, but here in the South Carolina, where I’m from, the stock for the gravy is traditionally made with the neckbone, gizzards, heart, etc. hence no need for another turkey. Having said that, I always buy some extra wings and add them in as well.

  • JC

    I know nearly every method for making stock says to bring it to a boil first but why? Why wouldn’t 180 F make for a better stock with less gunk in the end? Not attempting to criticize… just trying to understand this better.

  • Karen

    I see in the gravy recipe it calls for tasty white wine…when would you put in the wine?

  • Natalie Sztern

    I don’t want to sound stupid, but where do u get the wings and the legs? Do you take them off the turkey u are using or do u buy a whole other turkey? I have never seen these sold without a bird attached?

    • erica thomas

      You can get turkey parts year round at the grocery store of your choice; ask the butcher if you don’t see it.

  • Richard

    More grocers are starting to carry turkey wings and drumsticks, you just have to search for them. Check the freezer section as well.
    As an aside Michael, it took much restraint to keep from eating all the pastrami that I made last night following the recipe from Charcuterie. I could give a good Jewish deli a run for their money, and I didn’t even smoke mine. I’ll probably use a little less coriander in the rub next time though.

  • Jason Sandeman

    @Karen – I would put the wine in to deglaze the pan after draining off the fat. I love this post, as it reminds us the simplicity and skill required to make that pan gravy. I don’t use roux, rather I like to use natural thickening through reduction. Granted, mine would not be called a gravy then, more like a jus lie. I like it better like that, as I can set it up almost Swiss Chalet style!

  • Susan

    I make turkey a stock very similar to your method the Monday before TG every year. I use just the turkey wings that I buy at the grocery store, they’re cheap! I roast them then deglaze the pan, put in a stock pot, add water and vegs then simmer and reduce it on the stove for several hours before staining it. I cool it to room temp, chill it in the fridge, then remove the fat once it’s risen to the top and is firm. The stock is like jello by the time it’s chilled! This stock is essential for lots of gravy but also for all the other things I use it in for the Thanksgiving meal. I make more stock with the turkey carcass (after the party is over) that’s great for soup!

  • James Cullen

    Another great way to make the stock, especially for small quantities, is in a crock pot overnight. Put the ingredients and the water in, set it on low, and go to bed. In the morning you have a nice rich stock.

  • Victoria

    I think you suggested this last year because I made it and, lord knows, I wouldn’t have figured it out for myself. It worked wonders. I used the stock for gravy and in the stuffing I made from a recipe that was in the NYTimes a long time ago.

    Have a great weekend and a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  • loretta

    I was looking for the perfect gravy for thanksgiving dinner and i found you. The recipe is awesome i can taste it now.

  • Sherry Bellamy

    This is really an excellent idea, Michael. I’m super organized, and it just didn’t really occur to me to do this ahead of time, but d’oh! One less thing to fuss with.

    About the fat/stock separator; I have a question. I might be missing it on the description page, but is it make of acrylic, or is it pyrex? I can’t tell. I had a plastic separator that swiftly deteriorated and cracked, because I lacked the patience to let the stock cool. If this is pyrex/glass….I’m going to buy it immediately.

    It’s interesting that you pre-cook the roux, do you think it’s really necessary….is it primarily to brown the flour? (I know tha you have strong feelings on this!) I like poultry gravy to be a little bit pale, so I think I’d just go with beurre manie; the flour will certainly cook out in boiling/simmering stock, and it eliminates a step.

  • David

    I am appreciative of the tips, technique, and of course recipe but I am curious who has so many extra turkeys they can sacrifice cutting one up ahead of time to make stock? Or who has 1.5 hours after the turkey has come out of the oven (fat from pan), to make gravy, while guests are waiting and the turkey is getting cold?

    • Mantonat

      1) Buy extra turkey parts as needed rather than buying a whole extra turkey.
      2) Spoon some of the drippings out of the pan while the bird is cooking rather than waiting til it’s completely done. There’s usually plenty.
      3) Start the gravy before the turkey is done. Also, you should let your turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving it so that gives you some extra time to finish the gravy.
      Grandmothers around the country figured out many years ago how to make homemade gravy to go with the turkey. The timing is not that difficult. But really, you can do an excellent pan gravy as soon as the turkey is done using more or less the same ingredients and techniques in the recipe and it can be done in 20 minutes or so.

  • Mike S

    Have you found that when you use the drippings from a brined turkey that the gravy can tend to get salty? I just started brining my turkeys and never noticed this until a friend mentioned it to me.

  • Tags

    No offense, but right now I’m so sick of turkey that I’d rather watch “A Sandra Lee Green Pepper Christmas” than another turkey show.

    On second thought, that would probably be a turkey, too. Make that “An Alton Brown Green Pepper Christmas”

  • *susan*

    Just saw that you had a new post, after coming home with some lovely turkey legs just for this purpose! Since we like to smoke our turkey there are no day-of drippings. Wonderful to have this part of the meal in the fridge to reduce the last minute hassles.

  • Scott D Harris

    I am afraid I am sold on the OXO 4 cup separator. The spout comes out of the bottom and has a plug that keeps the liquid out until the fat rises and settles. No moving parts.

  • Randall

    Why not go ahead and take the extra step to make the gravy ahead as well? The longer you simmer a roux thickened sauce the better right? Take the gravy recipe above minus the wine and make it a few days ahead that way you could simmer it for an hour or two instead of 15-20 min. When the turkey comes out deglaze the roasting pan with the wine and then add the pre-prepared gravy.

  • rich sims

    Thanksgiving is the utmost foody holiday, it’s all about a perfectly brined turkey. Michael’s gravy is a must, along with yams, mashed potatoes, dressing and a spiced pumkin pie. This is a good start, but the most important thing is your family! I just retired and i was so consumed with a nutrition class, and my generral incompetence with the computer. I was so frustrated at my inability to turn in my assignment that i argued with the one person that believes in me. In the morning, i’m going to ask my wife to forgive me, grab my daughter and get a grip on what thanksgiving is all about!

  • Michael

    Love the recipe. I have used a very similar one over the years, with a slight variation. I break the bones to release more of the collagen, a tip I received from a Chinese cook I worked with, and I use a brown roux, giving another layer of flavor and great color to the final gravy.

  • Jonny

    Simmer the neck bones, heart and gizzards with a bouquet garni. Remove, pick and chop. Shallot, sage, pan drippings, flour. white wine deglaze. Add simmer stock , reduce until thick . This all happens in the roasting pan, like grandpa did – sans the sage, wine and shallot. Simpler times.

  • Karin

    I have been making stock in this manner ever since you wrote about it the last time. It has been a life/time saver as I will neve use canned and always seemed to run out. It was worth sharing again.

  • H. Alexander Talbot

    you may actually buy turkey wings and legs, and if you are going to do that you may as well buy the smoked version for an added level of flavor. Also, you may get incredible results using your pressure cooker to make the stock in about 30 minutes. ( actually a touch more with pressure building and dissipating)

    • Teddy Devico

      I agree. When I make my stock I usually add in smoked turkey wings, or even smoked pork neck. I wish I had a pressre cooker to make stock so quick.

  • Metaxa

    For those of us who like to “try” things…
    Instead of roasting just the turkey parts try roasting everything, the turkey bits, vegetables, garlic, tomato paste, etc. I do it til everything is pretty well roasted, black my wife says.

    Then into the stock pot, deglaze the roasting pan, and onward as Michael indicates.

    I do the gravy a day or even two before, along with the dressing. saves a lot of time and scheduling hassle on the big day.

  • Lisa

    this is just what I needed! I have three beautiful looking wings and I was going to make stock tomorrow. I will do this. Thanks so much.

  • Lyndsay

    Does that ever sound wonderful. Thanksgiving has passed in Canada, however, we do a turkey at Christmas and this year I think I’ll try this method. I can imagine how rich the gravy must taste using this stock.

  • Teddy Devico

    I am not a fan of gummy roux’s. Why not just reduce the stock more and it will thicken with the natural occuring gelatin in the bones? The stock will be less gummy and have a more concentrated flavor.

  • Chris Cowen

    Thanks Michael! I made this last night/this morning. My house smells wonderful and the stock looks great. Now.. a rest for a couple of days until Wednesday. Happy Thanksgiving all!

  • Marci Forbes

    I cannot believe I never thought to roast turkey wings/legs pre thanksgiving for stock. That’s why we have you I guess. They’re just out of the oven. Thank you.

  • Anton Zuiker

    Made mine last night, and I swear I brought that heavenly scent with me to work today. Thanks for the great tips, Michael, and thank Donna for the stunning photos throughout.

  • Suzette Mahr

    Okay, I’m laughing as I read the list of ingredients for your wonderful-sounding gravy, as they’re awfully similar to the list for our Thanksgiving dinner itself — Braised Turkey Legs that are done sous vide style. Donna’s gorgeous photo of the beautifully browned legs has got ours beat, though. Have a wonderful holiday!

  • Paula

    This recipe was just what I needed. We are smoking a turkey breast for the big day and I was worried about a lack of pan drippings. I roasted turkey legs (couldn’t find any wings) on Sun. Saved the drippings for gravy. Put the stock in the oven yesterday while I was at work. Simmered it with some roasted veggies I had in the freezer that were left over from Bourdain’s stock recipe from Les Halles cookbook. Just now I decanted the beautifully gelled stock from the fridge into a new container and will reduce it on Thursday. Will be slipping in a container of my freezer cache of Bourdain’s demi glace and look forward to a great gravy to go with the smoked turkey breast. Thank you and happy turkey day.

  • Patrick Barnes

    Is this a good generic stock or mostly for gravy? I like to keep various stocks in the freezer at all times and would like ot make a gallon or so of this. I then reduce to a Qt. When I need somI just thaw in the micro and add water to volume.

  • Comal Caliente

    I’m planning on simmering the giblets in chicken stock and combining with the pan drippings. I’ll probably make the roux using some of the fat separated from the roasting pan to thicken it. Has anyone found that using only the juices from the pan produces an insufficient amount of gravy? What other “cheat” methods do you use that combine store bought stock and natural juices from roasting?

    • ruhlman

      a turkey will never provide enough juices for gravy, always need to have stock on hand. can use chix and simmer neck and wing tips and giblets.

      • Comal Caliente

        Yeah thats what I figured. I have only done turkey a couple of times for my family but I want to get as much flavor as possible to avoid using a powdered gravy mix, blech.

        Thanks for the info, as a home cook, I really appreciate your insight on cooking. Also loving the ratio app on my android, my favorite thing about my new phone :-)

  • Patrick Barnes

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my comment. My son Michael told me you were a down-to-earth guy.

  • AmyS

    This post has inspired me to try this. I bought a smoked turkey wing and have it in the oven. I think I’m going to try it in the slow cooker for 8-10 hours and then do the stove top. It seems so simple, why haven’t tried this before? Definitely not as complicated as it seems…

  • Andrew

    For gluten-free folks: roast some diced potatoes, celery, carrots with a drizzle of olive oil on a sheet pan in the oven (20 min at 475F as a baseline). Add them to the stock in a high-sided bowl and puree the crap out of it with an immersion blender. The pureed veg and starchy potatoes will thicken it up to a nice gravy consistency.

  • Brad

    Every time you post a stock recipe I’m surprised people don’t write in about your oven temperature. The trouble with setting your oven at 200 is that it does a poor job of heating up the water. I have much better luck with an oven at 300F. The stock is still nice and clear because it doesn’t get much above a simmer over night, though I’ll turn the temp down if I’m cooking it for longer than 10 hours or so.

    Cheers,
    Brad

    • matt

      I just bring it to a boil on the stove first, skim, and then put it in a low oven

  • John

    Michael:

    I fried my turkey this year, instead of roasting. Can I use the carcass for stock, or should I pitch it?

    Thanks for another year of great gravy, and enjoy your open-faced sandwiches!

    Warm regards,

    John

  • KJT

    Michael, I’ve made a lot of your recipes from the site, use several of your cook books, and have always been happy with the results, but this gravy is the best that I have ever had. It was amazing. Thank you.

  • Peter

    Made the stock and gravy. Including the tomato paste skewed the color and flavor of the stock and the resulting gravy. I’d not include it again.

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