Mise en place for turkey stock/gravy. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

In preparation for Thanksgiving, America’s biggest home-cooking day, I’ll be addressing a few of the most common issues and frequently asked questions about the basics: roasting turkey and making gravy. Friday, I’ll be introducing an innovate and  in my opinion the best possible way to roast a whole turkey (it involves a dual method and resulted last year in Donna’s saying, “This is the best roasted turkey we’ve ever had.”)

But first things first: make turkey stock now so that you have it on hand to make gravy. I don’t know where we got the idea that a roasting turkey results enough juices to make gravy. It doesn’t. And you certainly want to have way too much gravy on Thanksgiving so that you have leftovers. My favorite day-after meal is hot turkey sandwiches, smothered in gravy.

This weekend, Donna picked up two full turkey wings and four turkey necks, about 4.5 pounds/2 kilos. I roasted them in a hot hot oven till they were good enough to eat (Donna and I made a meal of the meaty parts that night, with brown-butter-sage pasta). I also cut up two big onions (2 pounds/900 grams) and half as much carrot and roasted them dry along with the turkey wings (you can add half as much celery as well if you like). I put the bones in a pot and covered them with plenty of water and put them in the oven over night on low. The next day I added the roasted veg, a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, cracked pepper corns, garlic and a couple of bay leaves, and cooked the stock over low heat on the stove top for a couple more hours. I strained it, let it cool, and refrigerated it.  You can freeze it until Thanksgiving if you make it now.

The above instructions will give you more than a quart or liter of really rich stock. If you use my technique for perfecting the roasted turkey, you’ll need to up these quantities by 50%, which is what the recipe below calls for.

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
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 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, 425˚ F at least, till it looks delicious. Scatter onion, carrot and celery and put them in the same oven, and take them out when you take out the turkey. Don’t let the veg burn.  (You can cut the meat off the bones for dinner if you wish; but the meat will add lots of flavor to the stock.)
  2. Put the turkey bones in a big pot and cover them completely with water, 3 to 4 quarts/liter, and put the pot over hight heat. Turn your oven to 180 or 200 degrees F/80 or 90 degrees C. When the water comes to a simmer, put the pot in the oven for 8 hours or over night.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (if you don’t have enough room, remove the turkey bones—will have cooked out by now). Bring to a simmer, then reduce temperature to low, and cook for another hour or so. Strain into a clean pot. Cool, then refrigerate.
  4. Reserve any fat that’s congealed on top for the roux on Thanksgiving day. Reduce the stock to 1-1/2 to 2 quarts/liters if it’s not already at that level.

If you liked this post on turkey stock, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


49 Wonderful responses to “Turkey Stock For Gravy: Start Soon”

  • Jessica / Green Skies and Sugar Trips

    I’m hosting Thanksgiving at my home this year, for the very first time. Dinner is just the 20 immediate members, everyone else (Aunts, Uncles, Cousins) comes for dessert lol. Like you, we are all about the next day sandwiches. (so much so that sometimes my mother makes two turkeys) I’m all about putting mashed potatoes on my sandwich. Or lord, I’m hungry already.

    Since I’m cooking this year….. I am definitely taking your advice and making the gravy ahead, because there is no such thing as too much gravy….

    PS: I’m still thinking about that food porn butter poached shrimp and grits you posted yesterday…..hot damn!

  • Gary


    I have already made my gravy-stretching stock. I used wings and legs. I saved and froze the turkey drippings and fat – they will go into the gravy as well. I also reduce my stock by about 50% – it makes for an even more intense flavor in the gravy.


  • Victoria

    I followed your advice last year and made turkey gravy in advance. I can’t wait to hear on Friday if you are going to suggest removing the legs and wings and making turkey confit and roasting the breast separately.

  • Richard Scholtz

    I’m going to sous vide the legs, thighs, and breasts, and roast the wings to make stock. Never thought of using the wings and just eating the meat, but I think I’m going to take your suggestion and run with it for Thursday night dinner.

  • Guy

    I love this annual post (and the variations you’ve done over the years) — thanks!

  • Diane

    Thank you! I will do it this weekend! Aside from the great do-ahead idea, we get to smell the turkey roasting twice!!!

  • Jim Washburn

    I followed these directions last year, and it made excellent stock and gravy.

  • Lisa

    I already have the recipe out and my turkey parts bought and tomorrow, I start. I want gravy! Enough to serve in a mug. It was awesome last year. Thanks so much, Michael!

  • Chris K.

    How do you think “turkey glace” would come out? Not enough payoff for the effort?

  • Donna

    sounds like a great idea, but I have never seen wings, necks or even turkey drumsticks available in carbondale, city market. Where are you getting these?

  • Melissa

    Great idea, Michael! So nice to meet you today at the Philly airport. Love the tips you share on the blog…I will definitely be a repeat reader and can’t wait to get the book… Thanks! 🙂

  • Derek

    I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year. I did a practice run on the turkey on Sunday and made my stock with the carcass yesterday (using one of the variations you have posted over the years — it’s kind of fun to watch your recipe changing and wonder why). My gravy on Thanksgiving is going to kick ass!

  • Earl Schiffke

    Marco Pierre White says Knorr makes good stock. Can I use that Michael ?

    • ruhlman

      i think he’s frigging crazy. i also know that you don’t need that stuff, and think that it’s better without. i chalk it up to those-nutty-brits!

  • Nick

    Are appropriately-sized slow cookers/crock pots suitable for making stocks? If so, any tips/procedures? Could I bring it to a boil on the stove first, then transfer into the slow cooker for simmering?

    • DiggingDogFarm

      They get a little too hot.
      Many of then get up to about 210 degrees on both the low and high setting, it just takes longer on low.
      Best to keep the temp at about 180 as Michael suggested.


  • DiggingDogFarm

    I made my turkey stock about a month ago.

    Carcass from a 12 pound turkey, the neck, the feet, salt, pepper and aromatics.

    I used the barely a simmer method on top of the stove for a total of 8 hours, adding the diced aromatics at the 7th hour.

    I got a gallon and a half of rich turkey stock!! ☺

    I can’t wait to gobble gobbler on Thanksgiving!!

    ~Martin ☺

  • DiggingDogFarm

    I forgot to add:

    The tomato paste is an interesting idea, but I’m a little reluctant to try it.

    I love a touch of tomato paste in my beef stock, but I’m not sure how I’d like it with turkey.

    Maybe next time I’ll add a tablespoon or two and see how it goes.


    • ruhlman

      I like the tomato paste because it adds sweetness and color. you should see how much tomato paste keller adds to his veal stock.

  • Rich

    Garlic is in your instructions, but not on the recipe list. Personally, I like leeks, not garlic. Also, I make the turkey stock using brown chicken stock, which has lots of other uses in the Thanksgiving kitchen, in place of water. The old double stock switcheroo…

    And don’t forget to deglaze the roasting pan.

  • John K.

    I started making stock in the oven last year after reading your post. Got hooked on it big time! Now my freezer is well stocked with various bags of bones for roasting. I have two quarts of turkey stock I prepared and canned (hard to believe I now do that — and so simple!). As we have our Thanksgiving dinner, it will be heavily influenced by you. For that we will give thanks…..

    • ruhlman

      that is so kind of you to say. truly means a lot to me. many thanks to you and happy thanksgiving to you and your family.

  • Carolyn L.

    This may be a stupid question, but when I put the turkey legs and wings in the stock pot, do I add the roasted vegetables or are they added with the aromatics for the last hour of cooking?

  • Jeff M

    I’m thinking of using the giblets as well to make my turkey stock and then using the neck and organ meat to make turkey rillettes. Any advice?

  • Leslie P

    ok.. got the turkey legs and wings in the oven, along with the celery, carrot, and onion.. i added a nice size parsnip in there as well.. am interested in whether you think i should actually go forward with that for the stock.. thanks!!

  • Leslie P

    nixed the parsnip.. just finished reducing.. thank you so much, chef, the stock is lovely and rich.. can’t wait for gravy!

  • Scot Campbell

    I love your techniques and recipes, and I’m trying your posts for Thanksgiving.
    Where’s your turkey method you promised on Friday? I’m always looking to get away from the upside down roasting method because even though it works, it’s a pain in the you know what.

  • Rob

    Oooh, just putting the stock in the oven now… this is going to be great!

    I’m already known as The Gravy Maker, this will be awesome!

  • Denis

    Clearly you wouldn’t post something that would risk having bacterial growth, but it seems like putting meat, in water for 8 hours at 200 degrees would create a lot of bacteria….why is it that it doesnt? Is 200 degrees enough to keep bacteria at bay?

  • Jerry

    Hi Michael, we are currently working on your turkey stock and while we are enjoying it and sure it should come out good, I thought it would be wise of you to revise your recipe to be less vague.

    for instance…
    1. “Roast at 425 til it looks tasty.” I understand this could vary but a ballpark idea might be nice, half hour, an hour, 2 hours?
    2. “Scatter onion, carrot and celery and put them in the same oven, and take them out when you take out the turkey. Don’t let the veg burn.” again, quite ambiguous on the details of this. Are the vegetables going in the same pan? At the same time? we did it in the same pan, about 45 minutes into an hour and a half roast, We think the vegetables might have been under done, and we’re not sure if it will have an effect.
    3. “put the bones in a pot and cover with water “etc…
    should the vegetables go in with it at this point? we did, not sure if we should have, that’s how I did it last time I made chicken stock so that’s how we did it.
    4. “reduce the stock to… if it’s not to that level”
    this is AFTER it’s been cooled already? like heat it up and reduce it when you’re ready to use?

    We appreciate all your great tips and own and cherish several of your books, but I urge you to try to be more explicit when writing recipes such as this. I found a few comments above that addressed a few of these issues but I figured I should reiterate to encourage you to revise the original recipe for people who haven’t started yet. I understand this isn’t baking so it’s not a precise science but there were a lot of instances where we were confused and found ourselves consulting other recipes to try to decipher the proper course of action.

    Lastly, now that we combined ingredients for roasting, and for the 8 hour overnight simmer, will there be something wrong with our stock? Do you have any tips to counteract that if that’s the case?

    Thanks, Jeremy

  • Melanie

    Silly question. When you put the stock pot in the oven overnight, do you cover it or leave the lid off? Thanks!

  • Tim

    Michael – tried this method with veal stock – worked like a charm! (blanched the bones first, didn’t roast them)


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