Bourbon Pan Gravy for Turkey

Jim Beam Bourbon

When the turkey comes out of the oven, many recipes advise the cook to begin making the gravy. My problem with this approach is that it asks a lot from the Thanksgiving day cook.

In my experience, when the turkey comes out of the oven chaos ensues. Casseroles must go into the oven, rolls need to be reheated, green beans sautéed, drinks placed on the table, not to mention a host of other tasks that involve all of your guests moving from the couch to the kitchen. I’m starting to stress just thinking about it. 

Bourbon-Maple Roasted Turkey

With this recipe, you can actually make the stock and then the gravy while the turkey roasts (or even make the stock a couple days in advance). Once the turkey comes out of the oven, all that is required of the cook is to collect and separate the fat from the pan juices and then deglaze the pan with bourbon. The pan juices and the bourbon-drippings are whisked into the gravy and then, after just a few minutes of simmering and a dash of salt and pepper, the gravy is ready for the table.

Making the gravy in advance also allows for troubleshooting at a more relaxed pace. The best way to avoid lumpy gravy is to add HOT stock SLOWLY to the roux (flour-butter mixture) while whisking.

If you do find yourself with lumpy gravy, you can blame an in-law or take the high road and simply pass the offending sauce through a fine mesh strainer or puree it carefully with a blender or immersion blender. Happy cooking!


This recipe is part of the menu for Minced Thanksgiving 2015. For even more turkey day preparation, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest; I’ll be using the hashtag #mincedthanksgiving and hope you’ll use it as well to share any Minced blog creations, your favorite dishes, and your best holiday memories with me.


Bourbon Pan Gravy for Turkey – Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 12

This gravy is perfect for Thanksgiving as it can be made while the turkey roasts and then kept warm until ready to serve. When the turkey finishes roasting, pan juices (skimmed of their grease) are added to the gravy with bourbon and pan drippings from deglazing for big flavor.

3-½ cups homemade giblet stock (see recipe below) or less sodium chicken broth
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/3-cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup bourbon (I used Jim Beam)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the giblet stock over medium heat in a small saucepan. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly pour the hot stock into the flour mixture while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk while you bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 8 minutes or until the gravy does not have a starchy taste to it. Keep warm.

When the turkey has finished roasting, set it aside to rest on a cutting board. Remove the carrots and onions from the pan. Nibble on these vegetables in the kitchen or add them to the gravy for a little extra flavor. If adding to the gravy, I do recommend either chopping them finely before adding or straining them out before serving.

Pour any juices from the roasting pan into a fat separator or liquid measuring cup. The fat will rise to the top leaving any bits of meat and flavorful juice at the bottom. Spoon off the fat and discard it; reserve the pan juices.

Place the roasting pan over two burners on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Carefully add the bourbon* to the roasting pan. Bring to a simmer then use a wooden spoon to scrape off any bits of meat or vegetables stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is called deglazing and the pan will look clean if this step is done properly. Reduce the bourbon by about half and then add it with any pan drippings, as well as the separated juices that you reserved, to the gravy. Whisk to combine and then cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain if desired and serve.

* Bourbon is highly flammable and should be treated with caution if you think eyebrows are an important part of Thanksgiving. Never pour liquor straight from the bottle and be sure to stand back when adding liquor to a hot pan in the event that it does catch fire.

Homemade Giblet Stock – Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes about 4 cups

Make this giblet stock up to three days in advance to make your Thanksgiving Day prep list a little shorter.

Neck, giblets (excluding the liver) and wing tips from turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 celery stalk rib, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
½ cup dry vermouth
5 cups water or homemade chicken stock for better flavor
1 Turkish bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Pat the neck, giblets and wing tips dry with paper towels and brown them in the oil, about 5 minutes total. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the celery, carrot and onion to the saucepan and cook, stirring often, until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Return the browned neck, giblets and wing tips to the saucepan and stir to combine. Add the vermouth and let reduce until almost completely evaporated.

Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and black peppercorns. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let simmer for about 1 hour. Strain the stock and discard the vegetables and meat. You should have about 4 cups of stock. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or use immediately.

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