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Cooking Tips – Including Help For Making Gravy

November 24, 2010 · 18 comments

in Commentary

I started hosting holiday dinners for the family a few years after we got married.  However, there was always one item that intimidated me:  gravy.  After many different attempts at making gravy, I no longer fear it.  It did take awhile to get over the phobia though!

So, here are some general tips for cooking, starting with gravy:

Gravy: Homemade gravy is a wonderful thing.  The key component for making gravy to me is a gravy measuring cup.  (Click here for photo.)  It is a fantastic little invention where there is a little spigot that comes from the bottom of the measuring cup.  That way, when you poor the drippings from the meat you are cooking, the fat flows to the top and you can poor all the wonderful broth right into your saucepan.  (Let the ‘broth’ settle for a few minutes so the fat has time to rise.)  I do know that some people like to make gravy directly from the pan the meat roasted in, but I prefer to filter out the fat some first.

Anyway, I pour the broth into a saucepan, including a tablespoon of the fat from the drippings for each cup of broth I use.  I heat the mixture on the stove.  I then combine 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with some water and mix together so there are no lumps.  (You don’t want a paste here, it needs to be enough water so it is just pourable.)  Once the broth/fat combination is heated up, I pour the cornstarch/water combo into the broth and stir quickly to prevent lumps from forming.   If I have been boiling potatoes, I like to use some water from the potatoes to mix with the cornstarch.  Keep stirring on high heat and let the gravy thicken.  You may need a little more fat or a little more cornstarch/water mixture, depending on how you like the consistency and flavor.  I sometimes I have to add a little bit of salt and pepper.  You can season however you like.  You can also mix the cornstarch with broth instead of water.  You just want the cornstarch to not be lumpy.  (By the way, it is 1-2 TBSP of corn starch for every cup of broth.)  When making gravy, always have bouillon cubes nearby in case you need to make some extra broth.

Miscellaneous Cooking Tips:

*Use a melon baller to scoop cookie dough and place on the cookie sheet.

*Save wrappers from sticks of butter/margarine to grease pans/pyrex dishes.  Store wrappers in the freezer.

*Make sure you use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and liquid (usually glass) measuring cups for liquid ingredients.  It is a lot easier to be accurate when using the correct type of cup for what you are measuring.  (Hard to measure an exact cup of water in a dry measuring cup without spilling all over the place..)

*Don’t wash mushrooms under the faucet.  Just use a damp cloth or paper towel and wipe them off.

*Use a plastic knife to cut warm brownies.  They don’t crumble nearly as much using a plastic knife as they do using a metal knife.

*When boiling corn on the cob, add a few tablespoons of sugar to the boiling water.  However, do not add salt as that is thought to toughen the corn.

*If you are hosting many people, make as many side dishes ahead of time as possible.  (Such as sweet potato casserole.)  If you do make something ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator, pull it out of the fridge of ahead of time and let it warm up a little before placing it in the oven.  (Or extend the baking time if you forget.)  Also, know your recipes well in advance.  For example, say you are making a pie using a store bought crust.  You have to remove that crust from the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature first or it will not unroll properly.  Just because a recipes says ‘ready in half an hour’ doesn’t mean that covers everything.  Read all instructions ahead of time.

*Finally- don’t just trust the little pop-up timer that a turkey comes with. Always use a meat thermometer.

If you have any cooking tips, I would love to hear them- so please leave a comment!

Happy Holidays!

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Reasons November 24, 2010 at 6:52 am

Sounds tasty!

Have a great Thanksgiving day tomorrow 🙂

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Kris November 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm

MR- hope you have a great Thanksgiving too. At least you won’t have to worry about being attacked by dogs… 🙂

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Money Reasons November 25, 2010 at 1:50 am

That’s true 🙂

Other than the demon dog, it was a good time! It was very relaxing, and I enjoyed seeing my sister’s baby.

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 24, 2010 at 7:18 am

A lot of people are intimidated by homemade gravy, so you were definitely not alone. I do like homemade gravy too, but it was a while before my mom started making it for us. The gravy seasoning packs (McCormick) certainly aren’t bad either, yet there’s something about gravy made from scratch that is oh so delicious! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Kris November 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Shawn- I remember buying the McCormick packs too. I do love homemade gravy, although I like that stores are open on Thanksgiving and I can run up there in case gravy disaster strikes!

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Nicole November 24, 2010 at 9:38 am

If the whole measuring/saving juices thing is too intimidating, you can make a sausage or mushroom gravy with a roux. For a good gravy you need fat and umami (a meatiness)… with sausage that means you prepare the sausage and put handfuls of flour in and cook, then add water or broth or milk (depending on the kind of gravy). For mushroom gravy, you cook mushrooms (and onions and celery and carrot if you want) with butter, then add the flour and cook until toasted, then add the liquid.

I like doing mushroom gravy if there are going to be vegetarians present. They’re both nice because they can be made in advance.

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Kris November 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I never thought about a mushroom gravy for vegetarians. I just had some people over last weekend and half were vegetarian and half were not. I really struggled with the menu. Then I decided to just order out and got meatless and meaty mostaccioli. However, I like the mushroom option!

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Crystal @ BFS November 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

I had never heard of that plastic knife idea with brownies! I love it! Thanks!

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Kris November 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Gotta try it BFS, you will be amazed. Start baking now and let me know how it goes.

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Aloysa November 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm

It is funny that I don’t like cooking but from time to time I read recepies and get inspired to try something out. Thank you for sharing!

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Kris November 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Aloysa – isn’t that funny how you can suddenly get in the mood to cook? If only that happened for me with cleaning too. Have a great Thanksgiving!

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First Gen American November 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Tried posting earlier but I got booted off your site. Anyway, my plan is to just keep making stuff til dinner time arrives. I start with the basics and depending on how efficient I am, the guests will have more or less sides and/or desserts.

I love Thanksgiving.

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Kris November 24, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Well that was not very nice of my site at all!

My sweet potatoes and squash are baking now, and the eggs are boiling for deviled eggs. The party is starting…

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Andrew @ 101 Centavos November 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

Happy Thanksgiving! This year, as with years past, there’s a lot to be thankful for. In the context of this post, I’m personally thankful that Mrs. 101 is way more skilled at making pan gravy than I am.

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Foam Fabricator November 28, 2010 at 5:52 pm

sounds like a great recipe always wanted to make my own gravy and not use the package gravy can’t wait to try this out.

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fitness girl January 18, 2011 at 5:12 am

since childhood after learning at school when my teacher let me help the kitchen at Home Economics taught me to love cooking. I enjoy every time I cook foods but this article reminds me that gravy thing Oh wow! until now I can’t get a good recipe for it. Help pls…. there were times I tried it and it looks like mud hahhaha..

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Kris January 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Gravy really is not that hard! Just take the juices from the meat, include about a tablespoon of fat with each cup of juices and heat it up. Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with water just to dissolve the cornstarch. Pour the water/cornstarch mixture into the juices, stirring constantly. Let it heat up enough until thickened.

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