Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How to Make Low-Carb Gravy

Sometimes cooks are in the middle of making a low-carb meal, seemingly with no problems, only to become stumped by gravy. How much carbohydrate is in gravy? Although some commercial gravies have a lot of added starch, it's quite easy to whip up a homemade gravy that works fine for those who are cutting carbs. Here are the basics of gravy-making, with considerations for low-carb eaters.

What is Gravy?

Gravy is a sauce made from the pan drippings of roast meat. If there aren't drippings, it isn't "real gravy" -- it's technically just a sauce.

The 3 Basic Ingredients of Gravy

You can use all kinds of fancy ingredients for gravy, and some of them are delicious, but all you really need are three basic ingredients:
  1. Pan drippings (usually with most of the fat removed)
  2. Liquid (usually stock or broth; milk gravies include some milk)
  3. Thickener

What are "Drippings"?

Drippings are what's left on the bottom of the pan when you're done roasting a piece of meat. They include the fat from the meat, juices left from the meat and vegetables cooked along with the meat (if any), any basting liquid used in the process, and, most importantly, the brown stuff stuck on the bottom of the pan.

The Basic Procedure for Making Traditional Gravy

  1. Remove the meat and vegetables from the roasting pan.
  2. Pour off the drippings, ideally into a fat separator. My favorite one has a strainer on top that sifts out larger pieces.
  3. If you can put your roasting pan on the stove, this is ideal. Heat it and deglaze the pan with chicken broth or stock, stirring to dissolve all the brown bits. If you are using flour to thicken the gravy, add it now, with about the same amount of fat from the drippings as flour. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes (this is to remove the "raw" taste of the flour.)
  4. Whisk in the rest of the drippings (not the rest of the fat, which would make the gravy too greasy). A whisk helps avoid lumps.
  5. Whisk in more broth or stock, if needed. If you want to use alternative thickeners (see below), this is the time to add them.
  6. Bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes -- longer if you want to reduce the gravy more.

    The gravy will have some salt and seasonings from the meat, but you may need to adjust amounts.

What About Low-Carb Gravy?

The only potentially problematic part of the gravy for people who are cutting carbohydrates is the thickener. There are a few alternatives here. I have included links to some low-carb gravy recipes around the net using the various thickeners.

Consider just reducing the sauce with no thickener.
This is called "au jus" rather than gravy. The nice thing about gravy is that you don't need as much thickener as some other sauces, since a certain amount of gelatin-like substances are in the drippings. Just boil the sauce down until it is the thickness you want.

Consider whether you really care about the carbs in flour.
One tablespoon of flour will thicken a cup of gravy, and adds 6 grams of carbohydrate. So ¼ cup of gravy thickened with flour has about 1½ grams of carbohydrate. This just might not make that much of a difference when you come right down to it.

But there are alternatives:

  • Cornstarch- Cornstarch has a little over 7 grams of carb per tablespoons, and that tablespoon will thicken about 1½ to 2 cups of gravy. The gravy won't be as opaque, and will be glossier.
  • Arrowroot - Arrowroot has the same carb count as corn starch, and about a teaspoon will thicken a cup of gravy. Again, the sauce will be clearer and glossier.
  • Reduced Cream - Some recipes use cream to thicken, and then the mixture is reduced. Cream has 6.6 grams of carb per cup.
  • Sour Cream - Some low-carb recipes suggest whisking in sour cream to thicken the gravy. Sour cream has about 10 grams of carbohydrate per cup.
  • Vegetable Gums - Xanthan gum, guar gum, and proprietary products made from them, such as ThickenThin not/Starch, are thickeners with no carbs (and they contribute fiber). You have to use the plain xanthan or guar gums with care because you can easily go too far and get a sort of slimy mess. If you sprinkle it slowly and stop at the right time, however, gums can be effective. ThickenThin is less tricky, in my experience. These products can also produce a somewhat "slick" texture that bothers some people more than others.

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Come on in for a nice cup of coffee and a chat about my weight loss journey as well as all the healthy recipes I have found, including WW points and/or nutritional information if available. I am eating a vegetarian diet and concentrating on getting healthy and hopefully weight loss will follow. Thank to all my readers for their ongoing support.