What's the secret to gravy?

A: When your turkey is done, you have two kinds of liquids in the pan: an oily liquid (the melted fat) and a watery liquid (the meat and vegetable juices). You want to incorporate both of these liquids into your gravy. The trick is to get them to mix into a smooth, homogeneous mixture -- no lumps, no puddles of grease.

Flour contains certain proteins that form a sticky substance -- gluten -- when they get wet. If you just dump some flour into the pan, these proteins will get together with the water to form a glutinous goop that the oil can't penetrate. You'll then wind up with little lumps of dough swimming in pools of grease. Most experts agree, however, that gravy should not be the chewiest part of the meal.

Make sure to mix the flour first with some of the fat, which you have previously separated from the watery juices. That way, the individual, microscopic particles of flour become coated with oil, which the watery juices can't penetrate to gum things up. Result? Later, when you add the juices, supplemented as necessary with broth or other watery liquids, these individual, oil-coated flour particles become widely scattered. And that's just what you want, because the thickening agent and the fat it carries are uniformly dispersed throughout the watery juices, giving you a smooth, uniformly thickened consistency.

You must keep the amounts of flour and fat just about equal. Use one part flour and one part fat to every eight parts of liquid juices and/or stock. Mix the flour with the fat, cook it a bit to brown it, slowly stir in the watery liquids, and simmer to let the flour do its thickening job.