From packets to premade, we've got your last-minute gravy needs covered.
I'm not sure anything has been more comical than the view of 12 bowls of gravy cascading the length of my kitchen counter (I had to use some belonging to my toddler to accomplish it, which only added to the enjoyment). But this is the sword I selflessly fall on, folks. I do the dirty work, so your table has only the best; the cream of the crop; the choicest of the choice.
Store-Bought Gravy Taste Test
Deciphering the best store-bought gravy involves a host of different factors. Are we talking packets poured into a saucepan, combined with water and cooked? Or are we simply opening jars, cans, or boxes, pouring out the contents and heating? Deciding between the two options is entirely down to your preference, but for this comparison, I cut no corners and tried the gamut. I split the gravies into two categories and tried six of each. They are each ranked in the respective category but I have also included an overall ranking at the end.
On the whole, I liked most of the packets better than the premade, with the exception of the number one winner. The result of this Great Gravy Extravaganza™ was enlightening, to say the least. So, grab a spoon or a wayward scrap of chicken—we're going in.
The Best Premade Gravy, Ranked
6th Place: Great Value Chicken Gravy (Can)
The age-old saying "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" is solid advice, but thankfully I don't get paid to keep my mouth shut. The look of this gravy is incredibly unpleasant. The nicest way I can describe it is dingy, like old lemon curd. It's gloopy and jiggly in a fairly disturbing way—almost like a gravy pudding with flecks of black pepper throughout. The taste upfront attempts to be gravy, but quickly melts away to that of water. And I know it's out of a can, but it tastes more stale than it should even given the container. My husband summed it up perfectly, and this is a direct quote: "I do not like that."
5th Place: Campbell's Chicken Gravy (Can)
Campbell's gravy is thick, reminiscent of their popular condensed soup, but sadly the taste doesn't live up to the other canned favorites. It's musty, like it's stale, prompting me to check and re-check the date printed on the bottom of the can. This hard-to-put-my-finger-on taste combined with the surprise that the label boasts the use of chicken stock rather than water in the ingredients, a fact that should guarantee a more flavorful outcome, makes for quite the disappointment from a beloved brand.
4th Place: Better Than Gravy Roasted Turkey Gravy (Jar)
I'm a fan of Better Than Bouillon. So, naturally, I had high hopes for the gravy made by the same company. Unfortunately, they weren't rewarded. Thin and watery, with a whisper of gravy flavor at the end, this is akin to the jokes about La Croix sparkling water flavors (don't worry, La Croix, I still love you). The generic herb qualities might ensure you don't get invited back to the party.
3rd Place: McCormick Chicken Gravy (Box)
The liquid from the red and white box is only so-so. A far cry from the showing I expected from the reputable spice powerhouse I grew up with. But at least the flavor manages a homey note and decent gravy texture, even if it is a little thin.
2nd Place: Heinz HomeStyle Chicken Gravy (Jar)
This Heinz gravy offering is dark tan in color, riddled with visible black pepper, and holds up with lovely consistency. Though it was tasty, I personally couldn't get past the overwhelming mushroom flavor, which is a conundrum since there's no mushroom to be seen in the list of ingredients. The more I sampled it, the more I questioned whether the contents had been swapped with a can of cream of mushroom soup. If that wouldn't bother you (and it might not), then forge ahead. If it would, the McCormick gravy would likely be your second place instead. Overall, this would be a very good base for any chicken and mushroom slow cooker meal, Dutch oven dish, or any other weeknight chicken dinner, but I'd appreciate it if you'd keep it far away from my turkey and mashed potatoes.
1st Place Premade Winner: Trader Joe's Turkey Gravy (Box)
Trader Joe's has quite the reputation for well-executed premade products. The gravy is no exception. It's a little thin, but not disruptively so, and the color is pretty—like a true, roasted gravy. Trader Joe's gravy brought something to the table (literally) and I'd even go so far as to say that if you told people you made this from scratch, they would believe you. Dried potato flakes in the ingredient list help with the rich, savory quality one hopes to get with a gravy. And though yummy on its own, it really shines over a piece of poultry. And, spoiler alert, even though I generally liked the packets better, this was my overall winner. Go Joe.
The Best Gravy Mix Packets, Ranked
There are two major pros to choosing a packet to make gravy over a premade option. First, it's less expensive. Second, there is an added level of control, given that a choice can always be made to stir chicken broth into the mix instead of water. In this case, some would really benefit from this trick, but for others, there is no need due to the salinity or concentration of flavor. If the salt is big enough, you don't want to provoke it. But if the gravy is almost there, letting broth step in can make all the difference.
6th Place: Simply Organic Chicken Flavored Gravy Mix
This promising-looking package found at both Whole Foods and Kroger (and likely other stores), just didn't deliver. The gravy was pale and gelatinous and tasted purely of peppery water. Not only does it come in last place for packets, it would be my choice for last place out of all of them. If you're going to buy it because organic is your thing—and I truly understand that—please use chicken broth instead of water to make it. It will help a lot.
5th Place: Great Value Chicken Gravy Mix
I thought it would be an interesting thing to try Walmart's house-brand gravy in a packet as well as in a can. And it was. There was a fascinating difference in appearance between this and the premade version. Unlike its counterpart, this gravy was incredibly liquidy, like a lean soup. But the color was brighter, and the flavor was much improved, succeeding in having the quintessential savoryness and a lovely salinity. This is another one that would benefit greatly from the use of chicken broth.
It might not seem like the packet is much of an improvement over the can, coming in second to last instead of last, but if you look at the full ranking of packets and premade, the can comes in second to last, and the packet ranks sixth. Quite the come-up, indeed.
If this gravy had a thicker texture, it would be a nice showing. It's pleasant on chicken, but there's a sweet quality to it that wouldn't be my choice for say, Thanksgiving, but on a Sunday chicken dinner? Go nuts.
4th Place: McCormick Chicken Gravy
After putting the Great Value packet and premade against each other, I couldn't resist doing it again with McCormick. The result of the powder is much sweeter than that of the box and without depth of flavor or viscosity. I'm sure there's a use for this somewhere, but I'd prefer it wasn't in my meal. Using chicken broth instead of water would be your friend here and would make the result much more palatable.
3rd Place: Kinders Bone Broth Gravy Golden Chicken with Sea Salt & Herbs
I love a good bone broth and was really excited about this one. It had a good color and a nice texture, and you could smell and taste the herbs promised in the name. Speaking of the name, you could also differentiate the sea salt. Unfortunately, it was just too much. I tend to enjoy food on the saltier side, and this was too much for me, even on chicken or potatoes. This is an instance where sticking to water to make it is the only way to go—even a low-sodium broth would blow your palate out of the water. But if you need a gravy base for something you're cooking? Kinders would be excellent (assuming you can control the salt).
2nd Place: Knorr Roasted Turkey Flavored Gravy Mix
Another trusted brand, Knorr comes in second in packets and third overall, but it does so assuming chicken broth is whisked in rather than water. The broth removes the flat landing of the flavor and gives it a needed backbone. Without that addition, the gravy is just kind of "there"; taking up its necessary spot on the table without really doing anything. It's a decent texture, even if a little loose, with no sweetness whatsoever. In fact, the flavor is entirely out of left field; different than every other option sampled, including the premade. This is a good middle-of-the-road gravy. A family friend swears by adding a "dollop" of half and half to her packet of Knorr during the cooking process. Would it work? Who knows (I was told this much too late to try it)—but it sure couldn't hurt.
1st Place Packet Winner: Pioneer Roasted Chicken Gravy Mix
Pioneer's packet sets itself apart right at the start by having a completely different cooking process than all the rest. For the others, you whisk water with the powdered contents in a saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil, and viola—gravy. Here, you boil the water first. Meanwhile, you whisk the contents of the packet in a measuring cup with more water, then pour that mixture into the boiling water, whisking until thick. I don't know if that process is what helped set this gravy apart, but I'm sure it did in terms of texture. This gravy delivers in thickness without being overly so. I won't lie—it's very salty, kind of like a melted-down bouillon cube—but it's tasty, and I really quite enjoyed it. Stay away from chicken broth to make this one. Even a low-sodium one would push it far over the edge in that regard. Besides, Pioneer already packs a sturdy potency and big chicken flavor. There's no need to add more. As far as packet gravy goes, I would buy this again.
Bonus? It made the most product by far. The label says the yield is two full cups, but it looked more like three or four. This will feed the family—even Uncle Dan who is always shouting to "pass the gravy!"
Store-Bought Gravy Taste Test Takeaway
Surprisingly (to me anyway), packets performed better than premade varieties. Five of the six packets landed in the top half of the total standing. The exceptions of course are the Simply Organic packet coming in last and Trader Joe's ready-made box coming in first.
Overall Rankings for Premade Gravy and Gravy Mix Packets
12. Simply Organic Chicken Flavored Gravy Mix (Packet)
11. Great Value Chicken Gravy (Can)
10. Campbell's Chicken Gravy (Can)
9. Better Than Gravy, Roasted Turkey Gravy (Jar)
8. McCormick Chicken Gravy (Box)
7. Heinz HomeStyle Chicken Gravy (Jar)
6. Great Value Chicken Gravy Mix (Packet—if made with chicken broth)
5. McCormick Chicken Gravy Mix (Packet—if made with chicken broth)
4. Kinders Bone Broth Gravy, Golden Chicken with Sea Salt & Herbs (Packet)
3. Knorr Roasted Turkey Flavored Gravy Mix (Packet—if made with chicken broth)
2. Pioneer Roasted Chicken Gravy Mix (Packet)
1. Trader Joe's Turkey Gravy (Box)
Note: An attempt was made to sample chicken gravy from each brand in order to keep the control as consistent as possible. Turkey gravy was allowed to stand in when the brand did not sell a chicken variety, so at least it was still poultry.
Read the original article on All Recipes.