When it comes to making gravy from those delicious slow cooker juices, things aren’t so straightforward as the liquid in the slow cooker doesn’t evaporate or thicken by itself. You need a few tricks up your sleeve to turn this into a thick, tasty sauce.
The best way to thicken slow cooker juices into a gravy is to use a starch. Either use a roux made from flour and butter and gradually whisk in the cooked liquid or make a slurry made from cornstarch and water which you then slowly add to the simmering juices.
So which is best? Keep reading to discover what the difference is between using a roux and a cornflour slurry.
Also find out if it’s better to do this in the crockpot itself or use a separate pan, and what to do if you don’t have any flour, cornstarch, or similar available.
The Best Way To Thicken Gravy In Slow Cooker
The most reliable method to thicken gravy from the juices in a slow cooker is to create a roux – a mixture of flour and fat – in a separate pan and then incorporate the liquid from the pot.
Starch is widely used in cooking to thicken sauces and gravies and the traditional way of doing this is to make something called a roux. This is just a paste made from flour and some sort of fat, usually melted butter but you can use things like vegetable oil and lard as well.
By cooking this up in a separate pan and adding the slow cooker juices to it, I find you have a lot more control over the thickness and texture of the gravy.
Using A Roux To Thicken Slow Cooker Gravy
Here’s a simple 10 step method to follow to make some excellent slow cooker gravy using a roux:
- Remove the meat from the slow cooker and put it somewhere to keep warm.
- Strain the leftover liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan, discarding any solids or debris.
- Measure out roughly how many cups of liquid you have and set aside to cool while you make the roux.
- Using a ratio of one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of all-purpose flour for each cup of liquid, measure out the ingredients for the roux.
- In a separate pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Once the butter has melted, gradually whisk in the flour to create a smooth paste. The consistency you’re looking for is often described as ‘wet sand’.
- Reduce the heat and cook the roux for around 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it turns a light golden color. This helps remove the raw flour taste.
- Slowly pour the strained juices into the roux, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming.
- Bring the mixture to a gentle boil while stirring constantly. This will activate the thickening properties of the flour and create a smooth, luscious gravy.
- Reduce the heat and simmer the gravy for a few minutes until it reaches your desired consistency and your gravy is ready to serve.
Note that the gravy will continue to thicken as it cools, so keep it warm and use it as soon as possible.
Other Ways To Make Gravy In The Slow Cooker
An alternative to using a roux to make gravy from slow cooker juices is to use a slurry made from another starch such as cornstarch or arrowroot. You can also thicken the liquid to some degree by simmering it over low heat until it’s reduced.
While using a roux is the most reliable method and has the best final texture, there are other ways to make gravy using the leftover liquid in the slow cooker. Here are some ideas:
Using A Cornstarch Slurry
One popular option is to use cornstarch, which is a gluten-free thickening agent that is almost tasteless. This simple method is very quick to make the slurry, so you can easily whip up a little more if you need it.
- Strain the cooking liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan.
- In a separate bowl, mix equal parts cold water and cornstarch. The general guideline is one tablespoon of cornstarch for each cup of the slow cooker juices.
- Place the saucepan containing the strained juices over medium heat and bring them to a simmer.
- Slowly whisk small amounts of the cornstarch mixture into the simmering liquid, checking the gravy consistency as you go, it takes a few minutes to thicken.
- Once your gravy has reached your desired thickness, stop adding the slurry.
- Remove from the heat and serve straight away as it will thicken more as it cools.
It’s possible to thicken it in the slow cooker itself, but it takes longer as it doesn’t get as hot to boil the starch. To do so, add the slurry 30 minutes from the end and turn it on the high setting.
While cornstarch is a great option, it does have a couple of drawbacks to be aware of; it can give the gravy a glossy, gloopy texture and appearance. It can also lose its thickening power if cooked for too long
There are other types of starch you can use to thicken gravy known as root starches. These include arrowroot, potato starch, and tapioca.
They act in a similar way to cornstarch so the slurry method above can be used with any of these.
You can swap out the cornstarch for arrowroot powder and potato starch using the same quantities, but with tapioca you will need to add twice as much to get the same result.
Thickening Gravy By Reducing
If you don’t have any type of starch available, then try thickening up the liquid by reducing it.
Just bring the strained juices to a boil in a saucepan and then reduce to a simmer. Over time, much of the excess moisture will gradually evaporate leaving you with a thicker gravy.
This method may take 20 minutes or more so is not the best option if you’re in a hurry but it does work eventually. Note that you will also lose around one-third of the liquid so you may end up with not enough to go around.
Will Gravy Thicken By Itself In The Crockpot?
The liquid in the slow cooker will not thicken by itself as slow cookers are designed to retain moisture and prevent excessive evaporation.
While this is great for keeping your meat moist and tender, the juices simply will not naturally reduce during the cooking process and may in fact become even more watery as liquid is released.
That’s why it’s necessary to employ other thickening techniques to transform your flavorful liquid into a rich and satisfying gravy.
When Should I Thicken My Sauce In A Slow Cooker?
It’s best to thicken your sauce in a slow cooker towards the end of the cooking time as the meat and vegetables will release liquid while cooking.
Unless you’re following a recipe that requires you to thicken the sauce while the meat is cooking, then it’s always better to do this at the end when the meat is ready – you have more control.
This way you can remove the cooked meat and quickly thicken up the juices either in the pot itself or for better results, by straining them into another saucepan.
Making Gravy In The Slow Cooker Or In A Separate Pan?
While it’s possible to make gravy in the slow cooker pot, it’s quicker and easier to do it in a separate pan where you will have more control.
Thickening juices directly in the crockpot involves adding a thickener directly to the hot liquid, but you will not have much control over the heat you’re using or how thick the gravy may end up.
By transferring the liquid to a separate pan and using a roux or slurry, you can control the thickness, more easily eliminate lumps, and adjust the flavor to your liking by adding more seasoning.
In conclusion, I’ve found the most reliable way to make gravy from slow cooker juices is to use a deliberate thickening method such as a roux or cornstarch slurry.
For the best results, strain the liquid at the end of cooking into a separate saucepan. This is both quicker and easier than trying to do it in the crockpot itself.
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