Serious Eats

Taste Test: Store-Bought Turkey Gravy

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

The Winners!

Best Overall: Heinz

Runner-Up: Campbell's

Of all the Thanksgiving taste-tests we've had recently at headquarters, the gravy one didn't exactly make our tummies grumble for joy.* Bowls of brownish to brownish-gray gloop all lined up. Shudder. Though many of us wouldn't even think to use the packaged stuff on Thanksgiving, especially when the bird naturally acts as a gravy faucet, sometimes it's nice to have around as an emergency back-up. And we were curious, do any of them taste homemade?

We tried the following nationally available brands: Franco-American, Campbells, Heinz (regular and fat-free), Trader Joe's, and Williams-Sonoma.

* It probably didn't help that we had a chocolate tasting that morning..

The Criteria

Why the Losers Lost

Some of them had no flavor at all, or it was completely off. Curry oil? Top Ramen? Something vaguely Asian-tasting going on? Others were too sweet, or had icky metallic aftertastes. As far as texture goes, they ranged from watery to cement paste. The worst was described as "mucus-like." And we hate to judge by color, but some were shades we have never spotted before in nature.

Winner: Heinz

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The Heniz lid says "so close to homemade," which is a bit of a stretch, but of what we tried, it tasted the best. It's kind of a Stovetop situation—the Heinz doesn't taste like the real-deal, but it's a welcome alternative and comforting in a served-on-a-cafeteria-tray kind of way. You could really taste the carrots, herbs, and poultry flavors. Texture-wise, it's thick but flowed nicely; not too gelatinous.

Note: The fat-free version is not recommended.

Honorable Mention: Campbell's

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Though a bit cornstarchy, the Campbell's had more or less the right gravy texture. Very smooth. "Clean-flavored, not overly salted," said one taster.

Store-bought not your style? Make it from scratch ยป

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