I’ve always enjoyed sausage gravy 1 but I didn’t start to obsess about it until a visit to Portland and Pine State Biscuits. 2
That trip made Sausage Gravy a regular at our Sunday breakfast table. After making it for months, I’ve found it just works better in cast iron. I don’t know why. Heavy duty steel or anodized aluminum pans do the job, but the recipe didn’t come together for me until I cooked it in cast iron. Maybe it’s tradition, maybe it’s the heavy metal, but I’m convinced I need a cast iron pan to do sausage gravy right.
Sausage gravy is barely a recipe – cook a pound of breakfast sausage, then toast flour in the fat and drippings left in the pan. Whisk in milk, and keep whisking until the lumps smooth out and the milk reduces in to a thick gravy. Add salt and (lots of) pepper to taste, and serve on top of biscuits. You can find this basic recipe – with a ratio of 1 pound of sausage, 1/4 cup of flour, and 2 cups milk – everywhere on the internet. My big change? I double up on the gravy, because my family can’t get enough. I add a little extra vegetable oil to the drippings in the pan to make sure there’s enough fat, then use 1/2 cup of flour and 4 cups of milk. 3
Recipe: Sausage Gravy (In a Cast Iron Skillet)
Sausage Gravy in a cast iron skillet, made with the drippings from a pound of sausage.
- 1 pound of breakfast sausage, formed into patties
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 cups milk
- A lot of fresh ground black pepper
- Cook the sausage: Heat the cast iron skillet over medium heat for five minutes, then add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is well browned on the bottom, about five minutes. Flip the sausage and brown the other side and cook the sausage through, about five more minutes. Remove the sausage to a paper towel lined plate, leaving as much fat and drippings behind as possible.
- Toast the flour: Increase the heat to medium-high and add the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan. Let the oil warm up for 1 minute, then sprinkle in the flour. Whisk the flour into the oil, then cook the flour, whisking often, until the flour turns from white to a light blonde color, about 3 minutes.
- Simmer the gravy, slowly whisking in the milk: Slowly whisk the milk into the pan, adding about a half a cup at a time. Whisk until the milk is completely absorbed by the flour before adding the next pour of milk. (The flour and milk will get the consistency of a thin dough, with the milk completely absorbed by the flour. That’s the sign to add another pour of milk.) Take it slow – trying to hurry this step will result in lumpy gravy – about 6 minutes to whisk in all the milk. Once all the milk is added, simmer the gravy until it thickens enough to just see the bottom of the pan through the bubbles, about 4 more minutes.
- Season the gravy: Seasoning is key – milk and flour are bland, and need salt and pepper. Whisk in salt and pepper – a lot of pepper – until the gravy tastes good. It will take more salt and pepper than it seems like it should. I whisk in salt in half teaspoon increments until the gravy stops tasting flat and start tasting sweet, then I add ground pepper until the gravy tastes spicy, with a hint of heat. Serve.
- How do you turn a roll of sausage into evenly shaped patties? I leave the sausage in the plastic casing, and use my serrated bread knife to cut through the plastic. I cut off the rounded end, and then cut 3/4 inch slices until I get to the other end. I peel the rounded ends out of the plastic and mash them together to form a single patty. (If that patty is really a mess, I cook it, then crumble it up and whisk it into the gravy.)
- Don’t want to make biscuits? I feel your pain. My wife’s the baker in the family, and she’s our chief biscuit maker. If I’m home alone with the kids, I cheat and use english muffins. Shh – don’t tell anyone. I’m sure the Southern Cooking Police have a SWAT team on call to take care of northerners like me.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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