While I’ve shared a basic Southern gravy recipe here before, if you’re thinking of making biscuits and gravy it can’t be done with restaurant style gravy. It must be made with sausage gravy. Sausage gravy is a Southern staple. It can be found in nearly every restaurant and diner in the South and the Southwest and is undoubtedly made in nearly every home in the area as well.
Nothing quite compares with biscuits and gravy. It’s not a fancy meal. It shouldn’t be made into a fancy meal. It’s peasant food at its best. Pure, simple and filling. It is food born from a need to feed a family with only what was on hand and feed them well.
This is my mother’s recipe. I have not adapted it, modified it or otherwise mucked with it. On the contrary, I’ve invested over 20 years of my life trying to perfect my mother’s technique. At first I tried to make it my own. These attempts resulted in some pretty good gravies, but they just weren’t “right.” It’s taken a long time, but I think that if my mother was still with us, this gravy would make her proud.
The real secret behind sausage gravy is in both the sausage and in the way it is cooked. The sausage used in this dish should be of the bulk store variety and preferably be very fatty. Also, low, gentle heat should be used to cook the sausage. This low cooking temperature allows the fat in the sausage to completely render out of the meat. The resulting grease is the heart and soul of a great gravy. It ads the base flavor, body and character of everything that comes later.
Another key to success is in cooking the sausage properly. The aim here isn’t to just barely get your sausage cooked through, but to take it just a tiny bit past that point. At the end the sausage should be slightly dry. It should then be strained for at least five minutes through a fine mesh sieve or colander and the drippings should be reserved.
From this point making sausage gravy is an identical process to any other flour-based pan gravy. Return the oil to the pan, add flour and brown, season, add milk and stir, stir, stir! I use all-purpose flour in my gravies, but there are those who swear by Wondra. I’m not going to judge, but I’ve never ended up with lumpy gravy, so all-purpose is just fine by me.
Of course a gravy of this caliber needs something to be lavished upon. The go-to (and highly preferred) vehicle for gravy delivery is the plain ol’ buttermilk biscuit. The light, flaky, multilayered biscuits of the North are not appreciated here. The gravy just makes them soggy and they don’t have the right texture. You gotta have a biscuit with some heft to it.
And there, my friends, you have it. The ultimate experience in breakfast, brunch or late night munching fare. The culinary pinnacle of flour, milk and flavor. A humble food that deserves a place in every kitchen. My mother’s sausage gravy. Give this a try the next time you’re craving a little love. Trust me, there’s a lot of love in this recipe.
Note: all measurements given below are close approximations. Making gravy is not an exact science. Amounts of flour and milk vary depending on a number of factors, including humidity, elevation, water content in grease, size of pan, etc. It also depends on whether you like your gravy thick or on the thin side, so feel free to fiddle with the amounts as necessary to get the right fit for you.
- 1 pound pork breakfast sausage
- 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour (approximate)
- 3 cups milk (approximate)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil, if necessary
Place a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium low heat. Add sausage to the skillet and break up with a spoon or a spatula. Cook, turning and continuing to break apart the sausage, until fully cooked, about 15 minutes.
Place a fine sieve or colander over a large bowl and scrape the entire contents of the skillet into the sieve to drain. Allow to drain at least 5 minutes, shaking occasionally.
Place pan over medium high heat and pour in the reserved drippings. If the sausage has not given off enough fat, add enough vegetable oil so that the fat in the skillet just barely covers the entire bottom.
Sprinkle the flour into the oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir until flour is a deep brown and smells nutty. (Note: Do not stop stirring. Do not walk away!)
Add milk 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Allow gravy to thicken between adding each cup of milk. Stir constantly, milk will froth and boil, this is normal. When gravy is slightly thinner than desired, remove from heat, stir in reserved sausage and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve over piping hot biscuits, over bread, on potatoes, whatever makes you happy.
Share and Enjoy!
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
Not a darned thing. I never deviate on this recipe. It’s been good to me.
Links to other recipes like this:
- Restaurant Style Southern White Gravy, from CbsoP
- Southern Sausage Gravy, from Andrea Meyers
- Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, from Judy at No Fear Entertaining