The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Homemade Sausage Gravy, According To An Expert

Biscuits and gravy is one of life's simple pleasures. The combination of flakey biscuits and rich, white gravy makes for a Southern-style breakfast that's slap-ya-mama good. It may be hard to believe that something so decadent is made with just a handful of ingredients. But according to Chef John Politte, owner and executive chef at It's Only Food, when it comes to sausage gravy, simplicity is the name of the game.

"I think the biggest mistake people make with homemade sausage gravy is that they try to over-season it," Politte said in an exclusive interview with Mashed, adding, "There is no complexity to the recipe. It's just sausage, flour, milk, and black pepper." Rather than just throwing all of the ingredients together, though, making a roux involves slowly adding flour to the fat rendered from the cooked sausage. It's this roux that gives the gravy its savory, meaty flavor. "People will taste it as it cooks and say, 'It needs something' and then start adding things to it that totally change the flavor profile and character of the dish," Politte quips. "Keep it simple, follow the recipe, and trust the outcome."

And because the roux is the pièce de résistance of this recipe, Politte encourages giving it ample time to blossom. "It is also important to cook the roux long enough before adding the milk and to simmer the gravy after it is done," he says, adding, "Doing this will ensure a nicely developed flavor‌."

Keep it classic

Where you cook your gravy also impacts the final outcome of the dish. Using the same pan used to cook the sausage makes use of all those yummy drippings. As far as Chef John Politte is concerned, that's all you need. "I believe in the simple, basic approach, and just use a bit of salt and pepper while cooking," he says. For a deeper umami taste, Politte's sausage gravy recipe also includes chicken base, which he says can be a "game changer" for canned sausage gravy.

"Some people like sage, but I think that gives the gravy an undesired flavor because people add way too much," Politte says. Creamy sausage dishes like pasta alla Norcina often include aromatics like nutmeg and cinnamon for an extra warming effect. "I have seen recipes with fennel, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, and Worcestershire sauce," Politte says, adding, "Most of these herbs pair well with pork, but not in a sausage gravy." If you're set on adding a little kick to your biscuits and gravy, he recommends a dash of hot sauce on the finished product.

At the end of the day, the onus of flavoring the dish falls on the sausage. "The best method to add flavor to the gravy is with the type of sausage you put into it — because you are building a foundation for flavor with the meat," Politte notes. "I usually buy a good quality pork sausage that isn't branded with a seasoning profile."