1. Food

Taste test: Turkey gravy

Years ago, our tasters sampled ready-made mashed potatoes along with prepared gravy from cans, jars or packets. From that day on, our judges have been buying heat-and-serve mashed potatoes, but making their own gravy. This week, we found four brands of turkey gravy in convenient, easy-to-pour cartons and wanted to give the premixed gravies another try. For the most part, judges said they will continue to make their own gravy this Thanksgiving.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

(out of 100)
Swanson 63Pacific 34Imagine 32McCormick 25
Swanson's turkey gravy was very, very salty. That pleased most of our judges, although they said it could overpower some dishes. "I love the light color and the bold salty flavor," said one judge, adding that the gravy had a distinct turkey flavor as well. "I think it would work really well on mashed potatoes." A couple of other panelists said they might use the mix if they were in a hurry to get dinner on the table, but all said they would add whatever turkey drippings they could scrape up after roasting their birds.This gravy was very light-colored with bits of what some judges decided was turkey or sausage. It was sturdier than some of the other options, with an overall thick consistency. "It tastes like turkey and would cling nicely to turkey slices," said one judge. A couple of judges said it could overwhelm delicate vegetables or a light stuffing casserole. The Imagine brand of gravy was the darkest of the gravies. Judges described it as deep, caramel brown with "an appealing, rich flavor." It wasn't as thick as tasters had anticipated, given the bold color. A couple of judges said they would thicken the gravy and definitely add fresh or dried seasonings. "It has a slight, uncooked flour taste so I wouldn't add any flour for thickener," said one panelist. "But it's possible some turkey broth, drippings or fresh herbs could brighten it up."Herb flavors, including sage and salt, were plentiful in McCormick's carton of gravy, but they weren't enough to salvage this for a holiday meal, judges agreed. They said the gravy was too thin and lacked any real turkey flavor. "It looked promising, but the flavor is just off," said one panelist who said she detected a fishy taste. Another said: "The harsh finish is unpleasant."
they buy?
Three of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.None of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$2.29 for an 18.3-ounce carton from Publix.$2.50 for a 13.9-ounce carton from Whole Foods.$2.50 for a 13.5-ounce carton from Whole Foods.$1.50 for a 12-ounce carton from Winn-Dixie.
Serving sizeOne-fourth cupOne-fourth cupOne-fourth cupOne-fourth cup
Fat/Fiber1g / 0g2g / 0g0.5g / 0g0g / 0g
Sugars/Sodium1g / 270mg0g / 170mg0g / 220mg0g / 280mg
Carbs/Protein3g / 0g4g / 1g2g / 0g5g / 0g
Panelists: Kay Hodnett, personal chef; Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg;
Julie Overton, consumer and mother of four; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line.