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The Unlikely Reason Your Gravy Is Foaming

A bubbly gravy is sure to raise eyebrows in the kitchen. If you’re wondering what’s going on, we’ve written this guide to help.

“Now that’s something new,” you mused, watching your gravy foam and bubble like a bath bomb dropped in the pan. Did the recipe forget to warn about this?

This got you worrying and wondering, “What’s going on here?” But you did the right thing: You grabbed your phone, searched the Internet, and found this article.

If bubbly gravy is your concern, pull up a chair, grab a cold beverage, and read on. We did a few tests in the kitchen to rule out the likely culprits and wrote up this troubleshooting guide just for you.

Why Your Gravy Is Foaming

If your gravy’s bubbling and foaming, look at the flour you used. It might have been self-rising flour.

Self-rising flour has baking powder in it. Baking powder helps baked goods rise because it’s made up of a base and an acid, and when you add water, they react to produce gas bubbles.

This quality of self-rising flour is what makes it such a great choice for baking bread or making cake—and admittedly less great of a choice for making pan sauces like gravy!

Next time, use all-purpose flour.

All-purpose flour delivers on its promise. It blends with the fats in the gravy and thickens it to your liking without drama. This means no foam and no bubbles.

Don’t have all-purpose flour? You can use bread, cake, or pizza flour instead. But if you want to avoid bubbles, make sure it’s not self-rising. (And if you have no flour at all, thicken your gravy with cornstarch.)

A Few More Causes to Consider

Too High a Heat: Cooking gravy at too high a temperature can cause it to boil vigorously, which in turn can lead to bubbling and foaming. It’s best to cook gravy at a simmer, over medium heat, to prevent this.

Cornstarch: Starches other than flour, if not properly integrated, can also cause foaming. For instance, if you’re using cornstarch as a thickener and it’s not properly mixed with a cold liquid before being added to the hot gravy (this is called a “cornstarch slurry”), it can result in foaming.

Acidic Liquids: Sometimes, adding acidic liquids like wine or vinegar can cause a temporary foam, especially if added all at once to a hot mixture. Gravy is no exception.

Is Foaming Gravy Safe to Eat?

You’ve made it this far, which means you’ve probably nailed down the cause. But one question remains: is bubbly gravy safe to eat? Or will it… you know, kill you?

Here’s the long answer short: If the foaming of your gravy was due to the use of self-rising flour, then rest assured, the gravy is safe to eat.

What you witnessed was a one-time reaction producing gas bubbles. Had you added the self-rising flour to a dough, those gas bubbles would have gotten trapped, causing it to rise. In your gravy’s case, they simply dissipated into the open air.

However, the baking soda contained in the self-rising flour can give your gravy a tingly, slightly bitter taste.

Give This Gravy Technique a Try

Okay, here’s a foolproof way to make a great gravy.

Wait for the pan to cool down after you’re done searing or roasting meat in it. (Before you’ve asked, you’re doing this to protect yourself from burns.)

When the pan is no longer too hot to touch, place it on the burner, add a splash of broth, and bring it to a simmer. Scrape the bottom of the pan clean with the help of a stainless steel or wooden spatula. Remove from the heat, pour out the meat drippings into a bowl, and set them aside.

Measure out equal weighs unsalted butter and all-purpose flour. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, then whisk in the flour. Cook the flour-fat mixture, continuously stirring, for 10 minutes. (In French cooking, this is called a “roux.” And don’t be alarmed if it breaks a little.)

When the mixture has become dark blond or golden brown, incorporate the meat drippings. Season with salt, black pepper, and apple cider vinegar to taste, then continue cooking and stirring for another 2-3 minutes. Serve the gravy in a sauce bowl or simply pour over the dish.

The Takeaways

More often than not, the cause of foaming and bubbling gravy is the use of self-rising flour. This flour contains baking soda, which releases gas bubbles upon contact with water.

Gravy made with self-rising flour is safe to eat. Just note that it might have a slightly off taste because of the baking soda. Opt for all-purpose flour next time to avoid this.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.