Is it possible to remove excess salt from gravy?

So, in the 71 degree heat, I made Alton Brown’s fabulous Good Eats turkey, and even though I brined it, I made a gravy from the drippings anyway. And it’s freakin’ awesome–incredible flavor. It’s also too salty, which didn’t surprise me. I can kind of live with it, even though I don’t much care for salt, but I would prefer not to have to drink so much water after dinner.

I have heard the advice that you should put a raw potato into soups/stews/gravies, boil it for (what 5, 15?) minutes, and it will suck some of the salt out. Does this really work? If so, do you throw in a whole peeled potato, or a chopped potato, or a potato cut into quarters? How long do you keep it in for?

If the potato thing doesn’t work, would something else? I suppose I could thin it with stock (if I can find some in the house) but I’m afraid I’ll ruin the incredible turkey-osity of this gravy.

I’ve tried the potato thing for some chili, and it didn’t really work. I used one potato, peeled, and cooked it until it was done - about 15 minutes. (In a big pot of chili.)

Personally, I would try adding more (low-sodium!:)) chicken broth and thickening agent to it.

I made that same turkey about a month ago (it was REALLY good). My MIL made the gravy out of the drippings as well, but she strectched the drippings with regular chicken broth, whoops. I think we just added a bunch of tap water. It was still pretty salty but it helped a little.
I think the best bet for making gravy with a brined turkey, is to make it without the drippings (Tones is good)
Upon reflection, I think I used Alton’s receipe for the cooking part of it, but I bought a premade brine mix and used that.

The only way to “remove” salt is by dilution…add more ingredients until the salt level is acceptable.

As a long-time cook, I can say that I’ve been there, and that the potato solution is only useful when something is slightly oversalted. If it’s oversalted to the extent that you describe, don’t bother.

I’m with the others in recommending dilution.

Thanks. I was thinking the potato thing was too good to be true. Dilution it is, then.

Yep. I would probably just go to the store, buy a cheap cut of turkey (turkey necks, backs, whatever), stock vegetables, and make a salt free broth to cut with the turkey gravy. It’s a lot of work for gravy, but if I REALLY wanted to salvage the taste of the broth and reduce the salt content, that’s what I would do.

Otherwise, I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as sodium-free broth, but if there is, that would be the next best bet.

Yeah, the thing about canned broth is that it’s really really salty. Even “low sodium” broth has quite a bit of salt, just less than “regular” broth.

I would advise against adding anything that has any salt at all. If you have something that’s 2x salty, adding regular 1x broth only brings it down to 1.5x salty. Even adding .5x broth only brings it down to 1.25x salty. Adding 0x ingredients is what you want.

The only problem of course is that you don’t want to dilute flavor. So adding water sucks, because then you get dilute sauce/gravy. So you’ve got to dilute your salty sauce with something as flavorful as the salty sauce but without salt, otherwise you’ll get a bland sauce. At that point even though it seems a crime to waste the drippings you might as well throw it out, life is too short. Or make the other salt-free sauce and add small amounts of salty drippings as the only salt source, until you’ve reached the right saltiness. Then throw out the rest of the drippings, or put them in the freezer until you have another sauce that needs both salt and drippings. Which means don’t use them when you’re using canned broth, because canned broth will contain plenty of salt already.

Did you try adding some sugar? Obviously it’s not going to physically remove any salt, but it should balance out the taste at least.

If you can find frozen stock or demi-glace, that’s usually completely saltless. I’ve seen it at Whole foods before. I think it’s good to make up a batch of demi-glace once in a while and store it in ice-cube trays. For soups, store bought stock is acceptable but nothing really compares to a good demi-glace for sauces.

Not so. You could pour your gravy over a mixed bed ion exchange column, or use a low molecular weight membrane filtration cassette to desalt.
Neither of these methods is common in the home kitchen, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use them.

The problem is salt ions are smaller than practically all flavour molecules so all you would get out from the other side is mildly flavoured water.

How about dialysis?

That won’t work, Lib. You’re thinking of deviled kidneys.

Results: I tried diluting a 1/4 cup of gravy with 1/4 cup of water. That actually worked better than I expected. It wasn’t quite as flavorful, but it didn’t suck all the turkey goodness out, and the gravy was so thick to start with, the water didn’t thin it out much.

I like Lemur866’s idea of using some of the drippings as a salt source and flavoring, and using sodium-free stock (or something) as a base. Of course, now that I know about low molecular weight membrane filtration, I may just have to do that.

My mother freezes gravy and uses spoonfuls of it to add to soup whenever she doesn’t have “all the right ingredients” for the stock. Conversely, sometimes she makes a big potful of unsalted stock and freezes that.

And then if she has frozen gravy, frozen stock, and some idiot son who comes to lunch without previous warning, it’s a matter of mixing them in the right proportions (the son should be used to absorb the rest, it should not be added to the pot).