Thanksgiving Chicken

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This Thanksgiving Chicken & Gravy is an oven roasted whole chicken that’s the perfect easy alternative to Thanksgiving turkey. (Who says you must have turkey on Thanksgiving, anyway?!) With a flavor-packed herb butter & savory herb oil made with festive fresh herbs, this juicy oven roasted chicken will delight your dinner guests. If you’re hosting a small-scale Thanksgiving dinner or are looking to mix things up & make room for more side dishes, then a Thanksgiving chicken is for you!

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An overhead shot of a finished roasted Thanksgiving Chicken atop a layer of roasted baby potatoes in a large cast iron skillet sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin laid out on a lightly colored textured surface. Loose sprigs of fresh herbs surround the skillet in both the foreground and background.

Skip the Turkey! – It’s Time for Thanksgiving Chicken!

As we all start to plan for Thanksgiving dinner this time of year, some people will start to reconsider the turkey… & in hushed tones, as if asking for permission, they’ll ask: “Can you eat chicken on Thanksgiving?

My answer? ABSOLUTELY! There are no rules! If you want to serve a roasted Thanksgiving chicken instead, go for it. This Thanksgiving chicken recipe is a classic in my family – my brother has been serving it for years! We just love how easy it is to make this nontraditional Thanksgiving bird. Plus, serving an oven roasted whole chicken on Thanksgiving has some major advantages, while still delivering a classic poultry main course we all look forward to during the holidays. 

Roasting a whole chicken is much faster than roasting a whole turkey – & we all know how precious oven space is on Thanksgiving! But the biggest advantage to a Thanksgiving chicken is portion size. If you’re having a small-scale Thanksgiving dinner & don’t need to feed a big crowd, then a Thanksgiving chicken is PERFECT for you. & if you are hosting a large gathering, then a Thanksgiving chicken will give you extra room on the table to showcase more side dishes! Let’s be honest…we all show up to Thanksgiving for the sides anyway, am I right? (Side note – if you love Thanksgiving sides as much as I do, then get ready for my favorite time of year…Sidesgiving!)

Thanksgiving Roast Chicken Highlights

You will adore this oven roasted whole chicken recipe because it is…

  • Perfect for Small-Scale Thanksgiving. A smaller 5 pound bird will feed a crowd of 5-7 people – perfect for a more low-key Thanksgiving dinner! – & you can still have some leftovers! 
  • Affordable & Approachable. Large whole turkeys can be expensive depending on the price you’re paying per pound. If you don’t need that much meat, a more affordable whole chicken will be friendlier on your wallet. & whole chickens are easy to find at nearly any grocery store! 
  • DELICIOUS. What makes this Thanksgiving chicken recipe special is the savory herb oil we use to quickly marinate the whole roasted chicken (secret ingredient: Worcestershire sauce!). It coats the bird in rich, delicious umami flavors, especially when combined with the herb butter we’ll also use to slather all over our Thanksgiving chicken!

Move over Thanksgiving turkey – Thanksgiving chicken is going to take over the dinner table this year! ♡ Read on to learn more about this Thanksgiving Chicken recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

Oven Roasted Whole Chicken Key Ingredients

The key ingredients in this Thanksgiving chicken recipe are super flavorful, super simple holiday staples.

Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You will need:

  • Whole Chicken. You can find a whole chicken at almost any grocery store – or even at your local farm! To make this recipe, buy a 4 to 5-pound whole chicken, trimming it of any excess fat & patting dry before use. 
  • Herb Butter. I love herb butter! We’re going to make our own with unsalted butter, garlic, & fresh herbs, then slather it all over our whole chicken before roasting. It brings SO much flavor to this oven roasted whole chicken & it’s easy to whip up. 
  • Savory Herb Oil. This herb oil makes our Thanksgiving chicken extra-special! You’ll need to prepare it a day in advance so the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, & herbs have time to infuse into the olive oil. 
  • Potatoes. Baby potatoes or mini creamer potatoes both work well here. They roast underneath the chicken, catching all of its schmaltzy goodness. (After all, every Thanksgiving table needs potatoes!)

What herbs pair with chicken? ⇢Thanks to its mild flavor, oven roasted chicken pairs beautifully with several fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary, sage, & thyme, to name a few. Rather than buying fresh herbs individually, many grocery stores that sell fresh herbs also carry a “poultry blend” consisting of fresh rosemary, sage & thyme. I keep a couple of these poultry herb packs on hand during the holiday season since they pair well with everything from Thanksgiving chicken or turkey to potatoes!

How to Roast Whole Chicken

Let’s get ready to make our roast chicken dinner. If you don’t know how to roast a whole chicken, no worries. It’s super simple! This oven roasted whole chicken requires a small amount of prep, but then the oven does most of the work. 

First, Prep & Season (Herb Butter & Savory Herb Oil Marinade)

There are two things you’ll need to season your Thanksgiving chicken: herb butter & savory herb oil. Both are going to layer TONS of amazing flavor on our oven roasted whole chicken. 

First, a savory herb oil marinade. Important (!!) — this should be made a day in advance & kept at room temperature, allowing all the flavors to infuse. Worcestershire sauce is the secret ingredient in this savory herb oil. It’s a little sour, a little sweet, & a little spicy, lending an amazing umami flavor to our Thanksgiving chicken. It’s the BEST. 

The herb butter is made by mixing fresh butter with garlic, rosemary, sage, & thyme. Then we’re going to spread the herb butter all over your chicken, working it between the chicken skin & meat with your hands. The more butter the better! When your Thanksgiving chicken is in the oven, the butter is going to melt & make your oven roasted whole chicken super juicy, with yummy garlic & herb flavors in every bite. 

After you’ve buttered your chicken, you’re also going to marinate it quickly in this savory herb oil. This is what I mean by layers of flavor! Drizzle a generous amount over your whole chicken & let it sit for 30 minutes to marinate while the oven preheats. 

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Roast Your Thanksgiving Chicken 

Before this Thanksgiving chicken gets roasting, you’ll have to preheat the oven & cast iron skillet. 

Cast iron skillets are awesome for roasting just about anything. Here’s the cast iron skillet I use, if you need one! You should always take the time to preheat your cast iron skillet. In this case, preheating your cast iron skillet in the oven gives the Thanksgiving chicken a faster, more even roast. Cast iron takes a little while to heat up, so when it gets all toasty in the oven our chicken will start sizzlin’ the moment we put it in the pan. This also helps get a delicious golden sear on the bird! 

Once the oven & the cast iron skillet are hot, transfer your deliciously seasoned Thanksgiving chicken to the skillet & get roasting! 

You’ll also be basting the Thanksgiving chicken in all its mouthwatering, herbaceous drippings about every 15 minutes to promote even browning & help it soak up tons of flavor as it roasts. Use a spoon or a brush to take the drippings out of the bottom of the skillet & drizzle them over your oven roasted whole chicken.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Thanksgiving Chicken Recipe FAQs

I get a lot of questions about how to roast a whole chicken. Let’s clear up some major Qs! 

  • Should you cover a chicken with foil when roasting? The PWWB method for oven roasted whole chicken uses a cast iron skillet, so there’s no need for foil. A cast iron skillet roast chicken doesn’t need to be covered because it helps the chicken skin get crispy & golden-brown. Plus, we need to baste the chicken regularly to keep it moist & tender. If your chicken begins to brown too quickly, you can drape it with foil – I personally love browned, crispy chicken skin! 
  • How long do I roast a chicken in the oven? We’re roasting this whole chicken in a few different phases: first for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F & then for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees F. How long to roast a chicken can vary based on your oven & the size of your bird, but overall it should take you about 1 ½ – 2 hours. What’s most important is that the bird reaches the proper internal temperature. 
  • What is a safe roast chicken temperature? Your roast chicken temperature should reach a safe 165 degrees F before serving. You can take the chicken out of the oven when the thickest part of the thigh registers 155 degrees F. As the oven roasted chicken rests before carving, it’ll continue to cook up to a safe 165 degrees. 

How to Make Homemade Chicken Gravy

This step is optional for an oven roasted whole chicken. BUT it is Thanksgiving…the best time of year for gravy! Chicken gravy, like turkey gravy, complements your main course & pairs perfectly with classic sides like mashed potatoes & stuffing. Like my Easy Turkey Gravy recipe, we’re going to make this chicken gravy from all of the juicy chicken drippings that accumulate in the cast iron skillet as the bird roasts – that’s where all the best flavor is! 

So let’s talk about how to make chicken gravy. If you’ve ever made turkey gravy before, it’s going to feel very familiar.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

How to make gravy from chicken drippings:

First, gather the fatty, flavorful chicken drippings from the skillet into a bowl or large liquid measuring cup. These drippings are overflowing with all the butter-herb flavors we layered onto our oven roasted whole chicken. They’re the perfect base for our chicken gravy!

Skim half of the oil from the surface of the chicken drippings & then add the liquid back to the skillet over medium-low heat. Make a dark roux by sprinkling the flour into the fatty drippings & whisking constantly. After a few minutes pour in some white wine, reduce the liquid, & then add in chicken stock. Keep whisking! Once the gravy reaches your desired thickness then it’s ready to serve. 

I also like to add heavy cream to this chicken gravy. Without it, the chicken gravy may be pretty dark in color due to the Worcestershire sauce in the savory marinade. Totally your preference! Making chicken gravy is really all about judgment, so go with what feels (& tastes!) right. 

Carving & Serving

This Thanksgiving chicken is ready for the dinner table! 

Your oven roasted whole chicken will look beautiful on a serving platter next to your potatoes & a garnish of fresh herbs. I love how picture-perfect the Thanksgiving chicken’s crispy, golden brown skin is, & the smell of all those roasted herbs is absolutely amazing! It’s a dreamy Thanksgiving chicken! 

You can also carve a Thanksgiving chicken just like you would a Thanksgiving turkey! It might be a smaller bird, but it’s a very similar technique. 

All that’s left is to give thanks & enjoy a slightly nontraditional, but exceptionally delicious home-cooked Thanksgiving chicken with those you love. Happy holidays! 

I can’t wait for you to try this Thanksgiving Chicken recipe! It delivers all of the flavors of a classic turkey dinner & leaves more room on your Thanksgiving table for side dishes. I know you’ll love it just as much as my family does! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Planning the Best-Ever Thanksgiving Menu? 🙌🏼 You’re in the right place! Be sure to try my Best-Ever Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage & Mushrooms, Best-Ever Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic, or Best-Ever Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta & Pine Nuts. ♡ Happy cooking!

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An overhead shot of a finished roasted Thanksgiving Chicken atop a layer of roasted baby potatoes in a large cast iron skillet sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin laid out on a lightly colored textured surface. Loose sprigs of fresh herbs surround the skillet in both the foreground and background.

Thanksgiving Chicken & Gravy (Skillet Roast Chicken for a Small-Scale Thanksgiving!)

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 90 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes, Chicken Recipes
  • Method: Skillet, Baked, Oven Roasted
  • Cuisine: American

Description

If you’re hosting a small-scale Thanksgiving dinner or are looking to mix things up & make room for more side dishes, then a Thanksgiving chicken is for you! With a flavor-packed herb butter & savory herb oil made with festive fresh herbs, this Thanksgiving Chicken & Gravy is a juicy, oven roasted whole chicken that’s the perfect easy alternative to Thanksgiving turkey.


Ingredients

Scale

INGREDIENTS:

  • one 45 pound whole chicken, trimmed of excess fat & thoroughly patted try
  • savory herb oil, below
  • herb butter, below
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or high smoke point oil of choice
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • 1 ½ pounds baby potatoes or mini creamer potatoes

for the herb butter:

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh poultry herbs (fresh rosemary, sage, & thyme)
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

for the savory herb oil:

  • 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh poultry herbs (fresh rosemary, sage, & thyme)

optional: for skillet gravy:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock or broth 
  • optional: 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

USEFUL EQUIPMENT:

  • kitchen shears
  • 12 inches kitchen twine
  • 11-inch cast iron skillet
  • Instant-read thermometer

Instructions

  1. Mix the herb oil: At least one day before roasting the chicken, prepare the herb oil. Add the Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, garlic, & herbs to a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Cover & set aside to infuse at room temperature for 1 day. How to Make Thanksgiving Chicken, step 1: Mixing the savory herb oil. A clear glass mixing bowl filled with savory herb oil ingredients, that have been mixed together, sits centered on a lightly colored textured surface. A gold spoon rests in the mixing bowl that was used to combine the marinade. Surrounding the mixing bowl are extra ingredients: garlic, herbs, and a small white ramekin filled with kosher salt.
  2. Mix the herb butter: Add all listed herb butter ingredients to a medium bowl. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Mix to combine well. Set aside for immediate use, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  How to Make Thanksgiving Chicken, step 2: Mixing the herb butter. A clear glass mixing bowl filled with herb butter ingredients, that have been mixed together, sits centered on a lightly colored textured surface. A gold spoon rests in the mixing bowl that was used to combine the herb butter. Surrounding the mixing bowl are extra ingredients: garlic, herbs, a small white ramekin filled with kosher salt, and an empty butter wrapper.
  3. Prepare the chicken: Up to 1 hour before you’d like to begin roasting the chicken, pull it from the refrigerator to give it a chance to warm to room temperature for more even roasting. If you prepped the herb butter in advance, this is a good time to pull that from the refrigerator as well, so it has the chance to soften a little. If present, remove the neck and tail. Use kitchen shears to trim any excess fat or skin flaps from chicken. Use paper towels to pat the surface of the chicken completely dry. Set it on a large plastic cutting board, with the savory herb oil & herb butter nearby for ease. Using kitchen twine, tie the chicken’s legs together, securing them tightly against the breasts. Thanksgiving chicken ingredients arranged on a lightly colored textured surface: a whole chicken sits atop a couple of pieces of crumpled brown parchment paper, savory herb oil, herb butter, kosher salt, garlic, baby potatoes, and fresh herbs. A pair of kitchen shears rest atop the parchment paper alongside the whole chicken.
  4. Season the chicken: Use your hands to spread the prepared herb butter from Step 2 between the chicken skin & meat. To separate the skin from the meat, work your hand gently under the skin over the breast, sweeping from side to side, tearing any tissue connecting the skin to the meat. Work your hand down the side of the chicken into the thigh and leg area. Do not tear or remove the skin from the chicken. Buttering the chicken meat directly helps keep it juicy & flavorful. Transfer the chicken to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle half of the prepared savory herb oil over the surface of the chicken, turning to coat the chicken in the oil. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes while the oven preheats. How to Make Thanksgiving Chicken, step 4: A whole chicken seasoned with herb butter and a savory herb oil marinade sits inside a glass mixing bowl. The mixing bowls sits atop a lightly colored textured surface while loose fresh herbs, a small white ramekin filled with kosher salt, a bowl of prepared herb butter with a gold spoon resting inside, and a bowl of savory herb oil surround the whole chicken.
  5. Preheat the oven: Meanwhile, as the chicken rests, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, ensuring an oven rack is positioned in the lower third of the oven. Pour the avocado oil in an 11-inch cast iron skillet, spreading it to coat the bottom of the skillet. Place the skillet on the oven rack, allowing it to preheat as the oven preheats. Avocado oil is poured into a cherry red Staub 11-inch cast iron skillet. The skillet rests atop a lightly colored textured surface and there is a white and blue striped linen napkin placed underneath the skillet. Fresh herbs sit on the surface in the background.
  6. Roast the chicken: Once the oven is preheated, lightly season the chicken with kosher salt & ground black pepper. Transfer the chicken to the preheated cast iron skillet, shaking off any excess marinade. Reserve excess marinade. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. A seasoned whole chicken is placed in a large cast iron skillet for roasting. The skillet sits a top a blue and white striped linen napkin and is surrounded by piles of fresh herbs. The skillet, napkin, and herbs sit atop a lightly colored textured surface.
  7. Add potatoes to the skillet: After 30 minutes of roasting, decrease the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Move the skillet from the oven to the stovetop, then use tongs to transfer the chicken to a large plate. Place the baby potatoes in the hot skillet, then place the chicken on top of the potatoes. Pour the reserved marinade over the chicken, then carefully return the skillet to the oven. A large cast iron skillet is filled with cut baby potatoes cut side facing down for roasting. The skillet sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin. A partially roasted chicken rests on a plate alongside the skillet as well as fresh loose herbs and a pair of tongs. All items sit atop a lightly colored textured surface.
  8. Roast & baste the chicken: Roast for an additional 45-60 minutes, removing the chicken from the oven every 15 minutes to baste in the drippings. To baste, simply spoon or brush the drippings in the skillet all over the surface of the chicken. If desired, rotate the skillet 180 degrees each time you place it back in the oven to promote even roasting & browning. Pull the chicken from the oven once an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers an internal temperature of 155 degrees F.An overhead shot of a large cast iron skillet is filled with cut baby potatoes, cut side facing down, and a whole partially roasted chicken on top. The skillet sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin and the napkin sits atop a lightly colored textured surface. A woman's hand uses a basting brush to brush the chicken dripping at the bottom of the skillet all over the surface of the chicken.
  9. Rest the chicken: Very carefully transfer the roasted chicken from the skillet to a large flat surface & transfer the potatoes to a serving dish. Tent with foil & set aside to rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before carving. As the chicken rests, its juices will redistribute throughout the meat & its internal temperature will continue to rise to a safe 165 degrees F. An overhead shot of a finished roasted Thanksgiving Chicken atop a layer of roasted baby potatoes in a large cast iron skillet sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin laid out on a lightly colored textured surface. Loose sprigs of fresh herbs surround the skillet in both the foreground and background.
  10. Optional: Make the skillet chicken gravy: Carefully pour the drippings in the skillet into a bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Skim off half of the oil & discard. Pour remaining drippings back into the skillet over medium-low heat. Sprinkle flour over the surface of the skillet and cook, whisking constantly, until a darkened roux forms, about 2-3 minutes. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the white wine. Let the mixture bubble & reduce slightly. Pour in the chicken stock. Continue to whisk until the gravy reduces to your desired thickness. Remove from the heat. If desired, stir in a little heavy cream (they gravy is otherwise very dark) & season with salt and ground black pepper as needed; this will vary based on the amount of salt in your drippings & your stock so use your judgement. Easy chicken gravy made from roasted Thanksgiving Chicken drippings fills a large Staub cast iron skillet. A wooden spoon rests inside the skillet and heavy cream has been poured into the gravy creating swirls of white cream ready to be mixed in. The skillet sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin that rests atop a lightly colored textured surface. Sprigs of fresh herbs surround the skillet.
  11. Carve & serve: Carve, serve & enjoy!An overhead shot of two plates of carved roasted Thanksgiving Chicken served with roasted baby potatoes. The plates sits atop a blue and white striped linen napkin laid out on a lightly colored textured surface. A single silver fork rests on one of the plates and loose sprigs of fresh herbs surround the plates in both the foreground and background and a gravy boat filled with easy chicken gravy rests alongside the plates.


Notes

  • Yield: As written, this Thanksgiving chicken recipe easily feeds 4, assuming you serve 1 or 2 side dishes in addition to the roasted potatoes. If you have more side dishes, you can definitely stretch this roast chicken over a couple more portions. 
  • Thanksgiving Prep Tips: This Thanksgiving chicken recipe is quite straightforward & easy, though you can prep a couple of components in advance to make Thanksgiving day cooking even more effortless. Here’s what I suggest: 
    • Make-Ahead Savory Herb Oil: Up to 1 week in advance or at least 1 day in advance, prepare the savory herb oil according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. (<10 minutes active prep)
    • Make-ahead herb butter: Up to 1 week in advance, prepare the lemon herb butter according to Step 2 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The morning of your holiday meal, simply pull the herb butter from the fridge to soften to room temperature for Thanksgiving chicken prep. (<10 minutes active prep)

Keywords: thanksgiving chicken, chicken gravy, oven roasted whole chicken, skillet roasted chicken, cast iron, poultry, Thanksgiving, easy, fast, small-scale

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Megan McKeehan

Planning Your Thanksgiving Menu?

You’re in the right place! 🙌🏼 Here at PWWB, Thanksgiving is our absolute favorite holiday meal! Head over to our Thanksgiving Recipes archive for tons of incredible Thanksgiving dishes, ideas, & inspiration.

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Let’s make this your BEST Thanksgiving yet!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 11.22.21
    scott plunkett said:

    I’ll be making this for Thanksgiving! I’m Wondering if the Worcestershire Sauce : Olive Oil ratio is right for the herb oil… seems like a lot of Worcestershire. Does it balance out?

    • 11.23.21

      Hi Scott – Yes, the measurements provided in the Recipe Card are as intended. The Worcestershire adds a lot of depth & richness. If you plan to make the gravy, the wine & heavy cream round out the flavor. You are always welcome to adjust to your tastes. – Jess

  2. 11.6.21
    Sabrina said:

    fun idea, even if only to have as its own mini Thanksgiving in addition to the real one, I especially like the idea of gravy with chicken, something I’ve never ever done!

    • 11.23.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Sabrina! We couldn’t agree more – it’d also be great for small Friendsgiving. We ope you give it a try!!