For all the sausage and pork belly I went through in 2012, I ended the year an amazing ten pounds lighter than I started it. So instead of making the common new year’s resolution to shed weight, I’m giving myself free reign to relish in wintertime comforts, which translates to starting Sauced off with an exploration of hearty southern gravies.

Pepper gravy is a simple base that serves as building block to a whole host of other gravies. In essence, it’s merely a bechamel with a strong peppery kick, but substituting bacon grease for butter imparts an underlying salty and meaty flavor that lets it rise above its “white sauce” origins.

To take full advantage of the pepper, it’s important to go with fresh, coarsely ground black peppercorns, which create little pockets of intensely sharp heat that contrast with the rich and soothing creaminess, giving this gravy its character.

Pepper gravy is pretty all-purpose—it can go on pork chops, biscuits, mashed potatoes, etc.—but it doesn’t get much better than when it’s smothered on a chicken fried steak. Now that’s how to start a new year!


  • YIELD:makes about 2 cups
  • ACTIVE TIME:10 minutes
  • TOTAL TIME:10 minutes


  • 1/4 cup bacon grease
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  1. Heat bacon grease in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add in flour and whisk constantly until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute.

  2. Slowly whisk in milk. Stir in pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; season with salt and additional pepper to taste. Use immediately on chicken fried steak, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, or biscuits.


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