Detours with locals.
Travel tips you can trust.

Chrissy Teigen brought gravy through TSA and exposed a weird loophole


(Washington Post illustration; iStock) (FTWP/FTWP)

It can be difficult to navigate the murky waters of the Transportation Security Administration’s carry-on rules. They’re so unclear, you could compare them to something like — oh, I don’t know — gravy?

Yesterday afternoon, model-slash-cookbook author-slash-television host-slash-social media personality Chrissy Teigen tweeted a TSA conundrum to her 11.3 million Twitter followers: “Let’s play ‘is cold gravy tsa approved.' " The tweet came with a video featuring a plastic container filled with seemingly solid brown matter, described as the “copycat popeye’s Cajun gravy.”

Teigen’s tweet had people chiming in with their own tales of airport security confiscations. The replies read like obituaries for lost yogurts, Nutella, peanut butter, Tofutti products, fig jam, cookie dough, coconut oil, ice cream, smoked whitefish dip, barbecue sauce, cream cheese, salted caramel, hummus and mascarpone.

It’s a question that has plagued generations: What food can I bring in my carry-on bag? There are six pages of information on TSA’s website addressing just that. Some of the rules seem obvious in 2019 — like, yes, you can bring bread with no problem, and, no, you can’t bring a whole bottle of wine. Other items are not as straightforward. Canned foods, for example, get screened on a case-by-case basis.

What we know for sure is that TSA observes the 3-1-1 liquids rule. You can bring one “quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item,” the site reads. There’s a limit of one of those bags per traveler (hence, the three-digit rule of thumb.)

Some items are treated differently, depending on their state. Solid cheese is an acceptable carry-on snack, while “Cheese (Creamy)” can come along only if it’s 3.4 oz or 100 ml. The same goes for solid vs. liquid chocolate, as well as wet and dry pet food.

Then there’s gravy, which is, surprisingly, addressed in TSA’s list of food rules. The official ruling is that gravy is allowed as long as its less than 3.4 oz/100 ml. It’s treated like a liquid. But what about when gravy is cold and no longer a traditional liquid? Teigen’s travel companion in the video proved that cold gravy is a big, goopy block, rather than the liquid that you drizzle over turkey at Thanksgiving.

Nearly 36,000 people on Twitter guessed whether Teigen’s cold gravy ultimately made the cut. More than half had faith that TSA allowed the thickened meat juice aboard the flight.

And they were right. Sort of. Teigen was allowed to keep her gravy, only after she mixed the thick matter in with mashed potatoes.

If you find yourself in doubt over your own traveling food, check TSA’s website to clarify any lingering concerns before you walk up to security. If the website doesn’t cover your snacking preferences, you can contact TSA directly on Facebook Messenger and Twitter, according to the site.

Teigen’s last-minute effort to save the gravy worked, but the travel hack won’t succeed all of the time. You’re not likely to want to mix your Nutella or smoked whitefish dip with something else in your carry-on. And the rules may be the rules, but, ultimately, “the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.”