and Cornstarch may not be the best approach to thicken your soups
and sauces.. There are many other options out there...
OF THICKENING AGENTS
agents, or thickeners, are substances which, when added
to an aqueous mixture, increase its viscosity without substantially
modifying its other properties, such as taste. They provide body,
increase stability, and improve suspension of added ingredients.
of thickening agents include: polysaccharides (starches, vegetable
gums, and pectin), proteins (eggs, collagen, gelatin, blood
albumin) and fats (butter, oil and lards)
purpose flour is the most popular food thickener, followed
by cornstarch and arrowroot or tapioca. All
of these thickeners are based on starch as the thickening
or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose
units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide
is produced by all green plants as an energy store. It is the
most important carbohydrate in the human diet and is contained
in such staple foods as potatoes, wheat, maize (corn), rice, and
Structure of the amylose molecule.
Structure of the amylopectin molecule.
starch is a white, tasteless and odorless powder that is insoluble
in cold water or alcohol. It consists of two types of molecules:
the linear and helical amylose and the branched amylopectin.
Depending on the plant, starch generally contains 20 to 25% amylose
and 75 to 80% amylopectin.
DOES STARCHES THICKEN?
thicken by a process called gelatinization. Starch gelatinization
is a process that breaks down the intermolecular bonds of starch
molecules in the presence of water and heat, allowing the hydrogen
bonding sites (the hydroxyl hydrogen and oxygen) to engage more
water. This irreversibly dissolves the starch granule. Penetration
of water increases randomness in the general granule structure
and decreases the number and size of crystalline regions. Crystalline
regions do not allow water entry. Heat causes such regions to
be diffused, so that the chains begin to separate into an amorphous
form. Some type of unmodified native starches start swelling at
55 °C, other types at 85 °C.
Gelatinization is also known as the thickening of a liquid.
The starch grains/flour granules absorb the liquid.
When heated the grains/granules swelling and then burst, releasing
starch into the liquid.
The granules/grains swell to 30 times their original size (swelling
power, peak viscosity).
ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STARCHES DIFFERENT?
-- Cornstarch is actually a flour. It is the endosperm of
corn kernels that has been dried and ground. Corn starch is used
as a thickening agent in soups and liquid-based foods, such as
sauces, gravies and custard. It is sometimes preferred over flour
because it forms a translucent mixture, rather than an opaque
one. As the starch is heated, the molecular chains unravel, allowing
them to collide with other starch chains to form a mesh, thickening
the liquid. It is usually included as an anti-caking agent in
powdered sugar (10X or confectioner's sugar). For this reason,
recipes calling for powdered sugar often call for at least light
cooking to remove the raw corn starch taste. When using corn starch,
first mix it with cold water (or another liquid) until it forms
a smooth paste, and then add it to whatever is being thickened.
If it is added directly into the cooking food it will form lumps
that are then difficult to mash out for a smooth mixture. An easy
way to make certain that all the lumps are gone from the corn
starch/water mixture is to put the two into a jar with a screw
on lid and vigorously shake the sealed jar until the lumps are
gone. This also works with a flour/water mixture. This method
also allows for better portion control when slowly adding it to
a soup, sauce, or gravy.
starch -- Potato starch is not potato flour. Potato flour
is dehydrated potatoes ground into powder and is much heavier
and denser. Potato starch is the result of an extraction process
removing the starch only from the potato. Potato starch has no
gluten. Like cornstarch, you have to dissolve the potato starch
in a little bit of water before adding it as a thickener. Many
people especially prefer starch made from potatoes or corn when
thickening sauces because it can help the sauces remain translucent;
whereas flour creates a more cloudied appearing sauce. Potato
starch is used to thicken soups and gravies. Liquids thickened
with potato starch should never be boiled. It is used in recipes
for those who are gluten intolerant. It is naturally gluten free.
It is similar in use to Arrowroot and corn starch. Its main advantage
over other starch thickeners is that it's a permitted ingredient
for Passover, unlike cornstarch and other grain-based foods.
--Tapioca is a starch extracted from the ground, dried root of
the cassava plant, which grows in the tropics. Tapioca does not
lose it's quality even on reheating and freezing. When tapioca
starch is used as a thickening agent, it becomes clear and completely
bad thing about tapioca starch is that it breaks down a little
quicker than corn starch, especially when you’re on a very high
--Arrowroot is like other pure starches, however, arrowroot
is almost pure carbohydrate and devoid of protein, thus it does
not equal wheat flour nutritionally.
|Arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than does flour
or cornstarch, is not weakened by acidic ingredients, has
a more neutral taste, and is not affected by freezing.
It doesn't mix well with dairy, forming a slimy mixture. for
acidic foods, arrowroot is a better choice than cornstarch,
which loses thickening potency in acidic mixtures
It is recommended
to mix arrowroot with a cool liquid before adding to a hot fluid.
The mixture should be heated only until the mixture thickens and
removed immediately to prevent the mixture from thinning. Overheating
tends to break down arrowroot's thickening property. Substitute
two teaspoons of arrowroot for one tablespoon of cornstarch, or
one teaspoon of arrowroot for one tablespoon of wheat flour. The
lack of gluten in arrowroot flour makes it useful as a replacement
for wheat flour in baking.
(also rice powder) is a form of flour made from finely milled
rice. It is distinct from rice starch, which is usually produced
by steeping rice in lye. In Japanese, rice flour is called either
komeko or mochiko. Rice flour is a particularly good substitute
for wheat flour, which causes irritation in the digestive systems
of those who are gluten-intolerant. Rice flour is also used as
a thickening agent in recipes that are refrigerated or frozen
since it inhibits liquid separation.
flour --Flour is often used for thickening gravies, gumbos,
and stews. It must be cooked thoroughly to avoid the taste of
uncooked flour. Roux, a mixture of flour and fat (usually butter)
cooked into a paste, is used for gravies, sauces and stews. Note:
Cornstarch and arrowroot will thicken more efficiently than flour
since they contain no protein. They have 50 to 100% more thickening
power than flour and thus, less of them is needed. They also thicken
at a somewhat lower temperature and do not need to be precooked,
like roux. However, they do need to be dissolved in fluid first.
as a thickener food includes the starches, vegetable gums and
pectin. Food starch is a flavorless powder in which comes the
cornstarch, potato starch, katakuri starch.
| Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate structures,
formed of repeating units either mono- saccharides( e.g.,
or di-saccharides ( e.g., sucrose,
joined together by glycosidic bonds.
Gums are all polysaccharides of natural origin, capable of causing
a large viscosity increase in solution, even at small concentrations.
In the food industry they are used as thickening agents, gelling
agents, emulsifying agents, and stabilizers.
or agar-agar is a gelatinous substance derived from a polysaccharide
that accumulates in the cell walls of agarophyte red algae. Historically
and in a modern context, it is chiefly used as an ingredient in
desserts throughout Asia and also as a solid substrate to contain
culture medium for microbiological work. The gelling agent is
an unbranched polysaccharide obtained from the cell walls of some
species of red algae, primarily from the genera Gelidium and Gracilaria,
or seaweed (Sphaerococcus euchema). Chemically, agar is a polymer
made up of subunits of the sugar galactose.
--Chemically, guar gum is a polysaccharide composed of the sugars
galactose and mannose. The backbone is a linear chain of ß 1,4-linked
mannose residues to which galactose residues are 1,6-linked at
every second mannose, forming short side-branches. Guar gum is
economical because it has almost 8 times the water-thickening
potency of cornstarch - only a very small quantity is needed for
producing sufficient viscosity. Thus it can be used in various
multi-phase formulations: as an emulsifier because it helps to
prevent oil droplets from coalescing, and/or as a stabilizer because
it helps to prevent solid particles from settling. . At (acidic)
pH levels below 4.5, guar gum has sharply reduced aqueous solubility,
thus also reducing its thickening capability.
gum --Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, derived from the bacterial
coat of Xanthomonas commonly used as a food thickening agent (in
salad dressings, for example). Xanthan gum is a long chain polysaccharide
composed of the sugars glucose, mannose, and glucuronic acid.
The backbone is similar to cellulose, with added sidechains of
trisacharides (three sugars in a chain). One
of the most remarkable properties of xanthan gum is its ability
to produce a large increase in the viscosity of a liquid by adding
a very small quantity of gum, on the order of one percent. In
most foods, it is used at 0.5%, and can be used in lower concentrations.
xanthan gum is most often found in salad dressings and sauces.
It helps to prevent oil separation by stabilizing the emulsion,
although it is not an emulsifier. Xanthan gum also helps suspend
solid particles, such as spices. Also used in frozen foods and
beverages, xanthan gum helps create the pleasant texture in many
ice creams, along with guar gum and locust bean gum.
Pectin is a kind of polysaccharide (Polymer of D-Galacturonic
Acid) that is obtained from plant such as citrus fruit peel, apple
peel etc. Pectin is a vegetable gum and food thickener that is
used to make gel. In human digestion, pectin goes through the
small intestine more or less intact. Pectin is thus a soluble
dietary fiber. The main use for pectin is as a gelling agent,
thickening agent and stabilizer in food. Pectin does not add any
flavor to a dishes but it does work extremely well as a thickening
--Egg yolks are the most efficient protein thickeners in part
because they are so concentrated with protein, have a rich flavor
and offer a velvety smooth texture. The difficulty in using egg
yolks is the small window of temperature needed to thicken the
sauce or soup but not allow the egg to set. See: temperatures
--a protein found in nearly all connective tissue, when cooked
it will dissolve and thicken sauces.
- a protein produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted
from the boiled bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines
is popular in Eastern Europe and Middle East for thickening soups
FATS AS THICKENING
the best thickener to use for wine and stock based sauces. Make
sure that the butter is whisked in off the heat or the emulsion
The most flavorful way to thicken a sauce is by reduction. Reduce
the moisture content of a sauce by simmering over low heat and
letting evaporation take over. As the water evaporates the remaining
ingredients become more concentrated. Stocks made using meat bones
and/or vegetables take on a thicker appearance. Adding fats toward
the end of the reduction process can complete the thickening process.
After a reduction to a syrup consistency butter as softened cubes
can be whisked in either on a very low flame or off the heat.
Too much heat can cause the emulsion to break.
VEGETABLES AND/OR TOMATO PASTE AS A THICKENER
Adding some pureed vegetables or tomato paste is
another ideal way to thicken a soup or sauce. This can add both
texture and additional flavor.