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Different Ways to Thicken Liquids for Cooking
Many dishes have a liquid component. Sometimes the liquid is best thin, like with a brothy chicken soup for instance. Other times, the cook may decide that the sauce needs to be thickened. There are several methods for accomplishing this, most of which can be accomplished with a small bowl, a whisk or a fork and a saucepan or pot.
The Flour Method
For every 2 cups of sauce, you will need 2 tablespoons (Tbsp) of flour and ¼ cup of cold water (milk, broth, or wine will also work). Combine the flour with the cold water, removing all the lumps. Slowly add this mixture to the hot sauce while whisking it in, and heating the sauce over a medium heat until it thickens.
The Flour and Fat (Rue) Method
For every 2 cups of sauce, you will need 4 Tbsp of all purpose flour and 4 Tbsp of butter (or margarine). Melt the butter in the bottom of the pan. Add the flour, stirring with a fork or whisk until it forms a paste. Slowly add the liquid to the rue, whisking continuously to remove any lumps. Continue whisking over a low heat until liquid is thickened.
The Corn Starch Method
For every 2 cups of sauce you will need ¼ cold water (broth, milk, wine) and ¼ cup corn starch. Dissolve the corn starch in the cold water. Bring the sauce to a slow boil over a medium to medium high heat, then slowly stir the corn starch slurry, whisking until it is all added to the sauce. Reduce the heat to a low setting and allow the sauce to simmer until it’s thickened.
The Egg Yolk Method
For every 1 cup of sauce, you will need 2 to 3 egg yolks briefly stirred with a fork or whisk. Temper the egg yolks with a little of the hot sauce, while whisking. This brings the yolks to temperature without scrambling them. Then add the tempered eggs slowly to the sauces while whisking over a low to medium heat.
The Reduction Method
This works from just about any sauce or soup, especially those with sugars or alcohol. The process simply involves removing the lid from the pot or saucepan, turning up the heat, bringing the liquid to a rapid boil, and letting the liquid evaporate until the sauce reduce in quantity while intensifying the flavor.
With all of the cooking shows on TV these days, they all seem to make the art of thickening liquids sound so involved and difficult. Thickening liquids is really quite easy, requiring few steps and few ingredients. Once you try them, you’ll find out just how easy it is to thicken any sauce.