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Understanding Thickeners for Soups, Stocks and Sauces

Updated on April 17, 2011

Wednesday (June 9) Cooking Techniques: Soups or Stocks & Sauces

In a modern kitchen , the most common types of soup and sauce thickeners are plain flour, most usually made from wheat, starches, such as arrowroot, potato, corn and rice flour, and eggs. Each has its own characteristics, and although most people are familiar with these ingredients, they do in fact have different uses.

The following thickeners will do justice to the type of soup you want to include in your menu. After all, there are many kinds of soups and sauces or even stocks that you should identify with the following ingredients.

Starches - The most common in our cuisine is the potato starch, arrowroot, cornstarch (most commonly known as cornflour). These starches “pack”and lump if immersed directly into hot liquids. It must be blended or “slaked” with a little cold liquid, usually around twice the volume of the starch. The liquid may be water, stock, milk or even fruit juice, in the case of some dessert recipes. Travel Man (this hubber) advises, through experience, that this pasty liquid or you can call slurry, paste or whitewash should be thickened first with little amount of hot liquid before pouring the whole amount into the soup or sauce to be thickened. The sauce may still lump if the stirring is not continued until boiling point is reached. When making a cake glaze from cold fruit juice, a slurry will be used to thicken liquid. Use a little water for the initial blending, then adding the rest, and stirring the starch and the liquid to a boil at the same time for about 1-2 minutes to eliminate the raw starch taste. Use a whisk rather than a wooden spoon to prevent lumping. For a transparent mixture for the glaze, use potato starch or arrowroot rather than wheat or cornstarch. It is milky before heating or boiling but these two become translucent on heating.

Flour - I used to thicken my spaghetti sauce on board ship with the plain wheat flour, if cornstarch is absent or already expired. Like most cook, I used it in the classic French roux, and in beurre manie (kneaded butter and flour). Remember my Catering 101, roux is made by blending more or less equal amounts of flour and a melted fat and cooking for a few minutes - forming a base on which a sauce or casserole is built or cook. You can use either butter or margarine. If you overheat the pan, butter or margarine will easily get burn.

Liliana's Cooking Class c/o Pagelet1


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    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      You're welcome, earthbound. The food will not be as attractive and enticing to eat , if there's no thickening or stabilizing agent.

    • earthbound1974 profile image

      earthbound1974 7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Wow! Thickeners give body to the food we eat. Thanks for helping me understand this, travel man.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Thanks, sailor. Most Asians, like their soups with thickeners like eggs or cornstarch. The arrowroot starch is also as good thickener, but you can also make a sweet cake out of it.

    • thesailor profile image

      thesailor 7 years ago from Seven Seas

      I like eggs as soup thickeners. Thanks, travel man.