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Working with Cornstarch

By Shelley Wiseman, Senior Food Editor

October 29th, 2013

Sauces like Port and Cranberry Sauce and Tangy Rosemary and Tomato Sauce are thickened with cornstarch, which gives them a translucent, glossy finish. Made from the endosperm of the corn kernel, cornstarch has a thickening power similar to that of flour, but its neutral flavor means it doesn't need to be cooked as long as flour does. It's easy to use, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Dissolve the cornstarch in water or another cold liquid to make a slurry; if it's added directly to a hot liquid it will create lumps.
  • Restir the slurry just before adding it to the sauce; it will separate as it sits.
  • Whisk it into simmering liquid-cornstarch reaches its full thickening power at around 200°F--a little at a time until you get the right consistency. It takes 1 tsp. to 1 Tbs. cornstarch to thicken 1 cup of sauce.
  • Don't continue to whisk vigorously once the sauce has fully thickened (which takes about 1 minute), and avoid simmering the sauce for a prolonged time after adding the cornstarch. In both cases, the gelatinous starch molecules may break apart, which will thin the sauce again. If this happens, bring it back to a simmer and add more cornstarch slurry.
posted in: Blogs, test kitchen, cornstarch
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