Posted by: armedbear1746 | December 10, 2009

Tip of the Day: Thickening Agents

Thickening Agents.

My favorite method of thickening sauces is using Corn Starch, as in tomorrows recipe (My original General Tso’s Chicken).

You always want to mix it into cold water before putting it in your sauce.  Reason being, if you dissolve it in hot water, the hot water dissolves the corn starch proteins, thereby destroying it.  If you mix it with cold water, it will prevent the corn starch from clumping and preserves the proteins.
Do not try to add the corn starch to the sauce by itself, as you will get GUARANTEED clumping.

The science behind this is: as your corn starch heats up in your sauce, it releases microscopic strings of proteins. After awhile they start to hold on to each other forming a microscopic net of sorts.

There are several things that can keep your sauce from thickening and they are as follows:
– Excessive stirring. This breaks down that net of proteins and will eventually thin your sauce.
– Too much acidity. ie; vinegar, citric acid, etc.
– Boiling the sauce is almost the same as stirring it. it’s the internal liquid motion of the boiling that breaks up the net of proteins.
– Too much time on the burner. If you don’t take the sauce off the heat as soon as it thickens, the proteins will eventually decompose resulting in the thinning of your sauce.

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