Basics – How to thicken sauces

You know how it is; you’ve made what is shaping up to be a rather delicious casserole, but the gravy just isn’t all it could be. How can a dish reach true Comfort Food status with a watery jus instead of a thick, unctuous gravy?

What do you do?

You can leave the lid off for a bit and let the liquid evaporate, but then you run the risk of over cooking your dish. Also, if you are using a slow-cooker, this could take some time indeed!

The liquid in this casserole needs thickening to reach "comfort food" status.

The liquid in this casserole needs thickening to reach “comfort food” status.

Try this instead.

Take a few teaspoons of cornflour and place in a small bowl, glass or coffee cup. Break up any lumps with the back of a teaspoon.

Several teaspoons of cornflour

Several teaspoons of cornflour

Add some cold water and mix to a paste. Make sure that it is cold or it will start to cook all on its own and you really don’t want that.

Add a little more cold water to loosen into a slurry. Mix well.

Using cold water, mix to a slurry.

Using cold water, mix to a slurry.

Then take a little of the liquid from your casserole and add it to the cornflour mix. It will start to change colour. You’ll end up with what looks like a really pale gravy.

Add some of the hot liquid from your casserole and mix through.

Add some of the hot liquid from your casserole and mix through.

Add as much of the warmer liquid as you can get into your container and mix well. Use the edge of your teaspoon to scrape any paste off the sides of your bowl and thoroughly incorporate it into your mix.

Now add the whole lot to the casserole and bring to the boil. Once a boil has been achieved (so the flour is cooked) reduce the temperature to wherever you need it to be.

Your sauce will thicken and may be a little lighter in colour, but not much lighter.

Comfort Food status reached. Achievement Unlocked.

Comfort Food status reached.
Achievement Unlocked.

This will not alter the taste of your dish, just make the liquid thicker and more viscous.

If your sauce has not thickened sufficiently, then repeat. However, it is better to start off with a smaller amount of flour and have a slightly ‘looser’ sauce than to use too much and have it turn into wallpaper paste!

Trust me.

If you have no cornflour but do have arrowroot, then that will work as well. The liquid will not become as opaque when cooked, but the flavour will not be altered using this method either.

I don’t enjoy using arrowroot, so I tend to use cornflour exclusively.

 Important!

If you are someone with gluten intolerance issues or are serving your dish to a celiac, then make sure your cornflour is not “Wheaten Cornflour.” You want cornflour that is actually made out of corn (or maize) and nothing else.

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