Cornstarch is a thickening agent that is the bland, gluten-free alternative to flour for frying and for sauces and gravies. Use it in cakes, cookies, pies, and a host of other sweet goods as well. Many cooks prefer using cornstarch as it imparts no additional flavor to foods.
Keep indefinitely in an airtight container on a dry, dark shelf.
- Cornstarch is a “super-thickener” compared to flour. The starchy granules attract liquids and expand, but only for a short time and not at high temperatures. Use only half as much when substituting for flour. The exception is acidic foods; these will decrease the power of cornstarch.
- Always make a paste of cornstarch and cold water (called a slurry) before adding to heated foods to prevent lumping. Do not overcook as it will begin to break down and thin out. Stir continuously but gently. Vigorous whisking will also cause loss of texture.
- When cornstarch paste is added, cook over medium heat and bring to a boil for about one minute. Remove and serve.
- Do not freeze any cooked recipe that contains cornstarch.
- Cornstarch can cloud a clear sauce but creates a nice sheen on pie crusts.
- Blend it with flour for a richer texture in cakes and pies.
- In Britain, it is called cornflour, but do not confuse this product elsewhere, which refers to a ground cornmeal product.
- If problems occur when using cornstarch, the best remedy is to add more liquid instead of additional cornstarch. In many cases, there may not be enough liquid to begin with, which does not allow the starch granules to enlarge to full capacity. Excessive sugars and fats can also inhibit thickening.
- Arrowroot or tapioca starches (some recipes) in equal amounts.
- Flour at twice the amount.