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Cornstarch vs flour vs arrowroot.

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
What is the difference between these and why is one used in a recipe vs the other ?

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post #2 of 16

I assume you want to compare these ingredients for thickening.  Arrowroot has that most thickening power so less is needed, arrowroot also has almost no flavor of its own, it is more expensive and not always available.  Cornstarch is cheap and always available (in the USA), potato starch is somewhere in between the two and the most common starch thickener in France.

 

Flour is quite different from starch.  Much more of it is added and the flavor and body really change.  The quickest way I can think to sum it up is when you add flour to thicken it is done in such a way that you enjoy eating the flour.  When starches are added it is just to give some thickness and you are not meant to notice extra starch.

 

CDF

post #3 of 16

Corn starch and Arrowroot will in 99% of cases give you a transparant sauce or product where flour will not. Flour has to be cooked considerably to eliminatee its flavor where starch does not.. Also some people are alergic to flour.

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post #4 of 16

Also.....these thickeners have their different uses is cooking.

 

For instance, in fruit sauces, one would use cornstarch or arrowroot because the end result will be a shiny glossy thickened sauce.

 

To thicken a stew one could use a roux of flour and butter, or a whitewash of water and flour.

The end result here is a thickened liquid that is more opaque than clear and shiny. 

Soups such as cream soups may rely on roux to thicken them but some also could use the cornstarch or arrowroot.

A lot of it depends on the desired result, either for a visually beautiful presentation.... right down to the soup line at the local church basement.

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Ok I think I am understanding. I had a marsala sauce/gravy type mix I made this weekend that called for arrowroot and I know I could use cornstarch instead but was just wondering why cornstarch and no flour. My thinking is now that you didn't want to taste the flour in the sauce I made but instead wanted the marsala to come through more.

post #6 of 16

A Marsala sauce is easily made simply by dredging that which is to be sauteed in some seasoned flour and after browning on both sides a splash or 2 of the wine is added to the pan. The seasoning flour plus the butter/oil used for sauteing creates a roux which thickens as a sauce.

 

Some Chefs may include stock as well as the wine, and may add a lump of butter at the end to create a richer sauce.

 

The recipe you have might call for arrowroot simply because the end result calls for a consistency as I described above...more silky smooth, clear and shiny.

 

As to the flour taste is sauce....if made correctly there is no aftertaste.

That should have been cooked out before the liquid was added, or simmered after the the addition of the thickener.

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

Ok I suppose giving my recipe for the sauce I made would probably be helpful in my disecting the reasoning for certain items.

 

2 cups low-sodium beef broth ( i use unsalted)

1 cup sweet Marsala

3 tbsp arrowroot

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

 

Combine any juices from the rested meat with the broth, Marsala, arrowroot and thyme in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer until thick, 20 minutes. Whisk in the butter until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

post #8 of 16
  • Arrowroot holds up to acid better than cornstarch, but arrowroot loses its thickening power at high heat and won't hold for very long over even low heat.  Arrowroot is generally favored for thickening fruit, wine, and/or booze based sauces. 

 

  • Corn starch is somewhat sturdier in terms of heat, but less reliable with acidic foods. 

 

When used in proper amounts and added in the form of a slurry both corn starch and arrowroot can thicken without lumps.

 

  • Flour is very sturdy, but flour thickened sauces lack the gloss of arrowroot and cornstarch thickened sauces, are opaque (as already mentioned), and avoiding lumps demands more care and technique. 

 

Those are the thickeners used most often in western cuisine, but there are others -- including e.g., potato starch, rice flour, and tapioca -- which are favored for some things, and can be sometimes used to take the place of one of the big three. 

 

Hope this helps,

BDL

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post #9 of 16

As BDL mentions their are other thickeners even bread is used in sime recipes. Tapioca is great in pies like berry type as it even looks like berries in the mix. Potato starch is used as well as instant potato powder in some soupe like Clam Chowder where it even helps the flavor.. Even heavy cream is a thickening agent when used correctly as is butter.

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post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by scribble View Post

Ok I suppose giving my recipe for the sauce I made would probably be helpful in my disecting the reasoning for certain items.

 

2 cups low-sodium beef broth ( i use unsalted)

1 cup sweet Marsala

3 tbsp arrowroot

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

 

Combine any juices from the rested meat with the broth, Marsala, arrowroot and thyme in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer until thick, 20 minutes. Whisk in the butter until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

 

Please forgive me for being blunt. 

 

This sauce would have worked as well with corn starch as arrowroot.  Whoever put this recipe together wasn't really familiar with the way arrowroot works.  It's a textbook example of what not to do.

 

In order to work its magic:

  • Arrowroot should only be added to hot liquids;
  • Arrowroot should be mixed into a slurry with -- in this case -- a little bit of the Marsala before adding to the sauce;
  • An Arrowroot slurry will give you all its thickening within a few seconds after being added to a simmering liquid; and
  • Arrowroot should NEVER be boiled or it will lose its thickening power;

 

Even cornstarch would not have withstood this degree of rough handling.  In your sauce, the arrowroot was largely wasted.  You could have got the same results with a tsp of arrowroot (1/6 the quantity you used) if you'd used it properly.  Considering the yield was about 2-1/2 cups of sauce, 3tbs of arrowroot is absurd

 

As a rule, in order to get the most structure and best mouthfeel from butter mounting, you should have used cold butter instead of hot and mount the butter off the heat.  Starch thickened sauces are seldom butter mounted because they tend to get over-thickened and/or greasy.  It's best to choose one or the other.

 

If I were making this sauce without fond and in a saucepan (as opposed to deglazing a skillet), I would combine reduction with butter mounting, and omit the starch entirely. 

 

Where did you get the recipe?

 

Again, forgive me for for being so direct.  There just didn't seem another way to say it.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 1/1/13 at 4:49pm
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post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

Arrowroot should only be added to hot liquids;

 

Not entirely true, arrowroot can be used in pie fillings and then baked. Also arrowroot can be mixed into a cold sauce which can then be brought up to heat to thicken; however as BDL mentioned prolonged heat will cause the starch to lose it's thickening power.

 

Arrowroot when used with dairy develops a viscous quality which can come across as slimy so I wouldn't recommend it in your sauce due to the butter. In this sauce cornstarch would be a better choice but with the same slurry and no prolonged heat advice, although sweet rice flour would actually be my starch recommendation in this case.

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post #12 of 16

If in fact you cooked this for 20 minutes the thickening  of the sauce would be compromised and it would return to a thin state.  Arrowroot and cornstarches, in fact many starches do not require that muchcooking wher-as flour based will, and it will hold up.

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post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

It was a food network recipe with some prime rib from Giade (I can't figure out the last name)  I understand why it never got very thick and was very watery. I did use cornstarch instead of the arrowroot but used the same amount they listed.
 

post #14 of 16

I am enjoying this blog. The reason I am researching this is to find out if I can use arrowroot starch to stablized my whipped/heavy cream for icing my homemade cake. Few recipies indicate I can use cornstarch. I am from the Caribbean. I have about 2lbs of arrowroot starch just sitting in my kitchen. Cornstarch is expensive and not so widely used.

post #15 of 16
I am making a casserole with chicken, artichoke hearts chicken broth and sherry it requires thickening. I have gluten free guests coming. I would like to make the casserole today to re:oheat tomorrow for serving. What's the best thickener to use? Or should I simply cook it tomorrow before serving. Thanks!
post #16 of 16

Corn starch and arrowroot tend to break when refrigerated so if you're going gluten free, cook it tomorrow with either the cornstarch or arrowroot. 

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