A lot of people use either cornstarch or flour to thicken their gravy, roux, or sauce for Thanksgiving and other meals. And one of the number one issues with using cornstarch or flour as a thickener in your recipe is the possible appearance of lumps or chunks in your otherwise perfect sauce.
If you are using cornstarch to make your sauce for holiday meals and see it clumping in your concoction, never fear. It's a pretty common issue since cornstarch can easily clump up if put directly into a hot liquid. We're here to help fix your lumpy gravy or sauce with a few kitchen tips before anyone ever sees it on the dinner table.
How to Avoid Lumps in Your Sauce or Gravy
When it comes to making smooth, lump-free sauce, it's not about choosing the right thickener so much as it is about adding the thickener in correctly. If you simply add flour or cornstarch into the liquid in your pan, lumps will likely appear because starch quickly expands when it's added to hot liquid, which keeps the granules from properly separating. So, the best way to keep a thickening agent like cornstarch from combining into chunks in your sauce is by keeping them from forming in the first place.
There are a few options to do this, but one of the best is to make a slurry of cornstarch in cold water and then adding it to hot gravy to thicken it after the water and cornstarch are combined. Adding a slurry to the sauce or gravy will thicken it quickly, but since the cornstarch has already been mixed in with water, no lumps should appear.
Another way to avoid lumps in the first place to make a roux. A roux is made from a mixture of fat and flour, and it's cooked on its own before being added to the sauce. Mix flour with either pan drippings or butter and then whisk the mixture continuously as it cooks. When you're ready to add it into the sauce, let it cool slightly and then whisk it into the sauce or gravy to thicken it. This will make for a perfectly smooth, lump-less sauce that will rival your grandma's gravy recipe.
How Do You Get Lumps of Cornstarch Out of a Sauce or Gravy?
As wonderful as these methods are, it might be too late to use them if you've already added the cornstarch and are dealing with lumps! However, not to worry, getting the lumps our is a simple process. The easiest way to eliminate the unsightly appearance of starch granules lumping together in your sauce is to simply keep whisking until they break up. Sometimes you just need to continue whisking for a little longer to get the sauce to be lump-free and ready for your mashed potatoes or whatever other dishes they're destined for.
If you find that whisking the sauce more on your own just isn't working to avoid lumps made from whatever thickener you used, you can also turn to your trusty food processor to churn them out. That kitchen tool will have a little more power behind it than just your overworked arms.
Finally, if you try to do everything right and still end up with chunks of cornstarch or flour in your sauce, it's not the end of the world. Chances are if you pull out a fine mesh strainer, you'll be able to run your sauce through it and end up with a lump-free recipe in the end.
May all your sauces be clump and chunk free!
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This post was originally published on November 24, 2020.