Thickening agents are basically one of the major food ingredients that significantly control the textural properties of various food products. They control moisture and provide structure, flow, stability, and eating qualities to food products.
Thickening agents are being explored for its increasing applications in various food products as an important food additive. The need for thickening agents is to obtain desirable product consistency, mouthfeel, texture, to prevent syneresis on storage and it is also a main food ingredient in dysphagia management diet.
Here I am classifying some of the major thickening agents used in cooking and used widely over all cuisines.
Classification of Thickening agents
Thickening agents can be classified into various bases according to further sub categories such as gum based, proteins based , starch based, They are as follows below.
Gum based thickening agents : They are basically the plant or vegetable extract or microbes extract of chemical compounds used in cooking as thickening agents which also has certain beneficial heath related concerns for such thickeners, they help in controlling the management of Oropharyngeal dysphagia.
They are such as vegetable gums, xanthum gum, agar agar, guar gum and so on. They are used in modern Gastronomy cooking.
Proteins based thickening agents: they are basically a protein based substance used for thickening of foods such as egg yolks, blood, gelatin and so on.
Starch based thickening agents: Starch based thickening agents are the one that uses starch as thickening ingredients. It is widely used thickener in culinary world. They are such as corn starch, arrowroot flour, tapioca flour, and so on.
Miscellaneous thickeners : There are some thickening agents that uses a combination of two ingredients such as butter and flour as roux or buerre maine, egg yolk and cream as liaison and so on.
Common types of thickening agents
Roux is fat and flour mixture, which are cooked together. It is cooked to various
degrees, namely white, blond or brown.
Equal quantities of flour, butter and margarine are taken to prepare the different colored roux. The color acquired depends upon the degree of cooking of the flour, and the color of the sauce depends upon the liquid and roux used.
While preparing sauce, boiling liquid should never be added to a hot roux, as it may become lumpy, a cold liquid to a hot roux, or a hot liquid to an cold roux may be added to get a smooth texture.
Buerre Manie or Manie Butter
Chiefly used for fish sauces. Equal quantities of flour and butter are kneaded together, and very little quantity is added at a time to boiling liquid and stirred well to form a smooth consistency.
Starch ( Commonly used thickening agents )
Arrowroot, corn flour, fecule (potato starch), tapioca are used to thicken the sauce. A paste should be made of cold liquid and starch, and then stirred into boiling liquid and allowed to boil, till the starch is cooked. It gelatinizes at 93-C (200-F). Starch contains no gluten and gives clear sauce and thickens more as it cools.
Blood is usually used for game cooking. It thickens the sauce and gives a particular
flavor, example preparation of Jugged Hare.
Yolks of egg and Cream
It is a liaison, added as a finishing agent at the end of cooking. The product is never boiled, when the liaison is added, or it would curdle. The liaison is added to thicken delicate cream or volute soups. Yolks of eggs are used to prepare mayonnaise by emulsifying it with oil.