Cornstarch for thickening...basic question

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Having a friend over tomorrow with celiacs. Im making gumbo and have never before thickened sauce with cornstarch, I only use a roux. How to i work with the cornstarch? Do i add it at the beginning and add small amounts of liquid and add more liqid as it thickens? Do I add it and let it simmer and then it thickens over time? Have no idea how to use cornstarch and the proper order of business. I'm assuming it will also change the taste, and not for the better!
 
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I use a plastic Gatorade bottle. I start with maybe 2-cups of stock. I add the cornstarch to that. I blitz the bageebies out of it so that there are no lumps. I add some when whatever I'm thickening comes to temp. I stir everything up until it comes to a boil for a few minutes then determine if I'm happy with the consistency. I repeat until I'm happy.
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Yes. Yes. And yes. One side note, You will probably get your best results with sweet rice flour, but it is not absolutely necessary.
 

pete

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I don't know about the rice flour thing so I let cheflayne continue to answer your questions on that.  To expand on what Iceman was saying about cornstarch.  You want to first dissolve the cornstarch in cool, or room temperature water.  If you add straight cornstarch to a hot liquid you will just end up with a lot of little lumps.  I usually lower whatever I am going to thicken with cornstarch down to a simmer add my cornstarch slurry and bring back to a boil.  Once your liquid is at a boil it will be as thick as its going to get-cornstarch does it's job pretty fast.  If I have to add more, I repeat the process, although if I'm in a hurry I will just add right to the boiling liquid, but I like the "insurance" of dropping the temp before adding.

A couple of things to remember about cornstarch-it has a different consistency than a flour roux and things thickened too much with cornstarch can get gummy or gelatinous in texture.  Cornstarch also tends to deaden flavors more than roux does so check your seasoning after you thicken as you will probably need to re-season.  Cornstarch doesn't like to be held hot for really long periods of time and tends to break down.  It will also breakdown, over time, in more acidic foods.
 
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I almost never make or use roux these days, but gumbo is one of the exceptions. Roux is such an integral part of the flavor profile that I can't fathom gumbo without it.

Cornstarch will thicken; but it adds nothing to the flavor, whereas a roux will contribute significantly to the flavor and mouthfeel of a gumbo. Roux, whether it be blonde, brown, brick, or black; (all have their own different and distinct flavor to contribute) is a major player in a great gumbo, not merely relegated to the role of thickening,.
 
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As to that cornstarch idea ... I don't use water. You should have noticed that I said I use stock. It's not a big thing ... but it sorta softens that "no flavor" glitch a little bit. I season the bageebies out of my stock. I find that the cornstarch thickener style comes out sorta like the sauce of Chinese foods. I think that's part of why I like using it. As I've said before, and have taken a beating for it every time, I don't like or use roux. LOL @ Me I guess. 
 
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1. I'd certainly do sweet rice flour roux. Regular rice flour can get bitter very easily if overheated.

2. Potato or tapioca starch are less gummy than cornstarch, and can be used the same way. Arrowroot is great too, but it costs a fortune.


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Thanks everyone! I will give rice flour a try. Cheflayne makes a good arguement for roux. I have a Whole Foods near my work, maybe they will have sweet rice flour.
 
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Look in the gluten-free section. I believe WF carries Bob's Red Mill brand.


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Don't forget the gumbo filé and okra.  These help thicken the gumbo but gumbo need the taste of a roux.  Will cornstarch hold up to the heat while simmering the gumbo?
 
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I don't get this post. Are we talking about cooking and browning a slurry like it's a Roux. Or does the OP want to just thicken a non Roux Gumbo with a Slurry. If this is the case how does one make a Gumbo without a Roux when the cooked brown Roux is the most important part of Gumbo........In using a word from my buddy, what in the bageebers is going on!
 
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I once worked with a chef who wanted the GUMBO thickened with a slurry made from in the oven dark browned flour and water.
 
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I don't get this post. Are we talking about cooking and browning a slurry like it's a Roux. Or does the OP want to just thicken a non Roux Gumbo with a Slurry. If this is the case how does one make a Gumbo without a Roux when the cooked brown Roux is the most important part of Gumbo........In using a word from my buddy, what in the bageebers is going on!
No, not a slurry I normally use a roux, but because my guest has CELIACS, I have to make it GF. I don't want my Gumbo to be a thin soup, so I need to thicken it-somehow.  I had no idea one could make a roux out of rice flour. I do not normally cook GF, so I've never had any inclination to use alternative flours, nor did I realize they could be used to make a roux.  To me, sounds a hell of a lot better than cornstarch, since the only thing I have ever used cornstarch in, is stir fry and play dough with very limited success at that!
 
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No, not a slurry I normally use a roux, but because my guest has CELIACS, I have to make it GF. I don't want my Gumbo to be a thin soup, so I need to thicken it-somehow.  I had no idea one could make a roux out of rice flour. I do not normally cook GF, so I've never had any inclination to use alternative flours, nor did I realize they could be used to make a roux.  To me, sounds a hell of a lot better than cornstarch, since the only thing I have ever used cornstarch in, is stir fry and play dough with very limited success at that!
I think you'll be fine! I hope your dinner turns out great......http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/01/gluten-free-tuesday-roux-rice-flour.html
 
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Thanks for the suggestion of using sweet rice flour for the roux. Worked out perfectly! I was really surprised. I'll keep the rice flour on hand for next time we have someone over who can't have wheat! Glad I did not have to use cornstarch. I will happily carry on ignorant of how cornstarch works.
 
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Don't forget the gumbo filé and okra.  These help thicken the gumbo but gumbo need the taste of a roux.  Will cornstarch hold up to the heat while simmering the gumbo?
My thoughts exactly...on the use of okra or file.  Either will thicken your gumbo without the need for a roux...and both are also traditional methods of making the dish.

Why try to find something that'll work instead of flour when two perfectly acceptable methods (actually preferred by many) exist already?
 
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