When you make sauces or gravy, you will need to use a thickening agent. Starch is the most commonly used ingredient to make use dish thicker. However, starch may be good for meat-based gravy or tomato-based sauce; but not for fruit sauces. Here are things you should know when making your sauces and dishes thicker:
- Make roux: Flour is a good source of starch, but you can make gravy and sauce lumpy, if you are not careful. A proven way to use flour as a thickening agent is to make a roux. Put about one ounce of butter in the saucepan and use medium heat, until the butter melt and boil. Add an ounce of flour and stir, both are evenly mixed. If you want your gravy or sauce look darker, cook it longer. After prolonged cooking process, the flour will darken a bit. Add about half a pint of stock into the pan and whisk vigorously. After the mixture has even and thick consistency, you can pour it into the main dish. Stir until everything is mixed properly.
- Make Beurre Manié: Beurre Manié is named from the chef who invented this method. It’s quite effective if you want to thicken a huge quantity of liquid. It’s almost the same with making roux. However, you only need to soften the butter on the pan slightly, turn off the stove and mix it with some flour. Drop the butter-flour nugget into the main dish. Bring it to the boil and stir.
- Thickening method for sweet sauces: Sweet sauces can be used for desserts and baked products. You can make sweet sauces thicker by adding liquid glucose. The result is a shiny sauce that has stable consistency, even when it’s cold. By being stable, it means that the sauce won’t separate. Warm sweet sauces can be thickened by adding gelatine, cream or egg yolk. Eggs are the base ingredient for any kind of custard. Again, you need to experiment properly, if you want to get the result that fits you. You should be aware that hot sauce can be very runny, but it may become clingy and thick once cool down. Toffee sauce has this kind of behaviour. If your sauce looks too runny, wait until it reaches room temperature and see whether it has the right consistency. Vanilla sauce for desserts is also quite similar, which is often a combination of hot cream, sugar, milk and egg yolks.
Using thickening agents for your meals can be quite tricky and it requires a lot of experimentation. However, with enough research, you may even come up with your own technique. Don’t just use existing methods, you can also think outside the box. As an example, red currant jelly can thicken sauce for your lamb. You may fail a few times and that’s part of the learning process. You will end up having something that tastes and looks good. If your sauce or gravy is a bit thin, you should be able to find what’s wrong with it.