How to thicken sauces … kitchen helper
Sauces can really make the difference between an okay dish and an amazing dish. Rich, luscious and full of flavour, a good sauce is a vital ingredient for everything from pasta to steak. But what should you do if your sauce is more runny than rich? Fear not we’ve got some tips to fix that watery mess.
1. Reduce, reduce, reduce
Sometimes less really is more and if you’ve got a runny sauce this is definitely the case. Reducing a sauce helps to evaporate the water content so that the sauce becomes thicker and the flavour more concentrated. Reducing a sauce is as simple as cooking it over a medium heat until the volume has reduced and the sauce is at the consistency you want. This is a great method for pasta sauces and pan sauces but should be avoided for sauces containing soy sauce or lots of salt as the flavour will become too salty.
Everything tastes better with butter, right? Adding butter at the end of cooking to your sauce will bring a beautiful glossiness to the sauce and a richness to the taste. It won’t dramatically alter the thickness but it will give your sauce a lift. Make sure you add the butter to the sauce off the heat otherwise it will split.
The classic method for thickening sauces and gravy, flour works a treat for making your soups, casseroles and gravies thicker. To avoid the taste of raw flour, you’ll need to cook it off and the best way of doing this is by maxing a roux. Melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and then whisk in an equal amount of flour. Cook until it is a golden brown colour and then add the roux to your sauce, whisking to incorporate.
If flour’s the classic then cornflour is the gold-standard in thickening agents. Why? Because it is flavourless so it won’t change the taste of your sauce, it’s translucent when heated so it won’t make your sauce cloudy and most importantly, it works. Add about 1 tablespoon of cornflour per cup of sauce but don’t dump it straight in or it will clump. Instead, make a mixture with equal parts cornflour and cold water and whisk this into your sauce. Make sure you heat the sauce once you’ve added the cornflour up to boiling or almost boiling because the starch in cornflour is activated by heat and this will ensure it thickens properly.
5. Egg Yolk
Egg yolks are the ideal addition to pasta sauces, salad dressings and custards that need thickening. The protein in egg yolks thicken when heated and they also add a richness to sauces. You’ll need to be careful when adding egg yolks to hot sauces because they can scramble the sauce. To avoid this, whisk a small amount of the hot sauce into the egg yolk and then add that back into the sauce. Experiment with how many egg yolks you need, but start with one or two and build up from there.