What to Do When a Sauce is Too Liquid

Nov 20, 2012
Christina Cherrier

thickening sauce image

How to thicken a Sauce that is too liquid? Did you ever feel so disappointed when your sauce drips like water when you try to spread it on your T-bone? Or it and cannot even stay in place when you dip your food in when snacking?

Let’s explore 4 ways to thicken sauces that help you to feel more confident for you next pesto of BBQ sauce.

Basically, thickening sauces is not different of thickening soups: if you want them thicker, you would have to use less liquid or let cook a little longer for the water to evaporate. Here are 4 other ways you can add more body and sheen to many of your cooked sauces.

1. Enriching

Enriching consist in adding cream, sour cream, yogurt, egg yolks, or small cubes of cold butter to add body to cooked sauces. However you should be careful of excess heat as cream and butter are relatively stable even if the sauce bubbles a bit, but boiling will curdle sauces that you’ve made based on yogurt or eggs. Speaking about eggs: they are best when brought at room temperature before being added to sauces. Stir a bit of the hot sauce into beaten eggs to warm them, then pour that mixture back into the sauce to make it thicken.

2. Puréeing

Chunky sauces turn smooth and luxurious when you purée them. An good stand blender will give you the best results; an immersion blender is easier but not as powerful. You will obtain a little rougher texture with a classic food processor or a food mill.

3. Adding cornstarch or potato starch

Dissolve cornstarch — or any type of starch like potato starch — in water, or directly into a little volume of the sauce you want to thicken. You will obtain a cloudy mixture known as a slurry, and this works brilliantly. The common formula is one tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup of liquid to thicken 2 to 4 cups of sauce. Whisk it smoothly with a fork or spoon, then incorporate by pouring into the sauce, which will thicken and get shiny as it is gently heated. Do not dissolve cornstarch directly into the sauce as it will make lumps that you won’t get rid off easily (believe me, I made this mistake several times!)

4. Starting with a Roux to thicken your sauce

A roux is an equal proportion of butter or oil cooked together with flour. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat, until the flour begins to toast. The more you cook the roux, the darker it becomes and the deeper and nuttier the flavor. Be careful not to let it burn as it will taste bitter. You can also prepare the roux first and then stir in a hot liquid like stock or milk  — this is the technique used in the classic Béchamel sauce —  . You can also add the cooked roux to an already simmering sauce you want to thicken. The mixture should cook for a few moments to see it fully thickening.

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Read also: anchovy sauce salad

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