View Full Version : Flour or Cornstarch?

Steve McMahon
01-11-2014, 05:00 PM
I usually use cornstarch as a thickener for gravy. I understand some people use flour. Pros and cons? Opinions?

Keith Wilson
01-11-2014, 05:06 PM
Flour has to be fried to make a roux or it tastes funny. but the roux tastes good and improves the flavor a bit. Cornstarch mixes in easily, doesn't change the flavor significantly, but can leave the mix kind of semi-transparent and slimy-looking if there aren't enough solids to make it opaque. I usually separate the fat and water-soluble parts of the drippings, use some of the fat to make a roux with flour, then add the water-soluble part with milk. It's really white sauce with meat drippings; gets yer cholesterol back up where it belongs. :D

01-11-2014, 05:07 PM
Using flour is a lot more work because you have to make the roux first. But I prefer my own flour gravy to my own cornstarch gravy, and in general, I usually spend the extra time to do so. I do use cornstarch often to thicken chinese sauces though.

01-11-2014, 05:17 PM
Cornstarch doesn't typically keep liquids thickened when cooled and reheated unlike a roux. Flour and milk can be used to make a white sauce of various thickness without added fat if the flour is added to cold milk and heated slowly while being stirred until thickened. I use canned evaporated skim milk and flour to make basic white sauces I can use in everything from soups and stews to cheese or horseradish sauces for other dishes.

Old Dryfoot
01-11-2014, 06:14 PM
An easier way to get around a cooked roux is to use beurre manie (kneaded butter), this is a mix of equal parts butter and flour. Just place a small amount of flour into a dish, add a like amount of butter, firmer is better, and knead it with your fingers. This works best for smaller amounts of sauce or soup, you will still want to continue cooking whatever you are making for a little bit after adding it however, this ensures that the flour taste is cooked away.

Bobby of Tulsa
01-11-2014, 06:18 PM
Corn starch is good for creamed peas, Flour is for gravy or roux. It is all about the taste. Water will give your gravy little taste, cream will let the fat seperatate before you can get stuff on the plate. Whole milk is best.

Jim Mahan
01-11-2014, 06:20 PM
What Keith said, but no milk.

01-11-2014, 06:27 PM
Or powdered tapioca. Or ... oh, there are a couple of things.

Flour is probably best (unless you're making a clear fruit pudding), and Keith nails the how-to; I usually use water instead of milk.

01-11-2014, 06:29 PM
Instant mashed potato flakes or Arrowroot.

01-11-2014, 06:47 PM
corn starch for chinese food, flour for everything else. No need to fuss over it. Decant a very little juice from the thing you want to thicken, mix a bunch of flour into it until it's almost a paste, decant a T or so of juice into the mixture, stir 'til thinner, add more until it's runny. There should be no lumps, no lumps, no lumps.

Stir into the thing you wish to thicken and stir 'til thick. Cook a bit longer to get rid of whatever floury flavor you might perceive. Check for salt/pepper, minimizing salt as much as possible if not even more.

Not necessary to use fat with the flour.

Alternatively, saute onions/garlic/mushrooms etc. Mix in flour to fully coat and toast in the pan. remove and add fat to saute meat cubes, peppers, mushrooms etc. Add liquids and gently return onion/garlic etc to pan. Stir 'til thick.

Sure, a proper roux is wonderful and necessary for beef gravy, turkey gravy, pork roast gravy. But otherwise? No need to be compulsive.

Remember to add some red wine for beef, white wine for fowl. Cook gently.

For creamed eggs on toast blend the flour with the onions/parsley, add the milk bit by bit until it's thickened.

For macaroni and cheese, same routine, but add the cheese while the flour is thickening the sauce.

Use a cast iron casserole for any of these things to minimize washing up.

01-11-2014, 06:51 PM
Ah, but chocolate pudding?

Blend cornstarch, sugar and cocoa completely.

Add small amount of milk and stir 'til dry ingreds are completely wet.

Add rest of milk and cook gently stirring all the time 'til thick.

Add tangerine oil, or lemon oil, or a little tiny bit of strong dark rum.

01-11-2014, 08:23 PM
Flour,roux. Easy. Do it a few times and it will just come.

For some soups or stews, add okra as an ingredient to give some more body,

nstant mashed potato flakes or Arrowroot.

Donn reminds me of my mom using Arrowroot. I cannot remember what for, specifically? Anyone?


01-11-2014, 08:28 PM
My mother made all sorts of baked goods with it, because she was on a gluten-free diet.

Vince Brennan
01-11-2014, 08:34 PM
Gee. I feel positively Neolithic.

All I do is skim off some of the fat from the pan, add some stock (chicken or beef) to what's left in the pan, bring it up to heat and, while that is simmering up nicely, take about 1/3 pint of flour and 1/2 pint water (cold) in a 1 to 1-1/2 pint screw-top (I use Mason type) jar, close it off and shake the livin' squiggle outta it until there's (no lumps... no lumps... no lumps...) like Elf said.

Gently stir up the simmering juices and slowly add the flour/water to the mix, stirring all the while. Let it cook for about three minutes or until it just starts to boil, turn down the heat to maintain the simmer and taste. If OK, turn it off and decant

Works for me, freezes if needed and keeps several days in a standard refrigerator.

If you are a fanatic on creamy gravy, hit it with an immersion blender. I like my chicken gravy with chunks of giblets in it, but a lot of people think this is anathaema.

That's why they make leather and velvet cuffs...

Old Dryfoot
01-11-2014, 08:34 PM
Arrowroot is used for dishes that need a lower heat when cooking, also for acidic or delicately flavored foods as it adds very little flavor. It also adds a glossy sheen, desirable in desserts and other high presentation foods.

01-11-2014, 08:58 PM
Agar agar, great for tissue culture too.

Todd D
01-11-2014, 09:15 PM
I use flour. I whisk some flour into milk or water and add it to the pan drippings while stirring with a whisk. One it is thoroughly mixed, I add stock and cook for a few minutes. Makes a great gravy. Sometimes I make a roux with butter, olive oil and flour. Once that is cooked, you can keep it in the fridge for quite a while and use it as you need it.

Flying Orca
01-11-2014, 09:53 PM
Flour - Vince's method if you're in a hurry, Keith's if you want the very best results.

(Corn starch for puddings or Chinese sauces, as noted elsewhere. And if you want an interesting way to thicken a creamed vegetable soup, try finely milled oats, an old Irish technique that works well with leeks and potatoes and carrots and such.)

Steve McMahon
01-11-2014, 09:59 PM
Thanks everyone for sharing your tips. I will try the roux method with flour next time. I have to stay away from milk products if I am going to share with my wife so will stick with water or wine.

01-11-2014, 10:45 PM
Thanks everyone for sharing your tips. I will try the roux method with flour next time. I have to stay away from milk products if I am going to share with my wife so will stick with water or wine.

Gravy ain't gravy without some wine! 'specially poultry gravy.