A guide to thickeners: cornstarch, tapioca, arrowroot, potato starch and flour

As Harold McGee explains in “On Food and Cooking,” starches are made of long chains of glucose sugar molecules that are linked to each other. Starches are useful in thickening because of the way they behave in the presence of hot water. He summarizes the process in “Keys to Good Cooking”: “When heated in a liquid, starch granules soak up water, swell, and release long, tangly starch molecules, all factors that cause the liquid to thicken.”

McGee says that cooking for an extended period, bringing the mixture to a boil or vigorous stirring will eventually thin out the mixture, which

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