how to get rid of cornstarch lumps (3 quick tricks)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how to get rid of cornstarch lumps”, discuss simple tricks to get rid of lumps and how to avoid getting lumps in the first place.

How to get rid of cornstarch lumps?

You can get rid of cornstarch lumps with these 3 easy fixes. You can use a whisker,  a sieve or you can use a blender too.

Using a whisk

Whenever you see lumps in gravy the first simple thing you can do is give it a good whisk. Hold the pan using a potholder with one hand and whisk the gravy using a whisker, move it vigorously in circular motions. this will help you get rid of the lumps.

Use a sieve 

Sometimes when the lumps are too hard the above trick may not work, in that case, use a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of those stubborn lumps. 

Place the sieve on a bowl and pour the gravy into the sieve and press the gravy into the sieve using a spatula so that the thick gravy passes through the sieve and the lumpy part remains in the sieve. 

Now you can pour the filtered gravy back into the cooking pan and enjoy a smooth gravy.

Use a blender

Another easy fix for a lumpy gravy is to use a blender. Pour the gravy into the blender and use the lumpy blades to fix the lumpy gravy. This method does not require your physical strength and is a quicker way to get rid of the lumps.

Roux

In this method first, you need to melt the butter and let the water in it burn off, add the starch. Cook for about 5 minutes as this will ensure the starch molecules are separated. 

Now your cornstarch is ready to be added into the boiling liquid without the risk of forming lumps. Roux is also used for making a thickener using flour.

What is Cornstarch

Ground from corn kernels corn scratch has 70-72% starch content in it. It is used as a thickening agent in soups, curries, gravies, etc.

What is a thickening agent?

Thickening agents are starch-based polysaccharides. Amylose and Amylopectin are two major polysaccharides in starches that are responsible for thickening foods.

There are two stages of the swelling process where the starch thickens. First is gelatinization, when starch is subjected to heat it disrupts the semi-crystalline structure leading to absorption of water and swelling. 

In the second stage called pasting the starch needs a higher temperature and continue whisking to avoid lump formation, this eventually gives the food a thick consistency.

Why does cornstarch forms lumps

To avoid cornstarch lumps it is better to know a little bit of the science behind it. Starch is a long string of sugars that are made of amylose and amylopectin.

This cornstarch act as a thickener by soaking up all the water and using heat to change its molecular structure.

Heat changes the structure of cornstarch from a compact globular form to a more spread-out structure in which the water is soaked up and stored in the space left in the structure.

As simple as this seems, things can go wrong very quickly if you just dump the starch into the liquid. This happens when just the outer portion of the starch comes in contact with water and forms a thick layer, not letting the starch inside come in contact with water, and this results in a lump formation.

How to avoid cornstarch lumps

Cornstarch is often used as a thickener in gravies which gives gravies their typical silky smooth thick consistency. So to avoid a lumpy gravy add a thickener that is smooth and has no lumps. 

To make a cornstarch thickener, take 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and add it to one cup of cold water and mix it vigorously until there are no lumps seen and the cornstarch is completely dissolved in the water.

Once the thickener is ready add one tablespoon at a time into the gravy 

and keep mixing the gravy with a spatula, keep adding the thickener little by little until the desired consistency of gravy is achieved. 

Substitutes for cornstarch

Some substitutes for cornstarch are arrowroot, wheat, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum.

Other FAQs about Cornstarch that you may be interested in.

How can I substitute cornstarch to thicken gravy?

How to mix cornstarch and water?

Can you eat Raw Cornstarch?

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “how to get rid of cornstarch lumps”, we learned some basic information about what cornstarch is and why it has the tendency to form lumps. We also discussed simples tricks to get rid of lumps and how to avoid getting lumps in the first place.

References

  1. https://www.finecooking.com/article/saucy-lumps-and-how-to-avoid-them
  2. https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/how-to-get-lumps-out-of-gravy 
  3. https://www.jessicagavin.com/thickening-agent/ 
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roux 

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.