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Thickening sauces can be a lengthy and troublesome process if you allow it to be. The tips I give here are aimed more at the home cook than the professional chef; who will know these already.

There are many thickening agents for sauces, but lets just look at the more common ones you might come across:

  1. Flour
    This can be used in three ways: as a roux, beurre manié or mixed with water.

  • A roux : made by melting butter or oil, mixing in flour and cooking it over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Most classic recipes call for equal quantities of fat to flour, I much prefer more fat than flour. Why? Well for one thing it allows for a much richer flavour, but also allows the roux to combine into the liquid easier. On average use 75 gm butter to 60 gm of flour per litre of liquid….most recipes state 100 gm, 100gm and 1 litre; this will cause a thick, stodgy, 19th century style sauce more akin to porridge and not the lighter ones we prefer today.

  • Beurre manié : basically as above but used to add to sauces, should they need extra thickening once made. A French term : Beurre = butter, manié = handled, so named as it is normally made by kneading the4 flour and cold butter together to form a paste.

  • With water : flour and water combined to form a slurry. Mainly used to thicken gravies for roast meats.

  1. Cornflour
    Mixed with water or other liquid to a slurry, this may be used for thickening most sauces, but normally reserved for reduction sauces: sauces where the liquid (stock, wine etc) is simmered until reduced to taste. Once the liquid is ready and has boiled, removed from heat and add the slurry in slowly, while whisking quickly; it will thicken almost instantly so take care not to add to much. The downside of cornflour is that it will dilute the sauce's colour
  1. Arrowroot
    Used as for cornflour with the advantage of the fact that it will not dilute the sauce's colour, but will give it a nice sheen (more expensive to purchase though). It is really difficult, if not impossible to thin sauces down after they have been over thickened with arrowroot or cornflour, so please take care!

Finally if you want to make seafood or fish sauces but cannot buy the stock, do what a lot of professional chefs do, use a light chicken stock. Many chefs do not use fish stocks as they will sour quickly and for food hygiene reasons are very unstable. However, please, please use a good quality stock whether it is fresh, powdered or cubed . . . a dish is only as good as its sauce which is only as good as its stock.



Food and Cooking Tips
from professional
Chef Tallyrand


Born and raised in Plymouth, Tallyrand started his initial training as a chef at Plymouth College of Further Education. It was here that he was to learn his love, his passion for food and the culinary arts. From here he headed to Germany to complete his apprenticeship as Commis de Gardemanger.

Germany gave him his first taste of cooking for the rich and famous, as half way through his first year, along with the Sous Chef and a Chef de Partie, he was whisked off to Cologne to help prepare meals for a political conference, where amongst other dignitaries they cooked for Mr Brehznev, the then powerful Russian leader. This was to prove to be just one of the many celebrities he was to cook for or get to know over the years . . .

If you would like to find out more why not visit Tallyrand's own web site (link in main menu)

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