Arrowroot

Arrowroot has been gaining popularity as a general-purpose thickener for at least a decade, and indeed many cooks prefer it over cornstarch. The reason: because it does just about everything cornstarch does only better. Sauces thickened with arrowroot are clearer than those thickened with cornstarch. They also have less of an aftertaste which is nice if your sauce has very delicate flavor notes. Arrowroot also thickens at a lower temperature (about 180 F) and is a good deal more tolerant of acid and long boiling. Arrowroot gels can also be frozen and thawed, making them great for baked frozen fruit pies.

Like cornstarch and tapioca (another root starch thickener), arrowroot is pure starch and can be used in comparable amounts. It’s also used the same way: make a slurry with a small amount of liquid and combine. The down side of this thickener is that it’s not good for either meat gravies, which look oddly plastic when thickened with arrowroot, or dairy-based liquids which turn slimy in its presence. It’s also quite pricey. I shouldn’t have dumped so much out on my board. That’s about a dollar’s worth and I’m going to have a hard time getting it back in the bag.

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4 Responses to Arrowroot

  1. Eva says:

    Hi Joe,
    What properties in meat gravies and dairy-based liquids cause the problems when using arrowroot to thicken? Is it a fat thing or something else? Thanks!

    Eva

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Eva! I think it’s not so much an interference thing as an I-don’t-think-that-looks-quite-right thing. Meat gravies that are very shiny and clear don’t feel so much like gravies. Regarding the dairy, I think that’s a gelling issue but honestly I’m not sure what it is! All I know is: slimy. Very scientific! ;)

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  2. Sean says:

    Where do you get your arrowroot powder, and how pricy is it? Monterey Bay Spice Company is where I get a lot of my spices and teas, and they have it for about $3 per pound, which is about 3 cups.

    Of course, it’s possible that that is pricy, and that living in California has skewed my sense of what is and isn’t expensive…

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Sean!

      I made the mistake of buying mine at Whole Foods where a pound ran me six bucks. I can get it cheaper somewhere else I’m sure. Cornstarch will always be cheaper I’m sure, but arrowroot has been growing on me lately. I’m using it more and more. Thanks for the comment!

      - Joe

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