Thinning: The Granules Break

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Once it reaches its thickest consistency, the starch-water mixture will slowly thin out again. There are three different things that the cook may do that encourage thinning: heating for a long period of time after thickening occurs, heating all the way to the boil, and vigorous stirring. All of these have the same effect: they shatter the swollen and fragile granules into very small fragments. While this does mean that even more amylose is released into the water, it also means that there are many fewer large bodies to get caught in the amylose tangle. In other words, the amount of netting increases, the mesh grows finer, but at the same time the big whales become small minnows. This thinning effect is especially striking in the case of very thick pastes, less obvious in normal sauces. If the granules are few and far between to begin with, their disintegration is less noticeable. This thinning is accompanied by a greater refinement of texture, as the starch particles disappear and only indetectably small molecules remain.