Potato Starch

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Potato starch was the first commercially important refined starch and is still an important food starch in Europe. It is unusual for several characteristics. Its granules are very large, up to a tenth of a millimeter across, and its amylose molecules are very long. This combination gives potato starch an initial thickening power far greater than that of any other starch. The long amylose chains tangle with each other and with the giant granules to block easy movement of the sauce fluid. This entanglement also creates long aggregates of amylose and granules that can give the impression of stringiness. And the large swollen granules give a noticeable initial graininess to sauces. However the granules are fragile, and readily fragment into finer particles; so having reached its thickest and grainiest, the consistency of a potato-starch sauce rapidly gets both finer and thinner. Potato starch is also unusual for having a large number of attached phosphate groups, which carry a weak electric charge and cause the starch chains to repel each other. This repulsion helps keep the starch chains evenly dispersed in a sauce, and contributes to the thickness and clarity of the dispersion and its low tendency to congeal into a gel on cooling.