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Difference Between Flour and Cornstarch

Flour vs Cornstarch

In the cooking and baking world, flour and cornstarch are two of the most vital ingredients in cookery. Both flour and cornstarch are starches, and both are used similarly as thickening agents in many types of sauces in numerous cuisines.

Cornstarch, as it name implies, is a starch made from corn. The starch is a fine, white powder flour that came from the white heart of the corn which is also known as endosperm. The other name for cornstarch is corn flour. On the other hand, flour is made from wheat and is the traditional thickening agent.

Cornstarch is a pure starch compared to flour. The reason for this is because flour contains gluten. The lack of gluten in cornstarch makes it more efficient in thickening compared to flour. In fact, cornstarch has twice the thickening power compared to the opposite starch. The gluten’s presence in flour makes it less effective.

Since the cornstarch has twice the thickening power compared to flour, the amount of cornstarch is usually half compared to the amount of flour in a given recipe. Another advantage of cornstarch over flour is that the cornstarch doesn’t usually create lumps while lumps are evident when using flour. The cornstarch mixture also doesn’t add any flavor to the base and doesn’t mask any flavor or taste. As a mixture, the cornstarch mix blends more easily compared to the flour combination. The mix also doesn’t absorb liquid until it cooks.

Cornstarch as a thickening agent produces a clear and light shine or gloss to the sauce while the flour mixture will add a white, opaque, and cloudy appearance. The cornstarch mixture is used for dairy-based sauces like custards and gravies while the flour mixture is used in white or cream soups. The flour mixture can also be used as a roux wherein the flour and fat are combined together.

Another notable difference between the cornstarch mixture and the flour mixture is the temperature of the water. Cornstarch is mixed with cold water because the starch will get lumpy if hot water is added. In contrast, flour is blended with hot water. Both mixtures can be added to the sauce base or soup after combining the dry and wet ingredients. It is also important to note that the cornstarch mixture doesn’t mix well with any kind of acid in liquid form.

Both cornstarch and a flour mixture can be subject to thinning. When this happens, a couple of factors are in play. There mixture might have unequal amounts of liquid and the dry ingredient (whether it is cornstarch or flour). Usually, the amount of the liquid is smaller compared to the dry starch. This can be remedied be adding more hot or cold water depending on the type of starch or thickening agent. Another factor might be an excess of other ingredients like sugar, fat, and acid. Excessive stirring can also contribute as well as freezing the mixture.

Another issue is about lumps in both mixtures. The two solutions to remedy the situation is to put the mixture into a blender and have the machine blend the ingredients evenly while using a strainer and straining can also be another reliable method.

Summary:

1.Both cornstarch and flour are thickening agents for many sauces and soups.
2.The cornstarch mixture has an advantage of having twice the thickening power compared to flour. The gluten in flour makes it less effective.
3.The cornstarch is added to cold water while the flour is blended with hot water.
4.The cornstarch moisture produces a shine or gloss while the flour blend leaves an opaque and cloudy look.
5.Cornstarch is made from corn while flour is made from wheat.


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