No matter how many times you’ve cooked a certain stew, casserole or pie filling, sometimes you end up with a little more liquid than you’re expecting and the sauce is too runny.
This can happen more often with dishes made in a slow cooker, as slow cookers don’t allow water to evaporate – they trap in the moisture. At least with stovetop dishes, you can bring the dish to the boil to reduce some of the liquid, however this can affect the flavour and in most cases, overcook the ingredients.
With slow cooking season in full swing, we wanted to present you with some fail-safe ways to thicken up your casseroles so you can nail it every time.
The two best thickening agents are flour and cornflour. Both contain starch that swells when mixed with liquid and heated.
Using flour as a thickener
Flour can be used in 2 different ways:
- Toss it through meat pieces prior to browning. The flour helps to thicken a stew as it cooks.
- Flour can also be whisked into a little cold water, before being stirred into the stew while cooking (don’t add the flour straight to the stew as it may clump). After adding to the stew, bring the stew to boil – this helps to cook out the flour taste and allows the starch to swell. Only add 1 tsp at a time.
Using cornflour as a thickener
Cornflour is a great thickener for those who are gluten-free. Cornflour can produce a slightly more gelatinous texture, so only use a small amount or you may end up with a slightly goopy sauce. Unlike flour, you can stir the cornflour straight into the dish as it will dissolve more readily. Once added, bring to the boil and cook until desired thickness is reached.
If you don’t like using flour or cornflour, a simple sauce reduction does the trick. Before you add your sauce to the heat remove the meat, as meat chunks will prevent a high-quality reduction. By simmering the liquid, you can thicken the consistency and end up with a more concentrated and intense flavour. The main trick to reducing in cooking is to give your liquid enough time to simmer in an uncovered pan.
Thickening slow cooker stews and casseroles
The nature of slow cookers is that they operate at a lower heat, so this means any thickener may never get hot enough for the starch to swell. Once your stew is cooked, transfer the sauce only to a saucepan, stir in the flour or cornflour and bring to the boil. Or you can do the reduction method, as per the tip above.
Stew and casserole recipes to try
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