A thickening agent does exactly what its name suggests; it is an ingredient added to food to thicken it, with some variants also offering extra flavor. Thickeners can be used by anyone and everyone who wants to thicken the consistency of their food; however, they are also extremely beneficial for people who have difficulty swallowing or have been diagnosed with dysphagia – a condition that can make it incredibly difficult to swallow food and drink. What’s more, thickening agents can also help those struggling to maintain weight due to their hardships with swallowing.
There are many different kinds of thickener on the market – from flour and eggs to special thickening agents that have been specifically designed to bulk and bind a myriad of foods.
They are often starched-based, which helps create a thicker consistency, and they can also be used in a variety of unique culinary ways and their respective foods, including baking cakes and cookies, cooking soups and sauces, and even making smoothies! The possibilities of thickeners are truly endless since they can be used in a wide range of foods.
How Thickeners Work
Thickening agents work when you add them to a liquid and heat that mixture up. The thickener adds to the viscosity, creating a thicker texture to bolster that liquid’s consistency. The beauty of these thickening agents lies in the fact that they can be used in so many kinds of cuisine; they are great for baking cookies and cakes, making liquid foods like soups, sauces, and ice cream, and can even be used in raw food preparation – like blending fruits and vegetables to create smoothies and shakes.
Thickeners are not just for adding to the enjoyment of food either; people who have difficulties swallowing also put thickeners in soups, sauces, and other liquid forms of food. Why? The denser texture of thickened food makes it easier for such people to swallow – plus, it adds to their fullness, which means they won’t have to worry about eating more if they feel unable to. As a knock-on effect of their ability to eat food more comfortably, people who have trouble swallowing can maintain their weight and consume all the nutrients they need to live, which will help prevent them from becoming sick.
How To Use Food Thickeners
The best way to use a food thickener is by adding it in slow, small amounts to whatever food you are preparing – and don’t forget to add water. By adding a thickener in gradual levels, it’ll be easy to control your food’s consistency without overdoing it.
Next comes the mixing or whisking and heating – and if you don’t pay attention to this important part of the cooking or baking process, all of your prior efforts will be in vain. Therefore, when whisking your mixture, it’s crucial to check the consistency regularly to ensure you’re not going overboard – mixing too much can ruin the thickness, after all. Also, when it comes to the cooking or baking part, you have to monitor the time the mixture spends in the oven or the pan; too much can cause the thickening agents to lose their thickening properties – and this is especially true with cornstarch and potato starch.
While it can be tricky to use some thickening agents – particularly those that are actual food ingredients themselves, like flour, potato starch, and cornstarch – special food thickening agents made exclusively for people who suffer from swallowing are often easier to use. With this in mind, there’s a particularly good food thickening agent designed for people who suffer from swallowing issues and dysphagia – SimplyThick Easy mix. If you have trouble swallowing, this specially formulated thickener could help you eat your food and stay full for longer, getting the calories and nutrition you need to stay healthy and thrive.
In conclusion, the best way to find what thickener works for you and your food is through trial and error – after all, that’s probably how food thickeners were first discovered! With cooking, there isn’t a discernible right or wrong – unless you burn food to a crisp!
The fact that cuisine is so subjective, personal, and as vast as it is whimsical means this: it’s difficult to say exactly which thickener you should use and in what amount. You may not want the same consistency as someone else making the exact same thing; you might prefer a lighter texture and viscosity, while another person may need significant thickness pumped up due to their swallowing woes.
One thing’s for certain, though: you have a wealth of options available when looking to thicken your culinary creations – and when that time comes, check back to this guide for a refresher so that you can get the most out of thickening your foods.