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What are starches and how can we use them in the kitchen

23 mayo, 2021

A few days ago a person asked me if I could substitute a flour for a starch to make a certain elaboration. And although it is true that at certain times substitution does not matter much, it must be said that they are not the same. That’s why I wanted to explain what are starches and how can we use them in the kitchen.

While a flour is composed of water, gluten and starch (and other compounds in a lesser presence), a starch is only carbohydrates, starch. Specifically, and although it will not provide us with anything more than a little knowledge about it, it is about starches composed of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

Where do we find the starches?


Starches are very abundant in plants, especially in fruits and roots. In stores we find them in the form of white powder and especially they are extracted from different vegetables such as potatoes, rice, corn, wheat, etc.

Although it is true that the most common are the above, now others with a more exotic origin (due to the unknown until recently) can be found, such as those from the cassava, from which tapioca is obtained, the starch of sago which is extracted from some palm trees with the same name.

Although it is true that the ones with the most starch are rice and wheat which can be 75% starch in its composition, followed by corn that has up to 70% starch. And a starch that is used a lot in some kitchens is potato starch. But potatoes are 25% starch.

The starch is extracted in the same way in any of the vegetables that we are talking about. The first thing that is done is to crush and squeeze the tubers or seeds that we are talking about, obtaining a mixture where the starch, gluten, oils, etc. are, then it is dragged through water and sifted. Chemicals are added that dissolve gluten and other debris. Only the starch remains, which is washed and dried.

How to use starch in the kitchen


In our kitchen, starches that come from wheat, corn, potatoes or rice are used more. In general they are used as thickeners for creams or purees. Also to bind sauces and give them more consistency. It can also be used as a non-stick to stretch or form doughs and pastes, such as marzipan, etc.

Although it is true that the main use that we usually give it as a thickener or to bind. In that case, it must be taken into account that starches are insoluble in cold water and that they also tend to form lumps if we do not dissolve them first. So, what we will have to do is dissolve them in a little warm water and add the mixture to the preparation we are making, always hot and in the last minutes of preparation. We stir and let it thicken.

A more “natural” wayIf we want to call it that way, to use some starch is to use the crushed ingredient itself. That is, in the case of, for example, cooked with legumes or with rice as a base, we can take a few legumes or a little rice, grind it and mix it in the sauce. That way the broth will also thicken.

In any case, as long as you can thicken a sauce or cream through its reduction, for me it is much more advisable. That way we will not be adding carbohydrates to our diet. Of course, sometimes there is no choice. In other types of recipes, we can use the starches to coat and fry later. That way we can have a crunchier batter.

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