Whether you are thickening your gravy, soup, or sauce, the thickening agent is usually flour or cornstarch. The challenge is to prepare the flour or corn starch mix without lumps. Following is a complete guide to avoid lumps and how to break them if you already have a lumpy dish.
The technique on how to mix flour and water without lumps
If you thicken with flour, the best way to do it is to dissolve the flour before putting it into the dish. You will need a cup or a bowl and a fork. To get a lump free mix, always follow these steps:
- Add flour into a cup
- Take a fork into your hand because you will need to start mixing right after you add water.
- Always add cold water, not warm and not hot.
- At first, add double the amount of water.
- Start mixing, and until you get a very thick mixture, don’t stop .mixing and don’t add water. This will take just a few seconds.
- Then when the consistency is lump free, start to add more water. Add it slowly and mix continuously.
- Add as much water as you need; there is no upper limit.
If you follow these steps, you will dissolve flour in water every time without lumps.
The technique on how to dissolve cornstarch and water without lumps
If you make silky Chinese food like sweet and sour soup or kung pao chicken, or any other sauce, you will probably thicken it with cornstarch and water. To prepare it, you will need a cup and a fork or a spoon. The best way to dissolve cornstarch in water without lumps is the following:
- Put cornstarch in a cup.
- Add cold water and not warm or hot water.
- Add double amount the water to cornstarch immediately, and mix until you get lump-free consistency.
- Add more water if needed.
If you follow these steps, you will dissolve cornstarch in water every time without lumps.
How to avoid flour lumps in any batter (pancake, cake, …)
The trick to avoiding lumps in any butter is straightforward. The batter consists of solids and liquids (eggs excluded). When you are making a batter, never put the whole amount of fluid into the solids.
If you make pancake or crepe batter, first add flour, baking powder, and any other solids into a bowl. When you add liquids, only add three-quarters of milk or other liquid into the solids at first.
Start mixing. It is best if you use an electric mixer. Mix until you get a thick and fluffy consistency. This will usually happen after one or two minutes of mixing. Because you didn’t add all the liquids at once, you won’t get any lumps.
When the batter is smooth, and lump-free add the rest of the liquids.
How to avoid flour lumps in gravy
Whether you are making gravy for thanksgiving turkey or mushroom sauce for spaghetti, you will need to thicken the gravy at some point. You have two options to thicken gravy lump-free, which are most commonly used.
Option nr. 1 to avoid flour lumps in gravy and sauce – deglaze
The first option is to deglaze the pan in which you are making the sauce. Add flour into the saucepan or roasting pan and just slightly brown it. When the pan is hot enough, add in water or wine or any other liquid. It is essential to add cold liquid.
At first, add a small amount of water to deglaze the flower and brown particles on the pan’s bottom. When you see the mix thickening, immediately add more water. Don’t add too much water at once. When the sauce starts to get silky and smooth, add the rest of the water needed for the sauce.
The key is to work quickly, add water cold and slowly, with constant mixing. The best tool to deglaze is a sturdy whisk. I always use stainless steel whisk to get desired lump-free results like this one:
Option nr. 2 to avoid flour lumps in gravy and sauce – dissolve
If your sauce is ready and it only needs thickening, you can thicken it with dissolved flour.
Put flour in a cup, add double the amount of cold water, and mix with a fork. Add more cold water when you get thick lump-free consistency.
Put dissolved flour and water mixture into the sauce and mix.
How to add flour to soup without clumping
Never put flour directly into the soup and mix. Always dissolve flour first in some water, as described in the first section.
When you add dissolved flour into the soup, it is best if the soup is not boiling. You can add it into hot soup, but not boiling.
Stir the soup and cook it for at least 10 minutes, so the starch in the flour works it’s magic.
How to avoid lumps in white sauce
White sauce or bechamel sauce is made of butter, flour, milk, and spices. When making a bechamel sauce, always add enough butter, so when you add flour, the flour can cook evenly in the butter.
Once the butter and flour are cooked, lower the flame and work with medium heat. Do not use high heat. Then add milk.
Always use cold milk. Add it slowly and mix constantly. When you see the mixture thickening, add more milk. Never put the whole amount of milk at once. I suggest you use a sturdy whisk to mix the white sauce.
The key is to work with low heat, add cold milk, and mix constantly.
How to get rid of flour lumps in a dish you are making
How to get rid of flour lumps in batter
A batter is usually thick and fluffy. Even if you work with more liquid batter consistency, the consistency is still too thick to take out the lumps by a tablespoon.
The best way to get rid of lumps in a batter is to pour it through a sieve. Use a tablespoon or a whisk to help the batter get through the holes in the sieve. Discard any remaining in the sieve.
How to get rid of flour lumps in gravy
If your gravy includes any chunks of vegetables, the only option is to remove lumps one by one with a tablespoon.
But if your gravy consists of roast meat brown particles, spices, liquid, and flour, which usually does, then your best options to break up lumps are the following:
- Use a blender
Add your gravy into a blender and blend everything. You will get smoother consistency with blending. If any flour lumps are remaining, put the gravy through a sieve. The sieve will hold any remaining lumps, and you will be left with a creamy and silky gravy.
If you have a strong blender like Vitamix, you won’t even have to put the gravy through a sieve. Lumps will break up completely.
- Use an immersion hand blender
Do not use it if you have chunks of vegetables in your sauce.
If your sauce is vegetable-free, use an immersion hand blender with a bell-shaped base and stainless steel blade. Blend the gravy completely for about a minute or two. If any lumps are remaining, put the sauce through a sieve.
It is always best to have a powerful blender in the kitchen to do this or any other job. I recommend you use the Breville blender, which is perfect for this job:
When you use a sieve, always use sturdy stainless steel like this one, especially if you are working with hot liquids.
How to get rid of cornstarch lumps
Cornstarch lumps are basically the same as flour lumps. If you want to break them up, you can use the following methods
- Use a blender and colander if lumps are not entirely gone
- Use an immersion hand blender and colander if the lumps are not entirely gone
- Use a colander and put your sauce through the colander to catch all the lumps.
How to get rid of lumps in white sauce
The only way I found to break up lumps in white bechamel sauce is to put the white sauce through a sieve. If you get clumpy bechamel sauce, chances are you will need to make it one more time.
Even if you put it through a sieve, there will be too much flour left on the sieve, and your bechamel will be too liquidy. I suggest you always start over and use the bechamel you are left with from straining.
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