Cornstarch vs. Flour- How To Thicken Pie Filling

Cornstarch VS. Flour- How To Thicken Pie Filling

Last Updated on December 28, 2021 by Zara R.

Which pie thickener is best to achieve that delicious and sliceable filling? Rich, creamy, and smooth? Whatever your preference is, it eventually relies on the pie thickener you are using, cornstarch vs. flour. However, how would you know for sure when to use the right pie thickener in your pies? And what makes cornstarch different from flour? 

Pie Thickeners: Cornstarch vs. Flour
Cornstarch VS. Flour- How To Thicke...
Cornstarch VS. Flour- How To Thicken Pie Filling

Both cornstarch and flour are grain starches since they need to be boiled for several minutes, ensuring that they cooked well. Both are best used with cream pies where a pastry cream is a base when making pie. Lumpy, pasty, or gluey are not great qualities of a delicious and delicate gel-like filling of your fruit pie. The kind of starch you are using is essential when thickening your fruit pie since choosing the right grain starch provides a better structure and holds it together well.

Pie Thickeners - Cornstarch vs. Flour

How Do They Work?

Pie thickeners work similarly. The starches in the thickeners are heated, which causes the bond of the pie filling and the liquids. As a result, it starts to swell, making a more stable structure to the pie filling. This process is the main reason why the pie filling does not get thick until it is cooked. The appearance, flavor, and temperature at which they start to thicken, including how long they can hold their structure after cooking, is what differentiates them as pie thickeners.

The best thing to do is knowing the exact quantity of thickness you want with your pie since cornstarch and flour have their own advantages and disadvantages as pie thickeners. 

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What Makes Cornstarch Better Than Flour?

Cornstarch is a faster thickening agent than flour because it does not require too much cooking time. It results in a clear and smooth filling that is starchy and silky. Cornstarch is made by soaking, milling, grounding, sieving, and centrifuging corn. Hence, sugar helps the cornstarch separate better when it is mixed with liquids. However, it needs high temperatures to activate and has a chalky texture and flavor when used too much or undercooked. Likewise, it loses its thickening power if over whisked since it is moderately stable.

Though it is clearer than flour, fruit pie fillings thickened with cornstarch will appear opaque. Another thing to consider is that cornstarch cannot be mixed with acidic liquids. Also, it cannot be frozen because it transforms into a watery mixture when thawed. As a result, cornstarch should be mixed with an equivalent amount of cold water and stirred gently into the hot fruit pie filling at the end of baking.

Why is it Better to Use Cornstarch vs. Flour? And What are its Downsides?

On the contrary, flour works best with less juicy fruits like apples since it is a natural thickening agent. As a result, it produces a wheat-flavored taste and lightly gummy texture with a cloudy filling. Also, it thickens at low temperatures. Likewise, flour is remarkably stable and can last longer than cornstarch in prolonged baking. That is why it is an all-purpose thickener. 

Why is it Better to Use Cornstarch vs. Flour - And What are its Downsides

It is ideal to use flour in achieving a cloudy finish compared to cornstarch. Although, use twice as much flour as cornstarch as a general rule of thumb. Also, it provides pies with a matte appearance that suits well with apple pies and pear pies but not so much for summer berry pies. Flour is not the best thickener because it is not a pure starch. 

Which One is the Best Pie Thickener for Fruit Pie Filling?

In cornstarch vs. flour in pies, gluten is a key factor in determining a better pie thickener. Given that cornstarch is starchier than flour that contains wheat, it thickens better due to the lack of gluten. In contrast, flour is less efficient since it is rich in gluten. 

When it comes to long baked pies like apple and pear, flour is better than cornstarch because it has the highest gelatinization. As the flour’s flavor cooks out, it helps to caramelize and soften the fruit pie filling resulting in a fairly light consistency. Besides enhancing the fruit pie filling’s sweetness, cornstarch is the winner since it produces a smooth and bright-tasting filling. Likewise, the quantity of cornstarch required differs from the sugar and type of fruit used.

Final Words

Although cornstarch is a better pie thickener than flour for fruit pie filling, everybody has their preferred pie thickener in making their favorite fruit pies. The characteristics of a perfect fruit pie rely on consistency, appearance, and flavor. It should be soft and tender. The filling should be retained in the pie, and its fruit flavor is delicious.  

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