To determine which type, quickly...
|Which Modified Food Starch thickener should you use in your own recipes?
For the Best Applications, refer to the MFS Chart, by clicking here or scroll down the page.
Have fun, experiment, but use each type CORRECTLY, there are MFS Cookbooks also available online.
Aren't all modified food starches (MFS) considered unsafe?
Thank goodness, no!
I became familiar with the term "modified food starch" back in the early 1980ís, first from my having to read food labels... because of my kids' (several) noticeably negative food reactions from a number of commercially processed foods...
"Adversity brings knowledge, and knowledge wisdom." (Welsh Proverb)
...then with wonderful results, I was able to better educate myself with learning how to better prepare foods, often by reading and (more and more) by my cooking from scratch.
Certainly they are refined food ingredients, but fortunately you need to use just a little to still greatly benefit from them.
As ingredients-- MFS Chart: These modified food starches listed are safe, and made from corn. (In and of themselves) each are totally gluten free.
Gluten Free: Ingredients or foods not containing wheat (or wheat by-product) are always gluten free. Foods containing wheat are unsafe for anyone with gluten-intolerance. If wheat is not clearly identified anywhere on the package labeling*... then you are in the clear and free to go!
*By law (in the US) any food including a "wheat" modified food starch must be stated as such on the label.
Some labels may merely list modified food starch, but a (allergen) statement must also list wheat.
Other labels list either modified wheat starch or modified starch wheat.
What's does MFS stand for? (Modified Food Starch)
Modified Food Starch, with broad application, commercial instant thickeners made from corn.
The following modified food starches are also available in many cooking shops across the country, and available to the public on a rather limited basis. Many extension services are familiar with these products and could maybe help you find them locally.
To Get: My Favorite Thickeners
Instant ClearJel® powder (aka: ICJ) has been available commercially for well over a half a century.
Regular Clearjel® powder is the one modified food starch that's recommended for canning, i.e.: fruit fillings and jam.
Ultra Sperse® has been used commercially for around 25 years. (It's BRANDED under many names, i.e.: Ultra Gel®, Ultra Maxigel® and Ultra Set® etc.) are all pre-gelantinated, modified food starches derived from waxy maize. Each have good heat and acid tolerance and well suited for applications containing acid or those that require cooking, baking and freezing.
Signature Secrets®: A relatively new comer to the market, originally available only to restaurants and caterers, directly from the manufacture. Now only available through KingArthurFlour.com Simply do a search for under INGREDIENTS.
|Cold-Water Swelling Products:
Thickens either cold or heated.
i.e.: Ultra Gel®,
|Syrups & Sauces
ICJ is trickier w/ HOT liquids (and) if it's the only dry ingredient.
an immersion blender helps
|Frozen Jams & Pie Fillings
Frozen/then baked pies
Processed Jams & Pie Fillings
No, don't use.
Re: Canning & Processing Foods
Regular Clearjel (non-instant powder) does NOT thicken instantly, as do the cold-swelling starches represented above. Instead it must be COOKED first on the stove, then recipes can be either served as is, canned or baked.
Regular ClearJel powder is what I personally use and recommend for processed jam and canned pie fillings. The primary reason, is that regular clearjel powder is simply more economical than Ultra Sperse products, especially if I going to process much jam. The benefit is that the product [remains thin] during canning process, thereby allowing heat to penetrate through to the center of the jar completely, and then thickens as the end-product cools. Do note that regular clearjel is not freezer stable - yet Instant ClearJel is!
Instant ClearJel® powder is NOT recommended for canning; many believe because it breaks down during the process. However, this is just not my experience. ICJ is cold-swelling, meanings it thickens on contact with wet ingredients, and doubly thickens once heated. Due to this fact, I have found the canning process may not always [penetrate to the center] of the jar of jam or pie filling! Thus the risk of spoilage is extremely HIGH and potentially dangerous in canning. ICJ is formulated and best suited for either fresh, frozen or baked products.
Ultra-Sperse certain brands [i.e. Ultra Gel®] does recommend their product can be used for processing jam. Due to the expense, I've just not done so. However, I DO enjoy using the product sparingly for certain applications.
*Signature Secrets® Culinary Thickener: to date, I have not tested this thickener personally for jams or pie fillings. Although King Arthur Flour recommend it for freshly baked custards and pies. It is rather pricier than ICJ. I don't know [but I really suspect] it would also have the very same negative canning results as Instant ClearJel does [not penetrating to the center of the jam jar, etc.]
|MFS Cookbooks, Articles & Recipes...
Instant ClearJel® powder and Signature Secrets® Culinary Thickener.
Obviously their master bakers also love MFS(s) as much as I do!
A great Adobe .pdf file, plus they've got more MFS recipes their Website
King Arthur Flour's price for Instant ClearJel® is high, instead here's the best price I know of: go to
A Mere Trifle (Rich Chocolate Cake)
Black Forest Trifle
Bumble Berry Pie
Chocolate Cream Roll
Cinnamon Apple Twist Bread
Cinnamon-Swirl Raisin Nut Bread
Classic Cream Puffs
Favorite Pie Crust Recipe
Fresh Raspberry Pie
Fresh Strawberry Pie
Kolaches, Sweet & Savory
Lemon-Blueberry Streusel Pie
Mile-High Meringue Pie
Mom's Apple Pie
New-Age Boston Cream Pie
Quick Fruit Cobbler
Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid
Summer Fruit Crisp
The Chocolate Malt
Sharon Anne, Share Alike Recipes Using MFS's
(Click to view underlined recipes)
Caramel Corn (Gift Mix)
Buttermilk Bread (Auto Bread Maker)
Heaven Scent Rolls
Sandwich Wheat Bread
Sandwich Wheat Bread (Auto-Bread Maker)
Super Crispy Waffles
Spiced Bundt Pound Cake & Ambrosia Fruit
Parmesan Chicken & Mostaccioli
COW Soup Mix (Cream of What-Ever)
Fruit Sauce (Summer)
Fruit Sauce (Winter)
Ancini De Pepe Fruit Salad
Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
Cheesecake (Lite Filling)
SCM (Sweetened Condensed Milk
Low Sugar Freezer Jams
Apricot & Pineapple Jam
Grape "Juice" Jelly
Taco Seasoning Mix
Great Info about MFS's
(or BB Buttermilk)
Quick Breads (Loaves)
Food Storage (Building Up)
|Substituting MFS's in Recipes: The authors of the Ultra Gel Answer Book discourage you from substituting MFS's, but it's ALWAYS worked well for me.
Just remember to mix in 50% less Instant ClearJel® with dry ingredients at first (note the results) then try more or less, the next time you make the recipe.
When substituting a quick dispersing a MFS in my Instant ClearJel® type recipes, you'll want to double the amount Ultra-Sperse type MFS (Ultra Gel®).
Q. How quickly can you expect each modified food starch (thickener) to hydrate?
A. Instant ClearJel (with its powder-like, fine particles) hydrates much faster than (the coarse-sized particles) of either Ultra Sperse and Signature Secrets®. To use Instant ClearJel (powder-like thickener) be certain to take steps to prevent clumping, by mixing it first with the dry ingredients called for in the recipe.
B. The coarse-ground starch thickeners, such as in Ultra Sperse brands: Ultra Gel, Maxigel, Utra Set, etc. (and Signature Secrets®) disperse easily, however, they also hydrate and thicken more slowly. Mix either with dry ingredients, or gradually [emphasis on gradually] whisk these modified food starches into your recipe.
Many MFS obtain VERY similar end-results: (yet maybe NOT always exact).
I use INSTANT ClearJel® powder 75% of the time, for easy, clear and thick results.
I use REGULAR ClearJel powder 15% of the time for cooked, primarily for processed jams.
I use an Ultra Sperse product 10% of the time for easier dispersing and clear, thick results.
I use Signature Secrets® Culinary thickener 10% of the time, for easy creamy and thick results.
The Wonder Ingredient: Instant ClearJel® powder (aka: ICJ)
Just by adding a small amount of a simple modified food starch, ICJ can actually reduce calories, from sugar and fat. ICJ can also improve crumb texture and extend the shelf life of bake goods. How?
Reduce Calories: Excessive sugar amounts are commonly used to boost thickening power in frozen jam preserves. However, you can reduce the calories (by combining 3-Tbsp ICJ with 2-cups sugar) before adding to 5 cups crushed fruit, stir in 1 Tbsp corn syrup and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. The corn syrup molecules mingle with the granulated sugar, avoiding any crystallization; lemon juice heightens flavor.
Reduce Fat: ICJ allows you to reduce up to half the fat in baked bread, and still have a very tender loaf. Reducing the fat content, reduces calories.
Increase and Extend Shelf Life: Adding ICJ helps retain the moisture in baked goods, before and after baking, plus during storage (extending the shelf-life, days longer than normal).
Often spelled as Instant Clear Jel, as in separate words. (NOT to be confused at all with Regular ClearJel or ClearJel A, which must to be cooked to thicken.) ICJ provides great-excellent, economical, clear and thick results; either cold or heated (see above chart for details). ICJ must be incorporated with dry ingredients first or slowly added, OR blended with either:
Blender (just pulse a couple of times, or they'll add a bit too much air).
How to use Instant ClearJel powder:
One-Tbsp Instant ClearJel® thickens one-cup of liquid. (It has twice the thickening power of the other MFS thickeners featured on this page, making it very affordable, but the others on this page, do disperse more easily.) Simply add ICJ to the dry ingredients (such as powdered milk, sugar or flour, even spices) or blend as specified above, with an immersion blender (or food processor) for purees.
Substitutions in recipes:
3 tablespoons Instant ClearJel powder = 3 tablespoons cornstarch
OR 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
OR 1/4 cup tapioca flour
It's called "Instant" because is swells and gels instantly, when it comes in contact with any liquid. So it's BEST added with other dry ingredients (i.e. sugar or powdered milk) or blended in with an immersion blender (or food processor).
Instant ClearJel® powder offers an excellent, long-term, chilled stability and texture. Also excellent results and taste for my fruit syrups and sauces. Gives great long-term stability for my frozen jam recipes.
Instant ClearJel® is a wonderful thickener for baking, when mixed with dry ingredients first. Not preferred for gravies and tomato sauces. Adds little to no flavor, you taste just the main ingredient.
Instant ClearJel® is best known as a wonderful thickener (Modified Food Starch) for frozen jams and particularly pies, but it is great for so much more!
Instant ClearJel® has several advantages over other common thickeners (i.e. cornstarch, flour or potato starch and much less expensive than arrowroot). It has a more neutral flavor, so it's a good thickener for delicately flavored liquids. It also thickens without cooking and tolerates acidic ingredients. While sauces thickened with the other thickeners turn into a spongy mess if they're frozen, whereas sauces made with Instant ClearJel can be frozen and then thawed.
*Ultra Sperse: (to purchase)
Ultra Gel®, Ultra Set®, Super Set®, Ultra Maxigel® and Kwik 'N Thik®
And others, quickly DISPERSE (twice as easily) and cost more than ICJ, so you PAY for this convenience! IMHO the MFS's brands (above) are basically the same (don't let anyone tell you they're not) and offer (50%) less thickening power of ICJ.
These MFS's give nice, clear and thick results; cold or heated. Each mix easily, with as little as a whisk (and for small amounts, I'll even use just a fork).
Ultra Sperse Conversion Guidelines
(Brands: Ultra Gel®, Ultra Maxigel® and Ultra Set®)
1 T. cornstarch = 1 1/2 T. Ultra Gel®
2 T. flour or Tapioca = 1 1/2 T. Ultra Gel®
Gravy: 2-3 T. Ultra Gel® per cup of broth
Dessert Topping: 3 T. Ultra Gel® per cup of liquid
Pie Glaze: 4-5 T. Ultra Gel® per cup of liquid
Quick dispersing MFS's have good long-term chilled stability, but can break down (just whisk again or add more). Offers a good-excellent thickness and texture, for fruit sauces, syrups or frozen and processed jams (see above chart for details). Doesn't break down after boiled. Not preferred for gravies and tomato sauces. Adds a little flavor, but you mainly taste the main ingredient.
Offers a premium opaque (creamy) with thick results. Easily mixed with a whisk. Excellent stability whether cold or heated, high viscosity (meaning it will remain thick) with low break down, and doesn't break down after heated to the boiling point. Gives a excellent texture for creamy sauces, gravies, desserts, dairy and dressings (see above chart for details). Enhances and adds a rich taste to the main ingredient.
Signature Secrets' culinary thickener is more a kin to the thickening quality of flour, as opposed to it's close "cousin" Instant ClearJel, which is more a kin to cornstarch.
These two are closely related, in that they are both COLD-SWELLING thickening agents, in that neither [require] cooking to thicken. Both are made from maze, and by the same manufacture. Both are freezer stable - which chefs, and home cooks alike, LOVE!
I like Signature Secrets for many applications, but I prefer Instant ClearJel® for most my baking.
How to use Signature Secrets® Culinary Thickener
To use the thickener, simply whisk it into liquid. No need to slurry.
Per 2-cups of liquid, follow the guidelines below:
Thin (syrup) 4 tablespoons
Medium (sauce) 6 tablespoons
Thick (filling) 9 tablespoons
Copyright 2002-2012© Sharon Anne, Share Alike... Cooking! All rights Reserved. Photos and links are to the benefit of their issuers only.
GLAZE FOR FRUIT: You can make your own glaze for fruit. With an immersion blender [or food processor], first puree strawberries with (2-tsp) Instant ClearJel (per cup of pureed strawberries) and then cook down over the stove. This will thicken into a lovely thick, bright glaze; cool to brushed over fresh strawberries or a fruit tart. You can also substitute strawberries, with other berries, peaches or apricots for other fruit glazes.