The wrong consistency can throw off a sauce's flavor and appearance. The right viscosity can only be achieved by using the right thickeners. With its fine texture and flour-like appearance, baking soda can be a tempting additive when you realize your sauce needs a little heft. However, while baking soda has a myriad of practical applications, thickening sauces isn't one of them.
Uses for Baking Powder
Baking powder has lots of interesting uses: It can scour countertops, polish stainless steel or clean a vinyl floor. However, this kitchen staple is primarily a leavening agent that can be used in place of yeast in baked goods such as biscuits, cakes, muffins, cupcakes and quick breads. Baking powder-raised products have a finer, softer texture than yeast breads, with a finished texture that's lighter, more crumbly and less chewy.
How Baking Powder Works
Baking powder is a chemical mixture of baking soda, dry acids -- such as cream of tartar or aluminum sulfate -- and cornstarch. Mixing baking soda with an acid and a liquid creates a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide bubbles cause the batter or dough to rise.
Baking Powder and Sauce
Because it's activated by liquids, baking power in a sauce would cause the sauce to foam and separate, rather than thicken. In addition, baking powder's chemical components have a distinctive flavor that, while unnoticeable when dispersed throughout large amounts of flour, would likely give a sauce a bitter, slightly metallic taste.
Best Sauce Thickener Options
Flour and cornstarch are your best bets for thickening sauces. To use flour, create a roux by gently stirring together equal parts flour and butter over low heat until they form a paste. Whisk the roux into your sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower it back down to a simmer, stirring frequently. To use cornstarch, create a slurry by mixing together equal parts cornstarch and cold water. Add it into your sauce, keeping it at a simmer. A cornstarch slurry gives sauce a translucent appearance with the consistency of sweet-and-sour sauce.
When You Don't Need A Thickener
If you don't have any go-to thickeners on hand, sometimes your best option is to simply reduce your cooking liquid by simmering it for a long period of time. This method works particularly well with sauces made from the juices of roasts and stews, as well as fruit sauces made by boiling together sugar, water and fruit.