What is it?
Xanthan is a thickener derived from a type of bacteria that release a sticky gum. This gum is extracted and dried and has been used in a huge variety of pre-prepared foods. Recently, chefs have begun using it for its unique thickening properties and ability to mimic the ‘mouthfeel’ of traditionally high fat products.
What does it do?
Xanthan gum can be used to thicken or stabilise liquids, suspensions or emulsions. It is prized by chefs because liquids thickened with xanthan have almost the same viscosity (or thickness) whether hot or cold. Xanthan gum thickened liquids will flow when poured but will return to a weak gel when at rest.
This means xanthan gum is ideal for making foams.
How does it work?
Xanthan gum is a hydrocolloid which means it works by controlling the structure of water within foods and liquids. Its long, chain-like, molecules increase the thickness and viscosity of liquids.
How do I use it?
Xanthan gum should be used sparingly as a thickener – use too much and you will end up with an unpleasant gloop rather than a smooth flowing thick liquid. Work on a concentration of about 0.1 % and blend into the mixture with a whisk or hand blender. Xanthan dissolves better in warm liquids so if you wish to thicken a cold liquid, heat a little of it, add the xanthan gum to dissolve it then whisk in the remaining liquid.