20 July 2010

Ingredient Spotlight: Xanthan Gum

Go take a look at your condiment rack.  Xanthan gum is probably an ingredient in many of the store-bought condiments.  What the hell is it?!  Wikipedia tells us it's a polysaccharide, but that doesn't really help, so I did some further research...

Xanthan gum is made from the outer shell of a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris (you've probably seen these little fellas causing brown spots on plants).  It's used in foods, particularly condiments, to increase viscosity...AKA thickness...and a little bit goes a looonnnnng way.  All you molecular gastronomists reading TCB will be interested to know that xanthan gum works by stabilizing the oil in a condiment emulsion, but it is not an emulsifier.

The good news is that xanthan gum has been approved for food usage since 1968, so its been around for a while.

Note:  Having trouble thickening up your homemade sauces?  You can pick up some xanthan gum from Bob's Red Mill for around $12.

Image: Xanthan Gum, by star5112

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