Food binders add volume, flavor, texture and firmness to recipes. You can find both natural and artificial food binders. Manufacturers commonly use artificial binders in packaged food products and you should pay specific attention to the specific binders used in these manufactured food products. Examples of food binders include potato starch, flour, eggs and tapioca flour.
Potato starch is a fine starch that has minimal nutritional value and contains very small amounts of protein or fat. Potato starch makes an ideal food binder because it has a neutral taste, clear color, adds volume and has strong binding qualities. Manufactures commonly use potato starch as a food binder in potato chips, hot dogs, pastry, breads, instant soups and prepackaged grated cheese. Additionally, manufacturers use potato starch to add texture and volume to many food products including TV dinners and packaged desserts.
Flour is another commonly used food binder. Flour adds volume, texture and taste to food recipes. You can use flour as a binder to make both savory and sweat dishes. You can bake, fry, boil and steam flour to produce different food textures. Gluten, the protein found in flour, is a known allergen to a large segment of the population. Don't consume any food product that uses flour as a binder if you have an allergy to gluten.
Eggs are another food binder commonly used in cooking. Eggs coagulate, emulsify, add texture and color recipes and manufactured food products. As a binder, eggs can turn a liquid food into a semi-solid or solid. The coagulation binds ingredients together supporting the formation of structures during the baking process. You can also beat eggs to add large amounts of volume to recipes such as soufflés and sponge cakes.
Tapioca flour is another food binder used in many desserts because it thickens at a lower temperature than cornstarch and remains stable when frozen. Use finely ground tapioca flour as a food binder to make pie fillings. Also use tapioca flour to produce a dessert's glossy finish that makes the product look more appetizing. Further, you can use tapioca flour as a binding agent to thicken soups, stews, and sauces. Recipes for many baked goods specifically call for tapioca flour because this binder provides a chewier texture than other types of food binders.