Why did my casserole split?

cast iron skillet with chicken casserole

What is splitting?

The easiest way to understand is to simply look at the image below.

Splitting explained

Splitting is when the cream is taking on the appearance of Cottage Cheese after mixed with other ingredients and heated.

This does not mean that the cream is bad or expired, it’s still perfectly fine to eat, however, since it doesn’t look good (we also eat with our eyes) and it’s not the intended result, we will provide an explanation and a solution.

Why does splitting occur?

Sauces made with milk or cream can split for different reasons amongst which the following are the most common.

  1. Cream with low-fat content is more likely to split.
  2. Exposing cream to high heat, increases the possibility of splitting.
  3. Mixing cream with other highly acidic ingredients like wine, tomatoes, lemon, or mustard can cause splitting.

How can splitting be prevented?

  1. Use a higher fat alternative instead of the low-fat counterpart. You can use cooking cream, Crème Fraiche or double cream which are less likely to split.
  2. Add the cream at the end instead of the beginning, or even better take the cookware of the hear before adding the cream/milk.
  3. When you have to add the cream at the beginning, incorporating 1/2 - 1 tsp of corn-starch or all-purpose flour per DL cream into the cream before mixing with the other ingredients.
  4. Let the cream/milk increase in temperature before adding it instead of adding straight from the fridge.
  5. If mixing cream with water-based liquid splitting can occur due to the combination of oil in the cream and water in for example stock. Stirring diligently can help avoid this.

What to do if splitting has occurred?

The food is perfectly fine to eat and tastewise you will probably not notice the difference. Just learn from your mistake and use a different method next time in order to get the sauce to look more visually appealing.

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