Cornmeal in our A-Z - Cooking Index
Cornmeal is a type of flour which is created by grinding down dried kernels of yellow or white corn.
It is available as white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal (most common in the United States) and blue cornmeal. The colours are determined by the extent to which the husk and germ of the maize kernel are removed and the type of corn harvested; the more that is removed, the more yellow the cornmeal will be. Yellow cornmeal has a much longer shelf life than white or blue cornmeal and is therefore the most commercially available.
Cornmeal was traditionally the staple diet of lower class Italy and was used to feed the Roman army; in Italy it is known as polenta.
Cornmeal is an extremely versatile ingredient which, when mixed with water, can be boiled baked or fried. It can also be used in sauces to give them a thicker consistency. It is used as a releasing agent to prevent pizza dough and bread sticking to the pan and has many culinary uses.
Cornmeal remains the staple diet for much of the poorer population of Africa, where it is known as Mielie-meal, and is also used to make beer. In the United States it is used to make cornbread, hominy and grits. In central and south America it is most used as the main ingredient in tortillas and tacos.
Cornmeal can also be used as a natural pesticide as it expands within the insects causing their organs to swell and burst out of their bodies.