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What is Cornflour?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cornflour is a term that can be used to refer to a number of different things, depending on geographical region and the intended use of the term. Typically, in the United States (US), cornflour refers to cornmeal that has been finely ground. Throughout much of the United Kingdom (UK), cornflour is typically used to refer to cornstarch, which is the starch taken from the corn grain itself. The term can also be used to refer to masa harina, a finely powdered flour made from corn that has been slaked and then ground.

In the US, cornflour is typically used by chefs, recipe books, and in home and professional kitchens to refer to cornmeal. Cornmeal is a powder of various degrees of coarseness that consists of corn, or maize, which has been ground using one of a number of different methods. When cornmeal is ground especially fine, it is often referred to as cornflour as it more closely resembles the fine powder of flour rather than the more coarse grains many people think of when considering cornmeal. This type of cornmeal can be used in a number of recipes and is often used on the bottoms of baked goods to make removal from ovens and baking surfaces easier.

Throughout the UK, the term cornflour is often intended to refer to cornstarch rather than the often coarse cornmeal. Cornstarch is usually produced by soaking whole kernels of corn and removing the germ of the corn from the endosperm and further breaking down each part until the starch is ultimately extracted from each. This starch is often a very fine powder that is usually used to make powdered sugar or added to sauces and soups to thicken them. Cornstarch is typically added to a small quantity of liquid and stirred together, then this is added to a soup or sauce and when heated will thicken the liquid.

In other areas, cornflour is often used to refer to masa harina or masa flour. This type of flour is made by first soaking corn kernels in a bath of water mixed with lime or ash, a process often referred to as slaking. The corn is then removed from the mixture and washed off before the hull of the corn is removed. This leaves the inner part of the corn, which is ground down into a very fine powder, similar to flour. Cornflour such as this is often used in making corn tortillas and tamales and may be made from yellow, white or blue corn.

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Discussion Comments
By anon925836 — On Jan 14, 2014

The pizza places sprinkle corn meal on the stone to keep the crust from sticking. I've heard it called Italian nonstick.

By anon925835 — On Jan 14, 2014

I worked at a Southern cafeteria-style restaurant for a while, and I was in charge of the storage room. They made some of the best fried chicken I have ever had, and I asked the general manager what made so good. He said I had the answer sitting right in my storeroom. It was corn flour. The cooks combined it with regular flour and dredged the chicken in a milk and egg wash before rolling it in the corn flour mix. Most home cooks only have access to a coarser kind of cornmeal for breading, but corn flour was specially ground for restaurant use at a local grain factory.

Corn flour is a little easier to find in grocery stores these days, so I highly recommend using it for breading purposes.

By whiteplane — On Aug 23, 2011

There is a deli close to my house that serves these amazing blue corn chips. I know that they say that blue corn doesn't taste any different than regular yellow corn but I swear there is something about these chips that is unlike any chip I've ever had.

Unfortunately that deli is the only place in my area that sells that kind of chip. I have never seen them in a single grocery store. I checked online and you can order them from their website but I am not to the point in my life where I want to start buying chips off the internet.

By wiesen — On Aug 23, 2011

I love corn meal on the bottom of pizza. It just gives it a little bit of sweetness and it's easy to do in your own home oven, especially if you have a pizza stone.

By gravois — On Aug 23, 2011

Anyone from the south will tell you that making cornbread is more than making bread, it is an art. Southerners work on their cornbread recipes throughout their whole life and some of them guard it like the arc of the covenant.

My grandmother was one of these women. She was happy to make cornbread for anyone that wanted it. In fact, I don't think many days of her life passed without her making cornbread. But she never told anyone the recipe. She only had boys and I guess she preferred to take it to the grave with her rather than teach it to one of their wives. Some people are just like that, cornbread crazy.

By nextcorrea — On Aug 22, 2011

There is this awesome pizza place close to my house. You can get any style of crust but they are famous for their deep dish pizza. Its great for lots of reasons but the first thing you notice when you eat it is that the bottom of the pizza has corn meal on it.

I know that that sounds kind of gross but it adds a ton to the pizza's flavor. The corn gives it a little sweetness separate from the tomatoes and it crisps up a little bit to give the crust this great coarse quality. From what I understand they are not the only pizzeria to do this but it is not a very common practice. Definitely give it a try if you find a place that does it.

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