Cornmeal is a versatile pantry staple that can be used to coat fried fish, meats and vegetables or sweeten pancakes, muffins and breads. For the crustiest cornbread, bake your batter in a dark pan or skillet.

Cornmeal is made from dried corn kernels that have been ground into one of three textures: fine, medium or coarse. Fine is often called "corn flour," medium is the most commercially available, and coarse is also known as "polenta."

Cornmeal is yellow, blue or white depending on the type of corn used. It lends a sweet, robust flavor to everything from pancakes and spoonbread to Parmesan polenta and fried green tomatoes.

Varieties and Buying Tips

Cornmeal is available in two main styles: steel-ground and stone- or water-ground. Steel-ground, most commonly found at the supermarket, is commercially milled with huge steel rollers that completely remove the corn's husk and germ. Stone-ground, produced the old-fashioned way, is ground with mill wheels that use water power. Because this process retains some of the hull and germ, stone-ground cornmeal is more nutritious. It can be found at natural food stores and some supermarkets.

Storage Tips

Steel-ground cornmeal can be stored almost indefinitely in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. The fat in the germ of stone-ground cornmeal makes it more perishable. It should be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four months.

Usage Tips

• Combine cornmeal, flour and seasonings to make a delicious coating for fried fish, chicken or hot dogs (corn dogs).

• Sprinkle on the bottom of baking pans to prevent breads and pizzas from sticking.

• Give cornmeal a nuttier flavor by toasting it a dry skillet until golden brown. Let cool and add to polenta, cornbread and other baked goods as usual.

• Mix cornmeal into bread and muffin batters by hand to avoid over mixing. A few lumps will make your baked goods more rustic and flavorful.

• 1 pound = 3 cups uncooked; 1 cup = 4 cups cooked.

Try one of our favorite cornmeal recipes:
Autumn Cornmeal Muffins
Southern Catfish Fillets
Seared Scallops on Braised Wild Mushrooms

Suggested Pairings

bell peppers, butter, cheddar cheese, chicken, chili, cumin, eggs, fish, flour, jalapenos, maple syrup, mushrooms, onions, oysters, Parmesan, powdered sugar, scallops, tomatoes, zucchini