What Is Cornmeal And How Do You Use It?

Walking down the baking aisle at your local grocer will render you with a slew of floury baking options. You'll find things like all-purpose flour, almond flour, oat flour, and cornmeal. While the other flours are somewhat distinguishable, when one gets to cornmeal, there are normally several different varieties available that make it somewhat difficult to know which of all the options one needs to make their grandmother's cornbread recipe. According to Bon Appétit, there are at least 10 different kinds of cornmeal available to buy, which further adds to the confusion. 

Apparently, not all cornmeal is the same, thus them not being as interchangeable as folks might think. So, you're left asking yourself some serious questions. Do you go with fine cornmeal, coarse cornmeal, or white cornmeal, and is there really a difference? How is cornmeal even made? Also, where does cornflour come into the mix and should you worry about it?

Cornmeal is essentially grounded dried corn, but it comes in a variety of textures

According to Real Simple, cornmeal is typically made using ground yellow corn specifically dent corn. What is dent corn, you ask? Well, Gardening Know How explains that there are three major types of corn grown in the U.S. — grain corn, sweet corn, and popcorn. Dent corn falls under grain corn (this category also includes flint corn, flour/soft corn, and waxy corn). The reason dent corn is called this is because the kernels of this corn possess a small, but distinguishable dent on the top. Now, once dent corn is grounded up you can go one of many ways to achieving cornmeal. 

Bon Appétit explains that once ground up, you'll have cornflour (great for tempura batter), fine or medium cornmeal (great for everyday use), coarse cornmeal (great for breading), blue cornmeal (which is sweet in flavor), yellow cornmeal (packs the most corn taste), and white cornmeal (the most subtly tasting of the bunch). What about polenta and grits? These two use regular ol' cornmeal, polenta going with yellow cornmeal and grits going with white cornmeal. But what about when you see the iconic Jiffy corn muffin mix? Well, that's technically a mix of cornmeal with several other ingredients like lard, sugar, flour, and baking soda.