Cornmeal is basically corn ground and dried into fine, medium, or coarse powder. There is a variety of cornmeal depending on the type of corn used. My focus for this article is steel ground degermed yellow cornmeal which is the most common in the US.
The process of making yellow cornmeal involves removing the germs and husk of the maize kernel. This makes cornmeal last longer and gives it a fine and smooth texture.
Learn more about degermed yellow cornmeal and its uses and get more information about other cornmeal varieties in this article.
What is degermed yellow cornmeal?
Degermed yellow cornmeal is corn kernels stripped of their germs and hulls. Grains like corn, millet, wheat, and oats have three basic parts. These include the outer shell or hull, the starchy endosperm, and the germ.
The germ which is the embryo of the seed is rich in polyunsaturated fats or oil which can easily become rancid and cause the cornmeal to stale fast.
To extend the shelf life of cornmeal and improve storage, the idea of cornmeal degemination was birth. This is intended to separate the endosperm from the germ and husk through milling. Removing the husk allows for a finer and smoother texture.
But cornmeal loses a lot of nutrients during this process. Thankfully, manufacturers have a way of adding the nutrients back to make them as good as whole grain cornmeal.
Differences between degermed and whole grain cornmeal
The major difference between cornmeal is that some are whole grain while some are degermed.
The peculiarities highlighted in this section are what differentiates the types of cornmeal that we have:
1. Texture and taste
Cornmeal varies by fine, medium, and coarse consistencies. Stone ground cornmeal is coarse because it retains its hull and germ.
Blue and white cornmeal are usually ground into medium or fine texture while steel ground yellow cornmeal has fine texture because they are degermed and hulled.
Whole grain cornmeal has a very pronounced corn taste in food recipes. Degermed cornmeal on the other hand has less apparent corn flavor in foods.
Fine and medium grains are the most preferred for baking because of their light texture. Hence, yellow and white cornmeal can be used for making muffins, flatbread, and cornbread.
You can use coarse-grind cornmeal in cakes and bread but it makes them gritty and pebbly and the taste of corn is overpowering in the recipe. So, it’s best for breading fish, making polenta, grits, and crunchy blueberry crisp toppings.
Coarse cornmeal is ground between stones or traditional milled without separating or removing the hull or germs. This makes it more nutritious than degermed cornmeal ground in modern roller millers.
Coarse cornmeal contains about 5 grams of fiber, 21 grams of carbs, 1.5 grams of fat, and 100 calories. Degermed cornmeal loses a lot of nutrients in the process of milling, although it is possible to add these nutrients back.
4. Shelf life
Degermed cornmeal can last for about a year since the germs which contain unsaturated oil that can make it go rancid are removed. Whole grain cornmeal on the other hand can last for months but not up to a year.
Degermed white corn vs degermed yellow corn
The only substantial difference between white cornmeal and yellow cornmeal is their color. The color of the two varieties is simply derived from the different colors of the corn kernels from which they are ground.
The two are used more or less interchangeably when it comes to recipes and cooking methods. Beyond that, however, there are traditions and preferences that tend to keep them separate.
Historically, yellow cornmeal was more popular in the UK and northern states, where it was the basis for recipes for food such as Indian pudding, spider cake, and johnny’s cake. It’s also the cornmeal of choice in the US, used in making cornbread.
Southerners, on the other hand, prefer white cornmeal. It is the main ingredient in traditional Southern buttermilk cornbread. White cornmeal is also often milled to a finer grind than yellow cornmeal, which gives baked goods made from it a more refined, less earthy texture.
Studies also show that yellow cornmeal tends to be richer in nutrients like Vitamin A and beta carotene. But anyone you choose for your recipe gives your food a delicious taste.
Other varieties of cornmeal
You’ll see several other products in stores that are still basically cornmeal but are labeled differently because of how they’re used. Essentially, grits, polenta, and masa harina are all forms of cornmeal, although they’re not usually used to make cornbread.
Polenta is a word used to describe the popular Italian corn batter and the cornmeal used to make this dish. While no specific cornmeal is required to make polenta, most cooks prefer a medium or coarse ground, and packages of cornmeal labeled as polenta are usually coarse.
Instant polenta is made from cornmeal that is hydrated and then dehydrated and can be cooked in minutes.
Although the word grits come from the British word to refer to any coarsely ground grain, it has come to refer to very coarsely ground cornmeal. The grits may be white or yellow and are usually made from cornmeal.
The tastier whole-wheat grits are harder to find but are available from some mail-order sources.
3. Masa harina
Masa harina, which literally translates to dough flour in Spanish, is a very fine corn flour made from hominy called pozole in Mexico and the Southwest.
It is traditionally ground from still moist, freshly ground cornmeal. The freshly ground paste, called masa, is used to make authentic tortillas.
Because it spoils quickly, masa is usually dried and then pounded into longer-lasting masa harina, which is most often used as a thickener in soups and stews, such as chili ragu.
It is also used to replace wheat flour in traditional Latin American kitchens.
What do degermed means?
Degermed is an English word that simply means to get rid of germs. It is the process of removing germs or embryos from grain kernels through milling.
Why is cornmeal degermed?
It’s basically to increase the shelf life of cornmeal.
Is degermed yellow cornmeal good for you?
Yes. Degermed yellow cornmeal protects eye health. It is also rich in vitamins and protein.
Is degermed yellow cornmeal whole grain?
No. Whole grains have their brand, germs, and endosperm intact. Since degermed yellow cornmeal has its hulls and germs separate from the endosperm, they are not whole grain.
As a way of increasing the shelf life of cornmeal, degemination became a lasting solution. By removing the germs and hulls from the endosperm, cornmeal can stay for at least a year without losing taste or going stale.
Degermed cornmeal loses nutrients during milling but nutrients like Vitamin B6, thiamine, manganese, iron, and magnesium can be added back.
It is the most common type of cornmeal found in US stores. It’s used for baking pancakes, muffins, cornbread, and flatbread.
To top it all, check this article to know if it is safe to eat expired popcorn.
I hope this article helped. Thanks for reading.