Cornmeal is an important and delicious ingredient in a lot of homemade breads, pastas, and other grain-based dishes. While foods made from cornmeal can go bad surprisingly fast, cornmeal itself has a surprisingly long shelf life.
How fast cornmeal goes bad depends on whether or not it was germinated, or if the oil in the corn has been removed. Germinated cornmeal can last up to a year before going bad while ungerminated cornmeal can go bad in 3 months once the packaging has been opened, since the oils in the corn can go rancid fairly quickly.
Understanding the different types of cornmeal and how long they last in different conditions will help you make the most of it.
Does Cornmeal Go Bad? How Long Does Cornmeal Last?
How fast a bag of cornmeal goes bad depends on two key factors, what type of cornmeal you are working with and where you are keeping it.
How Long Does Cornmeal Last Outside
A bag of germinated cornmeal can last up to a year in a pantry, as long as you keep the bag tightly sealed and let any excess air out between uses, otherwise the cornmeal might be contaminated.
Ungerminated cornmeal, however, will only last three months at most after opening since the oils in the corn can go rancid over time and ruin the entire bag, especially if the bag is left open or full of air for long periods.
In either case, cornmeal must be stored in a cool, dark, dry area to prevent bacteria, mold, and other substances from growing on the cornmeal and ruining the bag.
How Long Does Cornmeal Last in the Fridge
Just like with the pantry, how long cornmeal lasts in the fridge depends on whether or not the cornmeal is germinated or not, so be sure to check your bag before refrigerating.
Germinated cornmeal, for example, can last up to two years in a refrigerator, doubling the shelf life of the bag so long as the inside of the bag is kept dry and tightly closed, as any moisture in the bag will ruin the cornmeal.
Ungerminated cornmeal works in the same way as it can last up to six months in the refrigerator after opening the bag, double the amount of time cornmeal lasts in the pantry.
How Long Does Cornmeal Last in the Freezer
The freezer is easily the best place to store cornmeal long term, as long as cornmeal is in a dry, freezer-safe bag and there is not air left in the bag when you try to freeze it.
Germinated cornmeal can last more than five years in the freezer, as keeping the cornmeal that cold prevents any new growths and kills any bacteria or other contaminants that might have been on the cornmeal.
Even ungerminated cornmeal can last over a year in the freezer with proper storage, which is impressive considering that this type of cornmeal only lasts a few months in a pantry.
When it comes to cornmeal, knowing what type you have and how long you will need it is key to keeping it from going bad.
How To Tell If Cornmeal Has Gone Bad / How To Know Cornmeal is Fresh
Fresh cornmeal has a vibrant, golden color and a relatively firm texture to the touch, particularly ungerminated cornmeal which still has some of the oil and husk. There are, however, a number of ways for good cornmeal to go bad and a variety of dangers you need to look out for when inspecting a bag of cornmeal.
A change in color, odor, or flavor. If your cornmeal suddenly starts losing or changing its color, or if the cornmeal develops a rancid odor, you should throw the bag out as soon as possible. The same goes for if the cornmeal develops a rancid taste or begins to feel mealy and soft to the touch.
Mold, moisture, or other contaminants. When exposed to moisture, cornmeal will start to grow bacteria, mold, and other toxic contaminants. Even if your cornmeal does not have any fuzzy or discolored growths on it, if you repeatedly find condensation inside your cornmeal then you should either transfer the meal to a new container or throw it away.
Insects living inside the bag. This is particularly a problem with organic cornmeal or cornmeal that wasn’t sealed properly, but if you find insects in your cornmeal consider it a bad bag. This includes live insects, eggs, and even dead insects as the vermin can eat, release waste, and lay eggs in the cornmeal, contaminating the entire bag.
How to Store Cornmeal?
The key to storing cornmeal is to make sure nothing can get inside the bag to ruin the cornmeal or contaminate it.
Keep the cornmeal in a cool, dark spot. Bacteria, mold, insects, and other contaminants thrive in a hot, wet, sunny environment where they can get plenty of nutrients. By keeping your cornmeal away from areas with these conditions, you can get the most out of its shelf life and ensure your cornmeal won’t go rancid early.
Make sure the container is sealed and dry. Like with the environment the container is in, if fresh air and moisture can get into your cornmeal it will quickly be ruined. Once you open the bag you should either find a way to tightly seal it or transfer its contents to an airtight container as soon as you get the chance.
Can You Freeze Cornmeal? How?
Cornmeal can be placed safely in the freezer, but before you attempt to freeze cornmeal there are certain steps you need to take in order to prevent your cornmeal from getting damaged. There are a lot of ways for cornmeal to be damaged by extreme cold so it is important to store the meal properly.
Get all the air and moisture out of the bag. In order to freeze cornmeal you will need a freezer safe bag and you will need to keep the inside of the bag as dry and airtight as possible. Air and moisture in the freezer can damage the cornmeal by causing freezer burn, so you need to make sure your bag is dry and tightly sealed.
Store the cornmeal in separate bags. If you use cornmeal a lot one way to extend the life of your cornmeal is to break it up into smaller servings and freezing these servings separately. This way, whenever you need cornmeal you can just take the amount you need and leave the rest untouched, since constant thawing and freezing can be bad for cornmeal.
How to Thaw Cornmeal?
The best way to thaw out a frozen bag of cornmeal is to place it in the refrigerator and let it slowly defrost over a few hours so that the meal isn’t damaged.
If you try to thaw your cornmeal with heat you may damage or even ruin the cornmeal, so be sure to plan well in advance when using cornmeal.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cornmeal’s Shelf Life
Cornmeal can be a versatile, long-lasting, and tasty substitute for flour in a lot of recipes, but it can be difficult to know what to do with cornmeal once you have it, or how to get it in the first place. Here are some common questions about cornmeal and some direct answers to help with any confusion.
Are there different types of cornmeal? Yes, besides germinated and ungerminated there is also whole grain cornmeal as well as different colors of cornmeal including white and yellow. At the same time there are also different grades of cornmeal based on coarseness, running from finely ground to extremely course, with each type being better for different recipes.
Can you make cornmeal at home? Yes, there are a number of ways to make your own cornmeal at home, with a wide variety of methods available for different levels of germination and coarseness. The process generally involves dehydrating kernels of corn and grinding them down into a fine powder using a mixing tool, while using a sieve to sort out the meal.
Cornmeal has a surprisingly long shelf life, even outside of a refrigerator or freezer, as long as you know what type you are working with and how to store it. Stashed properly, you can easily get over five years out of a bag of cornmeal.