Cornstarch, sometimes called cornflour, is the starch of corn. It is ground from the endosperm or white heart, of the corn kernel. Cornstarch has a distinctive appearance and feel when mixed raw with liquids, such as water or milk. Because it tends to form lumps, cornstarch is mixed with a small amount of cold liquid to form a thin paste before being stirred into a hot mixture. It is usually included as an anti-caking agent in powdered sugar and confectioner’s sugar. Recipes calling for powdered sugar call for at least light cooking to remove the raw cornstarch taste.
Cornstarch thickens with a satiny smoothness and glossy appearance. It adds no taste of its own to mask the flavor of foods. Recipes thickened with cornstarch have a brighter, more translucent appearance than those thickened with flour. Cornstarch also blends more easily with cold liquids than flour because it doesn’t absorb liquid until it’s cooked.
Gluten is not present in cornstarch, which makes it an excellent substitute for flour in many recipes. Many people are sensitive to gluten and require gluten-free food preparation. In many baked goods like bread and cake, however, gluten plays an important structural role, and gluten-containing ingredients, like flour, are necessary. Check the recipe to see if cornstarch can be used as a substitute for flour, before preparing.
Cornstarch is commonly used as a thickening agent for puddings, sauces, and soups. Mixing it with a granular solid such as granulated sugar will also help it disperse into a liquid. Sauces thickened with cornstarch tend to be clear, rather than opaque, as with flour-based sauces. However, the sauces will thin if cooked too long or stirred too vigorously. Cornstarch is used in combination with flour in many European cake and cookie recipes because it produces a finer-textured, more compact cake or cookie than flour alone.
Cornstarch is used as a thickener for gravies, sauces and glazes, soups, stews and casseroles. It also thickens pies and is an essential ingredient in cornstarch puddings and cake fillings. In cakes, cookies and pastries, cornstarch is often mixed with flour to produce more tender baked goods. Additionally, it is used to coat foods before frying, and as an ingredient in batters. Most of the packaged pudding mixes supermarkets and grocery stores include cornstarch. Cornstarch puddings can be made at home, using a double boiler. The most basic pudding uses only milk, sugar, cornstarch, and a flavoring agent.
Cornstarch has the same “thickening power” as arrowroot, potato starch and tapioca, and you should substitute the same amount. Cornstarch has twice the thickening power of flour, so it is necessary to use only half as much. The following conversion chart can be used to calculate the correct amount of cornstarch to use.
Conversion Chart (Flour to Cornstarch)
|If recipe calls for this much flour||Use this much cornstarch|
|1 tablespoon||1/2 tablespoon (1 ½ teaspoons)|
|2 tablespoon||1 tablespoon|
|3 tablespoon||1-1/2 tablespoons|
|1/4 cup (4 tablespoons)||2 tablespoons|
|1/3 cup (5-1/3 tablespoons)||2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons|
|½ cup (8 tablespoons)||¼ cup (4 tablespoons)|
Cornstarch works very well in Asian recipes. It can be tastefully used in everything from Plum Dipping Sauce to Stir Fry mixes.
TIP: A Stir-Fry Sauce Mix may be frozen in tightly covered containers in 3/4-cup portions for up to 3 months. Thaw and shake before using.
Cornstarch also has many uses in the manufacturing of environmentally friendly products. In 2004, the Japanese company Pioneer announced a biodegradable Blue-Ray disc made out of cornstarch.
Other uses of cornstarch are as laundry starch, in sizing paper, in making adhesives, and in cooking. Corn syrup and corn sugar are produced by the hydrolysis of cornstarch.
Some people have used cornstarch as a replacement for talcum powder. Cornstarch is a great help- for personal care because it absorbs moisture. It is used for powders, skin-cleansing milk, deodorant, and a sweaty shoe solution. When using cornstarch as a skin cleanser, combine equal parts of cornstarch and glycerin with one teaspoon of rum and a few drops of a favorite essential for fragrance. Apply some of the mixture on your finger and massage into your skin. Rinse with warm water.
For an oily skin and shine absorber, combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with kaolin (white clay). Dust on oily skin areas.
The ubiquitous cornstarch can be used for absorbing moisture from sweaty feet by sprinkling a little cornstarch in your shoes before you put them on. The cornstarch will absorb moisture.
For a body friendly cornstarch deodorant, combine cornstarch with some finely ground lavender and pat under your arms to keep your underarms dry on hot days.