For years I have been under the misconception that cornmeal could not be stored for long periods of time. I always believed that it would turn the oils rancid. As a result, I have always stored popcorn or dent corn in whole kernels.
In this form, it stores well, but not all grinders will handle whole grain corn. Some like the Country Living Grain Mill will, but many of the lower-priced ones will not handle it.
I recently came across some information from BYU (Brigham Young University) in Utah. Because of being LDS, they do a lot of research on the storage life of various foods.
A recent study that they conducted involved the storage of cornmeal. Number 10 cans of cornmeal with low oxygen content from 1-33 years old were studied. The results indicated that it was acceptable for use.
The study available at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/29/ stated there was no significant decrease over storage time in aroma, texture, flavor, and overall acceptability in cornmeal, cornbread, or cornmeal cereal. It lost color, becoming significantly less yellow and red during storage.
Based on this study, I feel that storing cornmeal for the long term can be done. But what is the best way to store cornmeal long-term?
How to Store Cornmeal
Regular cornmeal has a shelf life of about a year at room temperature (which is not the ideal storage condition) in its original packaging. Read below to figure out the best method to store your cornmeal.
In an Airtight Container
The shelf life of cornmeal is up to a couple of years if properly stored in covered airtight containers. If the container is airtight, it will also be a moisture tight container. You should be mindful of storage conditions, though. The containers should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. Make sure to keep the containers away from heat sources such as stoves. Some popular airtight containers include Mylar bags, vacuum bags, food grade buckets, and mason jars.
Add An Oxygen Absorber
Oxygen absorbers are generally packets of iron that prevent oxidization. Without oxygen, problems such as mold growth, bacteria, and other pests cannot occur. By adding an oxygen absorber, you can keep cornmeal fresh with a shelf life of up to a decade in an airtight container.
In a Freezer
You can store cornmeal in a freezer indefinitely. It is best to put the cornmeal in heavy-duty freezer bags or a vacuum bag or jar with a vacuum seal before putting it in the freezer. When thawing the cornmeal, make sure to watch the moisture content because it can rise rapidly and cause mold to grow.
Different Kinds of Food Storage
Cornmeal is made when you grind dried corn. For long-term food storage, storage of cornmeal is better than storing whole corn kernels because of the oils in the whole corn kernels that will cause them to spoil and have a rancid odor faster.
Unbolted cornmeal is cornmeal that has the hull and germ still. Unbolted cornmeal is also known as stone-ground, water-ground, or old-fashioned.
Bolted cornmeal is also referred to as degerminated cornmeal as it removes the germ as well as the hull. The ground corn kernels went through a sieve to remove these parts.
Corn flour is also made from milled, dried corn, but it has a different texture than cornmeal. Corn flour is smooth, while cornmeal is gritty. Corn flour that is commercially sold is almost always bolted. You can store flour the same ways you store cornmeal.
Thanks to the BYU study, I now believe storing cornmeal can easily work. If you use the tips above, you can extend the shelf life of your cornmeal and have it at your disposal for many years to come.