Corn starch, cornstarch, cornflour or maize starch or maize is the starch derived from the corn (maize) grain. The starch is obtained from the endosperm of the kernel. Corn starch is a common food ingredient, used in thickening sauces or soups, and in making corn syrup and other sugars. It is versatile, easily modified, and finds many uses in industry as adhesives, in paper products, as an anti-sticking agent, and textile manufacturing. It has medical uses, such as to supply glucose for people with glycogen storage disease. Like many products in dust form, it can be hazardous in large quantities due to its flammability.
When mixed with a fluid, cornstarch can rearrange itself into a non-Newtonian fluid. For example, adding water transforms cornstarch into a material commonly known as Oobleck while adding oil transforms cornstarch into an electrorheological (ER) fluid. The concept can be explained through the mixture termed "cornflour slime".
Cornstarch was discovered in 1840 by Thomas Kingsford, superintendent of a wheat starch factory in Jersey City, New Jersey. Until 1851, corn starch was used primarily for starching laundry and other industrial uses.
Although mostly used for cooking and as a household item, cornstarch is used for many purposes in several industries, ranging from its use as a chemical additive for certain products, to medical therapy for certain illnesses.
Cornstarch is used as a thickening agent in liquid-based foods (e.g., soup, sauces, gravies, custard), usually by mixing it with a lower-temperature liquid to form a paste or slurry. It is sometimes preferred over flour alone because it forms a translucent, rather than opaque mixture. As the starch is heated, the molecular chains unravel, allowing them to collide with other starch chains to form a mesh, thickening the liquid (Starch gelatinization).
Food producers reduce production costs by adding varying amounts of cornstarch to foods, for example to cheese and yogurt.
Chicken nuggets with a thin outer layer of cornstarch allows increased oil absorption and crispness after the latter stages of frying.
Cornstarch has properties enabling supply of glucose to maintain blood sugar levels for people with glycogen storage disease. Cornstarch can be used starting at age 6–12 months allowing glucose fluctuations to be deterred.
The corn is steeped for 30 to 48 hours, which ferments it slightly. The germ is separated from the endosperm and those two components are ground separately (still soaked). Next the starch is removed from each by washing. The starch is separated from the corn steep liquor, the cereal germ, the fibers and the corn gluten mostly in hydrocyclones and centrifuges, and then dried. (The residue from every stage is used in animal feed and to make corn oil or other applications.) This process is called wet milling. Finally, the starch may be modified for specific purposes.
Like many other powders, cornstarch is susceptible to dust explosions. It is believed that overheating of a cornstarch-based powder on June 27, 2015, initiated the Formosa Fun Coast explosion in Taiwan, despite warnings on the packaging indicating that the material is flammable.
Names and varieties
- Called cornstarch in the United States and Canada. The term corn flour then refers to cornmeal that is very finely milled.
- Although not a flour as such, called cornflour in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Israel and some Commonwealth countries. Distinct in these countries from cornmeal.
- Amylomaize, high amylose starch
- Bird's Custard, the English custard based on cornflour, invented in 1837
- Waxy corn, waxy maize starch
- Corn syrup
- Corn ethanol
- Modified starch
- Potato starch
- Tapioca starch
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