Corn starch

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Structure of a wheat kernel — note this is wheat, not maize.

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Physical properties[edit]

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 a Electrorheological fluid. The concept can be explained through the mixture termed "cornflour slime". [1]


Advertisement for a Cornflour manufacture, 1894

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.[2]


Although mostly used for cooking and as a household item, cornstarch offers a variety of uses across various industries, ranging from its application as a chemical additive for certain products to its use as 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 mixture, rather than an opaque one. 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).

It is usually included as an anti-caking agent in powdered sugar (10X or confectioner's sugar).

A common substitute is arrowroot, which replaces cornstarch on a 1:1 ratio.[3]

Chicken nuggets with a thin outer layer of cornstarch allows increased oil absorption and crispness after the latter stages of frying.[4]


Baby powder often includes cornstarch among its ingredients.[5]

Cornstarch can be used to manufacture bioplastics.

Food producers reduce production costs by adding varying amounts of cornstarch to foods, for example to cheese and yogurt. This is more common in the United States of America where the Congress and the Department of Agriculture subsidize and reduce its cost to food manufacturers.[citation needed]

When roasted in a standard oven it produced dextrin, a chemical compound with uses ranging from adhesive to binder for fireworks.[citation needed]


Cornstarch is the preferred anti-stick agent on medical products made from natural latex, including condoms, diaphragms and medical gloves.[6][7] Prior usage of talc was abandoned as talc was believed to be a carcinogen.[citation needed]

Cornstarch has properties that allows it to slowly releases a type of glucose over time. Thus, cornstarch has been used to supply glucose and maintain blood sugar levels to humans who have glycogen storage disease (GSD).[8] Cornstarch can be used starting at age 6 – 12 months which allows feeds to be spaced and glucose fluctuations to be minimized.[9]


Corn starch shown on a poster, upper left.

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.[10]


On June 27, 2015, it is believed that overheating of a cornstarch-based powder initiated the Formosa Fun Coast explosion in Taiwan despite warnings on the packaging indicating that the material is flammable.[11]

Names and varieties[edit]

  • Called cornstarch in the United States and Canada.
  • Called cornflour in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Israel and some Commonwealth countries. Not to be confused with cornmeal.
  • Often called maizena in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Finland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Brazil, Norway, Denmark, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, South Africa and Latin America, after the brand.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How to: make a liquid that's also a solid". 2013-08-05. Retrieved 2016-12-03. 
  2. ^ "Corn starch". Everything2. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  3. ^ "Ingredient Substitution". 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  4. ^ Bilge Altunaker; Sepil Sahin; Gulum Sumnu (March 2004). "Functionality of batters containing different starch types for deep-fat frying of chicken nuggets". European Food Research and Technology. 218 (4): 318–322. doi:10.1007/s00217-003-0854-5. 
  5. ^ Manley, Duncan (1998). Biscuit, cookie and cracker manufacturing manuals - Manual 1 - Ingredients. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Publishing Limited. p. 34. ISBN 1 85573 292 0. 
  6. ^ "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 14 May 2016. 
  7. ^ "Medical Glove Powder Report". Retrieved 2016-05-14. 
  8. ^ "A Sweet Discovery". University of Florida Health. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  9. ^ "GSD Type 1". GSD Life. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  10. ^ "International Starch: Production of corn starch". Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  11. ^ Mullen, Jethro; Novak, Kathy; Kwon, K.J. "'All her skin was gone': Horrific aftermath of fireball at Taiwan water park". CNN. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  12. ^ "Maizena". Maizena marca registrada. Retrieved 2013-04-17. 

External links[edit]