Terms You Might See On A Cornmeal Bag
Shopping for cornmeal sounds like it should be a simple process. And indeed, if you shop at a small grocery store, you will probably only encounter one type of cornmeal on the shelf. But, if you visit a health food store or a larger grocery store that offers more products, there's a good chance you'll find a major part of an aisle dedicated to cornmeal. Choosing between the various cornmeal products will be easier if you have a good understanding of the terminology that's typically used on the packaging.
When you first see this on the label for cornmeal, you may be confused. After all, corn is naturally gluten-free, which means cornmeal should be gluten-free. So, why do some cornmeal products earn the gluten-free label while others do not? It has to do with how the cornmeal is processed. Cornmeal that is not labeled gluten-free may possibly contain traces of gluten because it's made in a facility that processes wheat. Cornmeal that is labeled gluten-free is not processed around wheat, so it is definitely free from all traces of gluten.
If you have a gluten allergy, you will want to buy cornmeal with a gluten-free label. If you aren't allergic and just avoid gluten for overall health reasons, cornmeal without this label is probably fine.
Cornmeal that is labeled stone-ground is ground between two stones. Cornmeal that does not carry this label is often ground by metal blades. Does it matter whether your cornmeal is stone ground? Well, that depends. Stone-ground cornmeal tends to be coarser than other cornmeal, so if you are making grits or you want heavily textured cornbread, then buying a stone-ground product is worth it.
Look closely, and you may notice that some of the cornmeal bags are labeled "corn flour" rather than "cornmeal." The difference is subtle. Corn flour is just a really finely milled version of cornmeal. If you're planning on baking with cornmeal, this variety is suitable.
The term "whole grain" sometimes appears on the labels of higher-end cornmeal brands. But really, all cornmeal is whole grain. This term just means that the entire corn kernel, including the outer shell and inner flesh, is included in cornmeal. With other grains, sometimes the outer covering is removed before the grain is milled, but this isn't done regularly with corn. The whole corn kernels are ground up, making the most or all cornmeal whole-grain, whether the label claims this or not.
The next time you shop for cornmeal, you'll feel more informed. Enjoy what you make, whether it's cornbread, polenta, or your own unique creation. For more information, reach out to a local gluten-free stone-ground cornmeal supplier.