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Feb 27, 2007 04:18 PM

Cornmeal, Grits, Polenta, Masa: What's the difference?

Cornmeal, Grits, Polenta, Masa: What's the difference?

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  1. Sardine, smelt, whitebait, sprat, herring: what's the difference?

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    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Black, White, Red, Blue, Yellow, Magenta, Green, Gray, Pink. What's the difference>?

    2. in my limited understanding: both grits and polenta are both coarsely ground cornmeal, one has its roots in the U.S. South and the other in Italy but they are basically the same thing. Cornmeal comes in different varieties, from very finely ground to very coarse, as well as several different colors. I believe that masa is a mash made from hominy, which is corn that has been treated with lye.

      1. Exactly, add ugali and I'll add buckling! Spot on. Same but a bit different.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Sam, now you got me craving buckling pate, it's years since I had that

        2. Masa is different than just cornmeal. Masa is used for tortillas and as a thickening agent, like flour in Southwestern cooking. Slightly different taste, texture and method.

          It is from a treated corn, as rds states, lye-treated. Than changes things.

          1. For cornmeal, grits and polenta, the major difference is the coarseness of the grind. Cornmeal tends to be finer ground than polenta for example which makes for a very different texture and cooking time. Polenta is poor choice for cornbread because of this. Corn flour (which you didn't ask about) is even finer than cornmeal.

            Hominy grits (as opposed to grits) is hominy meal. Masa harina is nixtamalized (i.e. lye-soaked, hulled and rinsed) corn ground into a flour that you can then use to make masa, the wet dough (or you can in some places get freshly ground masa dough by the pound). In the Southwest you can often find bags of nixtamal (unground corn) in the cooler case at local groceries. This is usually ground for tamale dough because it is difficult to grind fine enough at home for tortillas.

            1 Reply
            1. re: zebcook

              In my pantry right now are three different grinds of imported (Italian) polenta: coarse, medium, and fine.