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How Can I Tell if My Corn Meal is Rancid?

soypower Jun 13, 2008 02:36 AM

I wanted to make some cornbread muffins this weeked but read that if my corn meal is older than 4 months, it may have gone rancid...I'd hate to make an entire batch of muffins only to find that the corn meal is bad...Is there anything I can do to check this out before I waste any other ingredients?

Please help.


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  1. d
    DGresh RE: soypower Jun 13, 2008 04:11 AM

    I keep cornmeal for far longer than 4 months; I've never had a problem with it. Just smell it; if it doesn't smell bad, it isn't.

    1. f
      FrankJBN RE: soypower Jun 13, 2008 09:50 AM

      Strictly speaking, while corn bread can go rancid, corn meal can't.

      A food product is rancid when the oils/fats present have spoiled.

      Where did you read that corn meal could go rancid?

      11 Replies
      1. re: FrankJBN
        soypower RE: FrankJBN Jun 13, 2008 09:58 AM

        I read it in this recipe:


        something about the oil content in the germ can make it go rancid...the recipe also states that i should be throwing out cornmeal if it's over 4 months old.

        1. re: soypower
          dkenworthy RE: soypower Jun 13, 2008 10:32 AM

          I would never throw out a pantry item like cornmeal based on an arbitrary date. Like DGresh says, if it smells good, it is good.

          1. re: dkenworthy
            soypower RE: dkenworthy Jun 13, 2008 11:01 AM

            works for me. if it passes the sniff test, i'll use it. :o)

            1. re: soypower
              Candy RE: soypower Jun 13, 2008 01:08 PM


            2. re: dkenworthy
              trojans RE: dkenworthy Jun 13, 2008 06:44 PM

              Some pantry items should be thrown out based on dates for example pancake mix.

              1. re: trojans
                Candy RE: trojans Jun 14, 2008 07:08 AM

                Note, the operative word in the report is open. If the cornmeal is kept in an airtight container, as many of us do to also protect grains against weevils and millers etc.

                Most flour and meal in the grocery store is probably older than 4 mos. after processing, shipping, delivery and wearhousing. You'd have to go to the mill to get it frersh.

                Keep in mind that mixes, such as pancake, and cornbread, cake, biscuit etc. have a number of additives in them and there in lies your culprit. There are leaveners, dried milk, sugars or other sweetners, etc. etc. If I threw out any flour, cornmeal or other pure grain products after 4 mos. shelf life I'd be in the poor house quickly.

                1. re: Candy
                  DGresh RE: Candy Jun 14, 2008 11:20 AM

                  yes and pancake mix often has fat in it in the form of shortening. At least the homemade pancake mix I used to make did.

                  1. re: Candy
                    MikeG RE: Candy Jun 14, 2008 04:40 PM

                    I really don't mean to sound callous, it's terrible the poor guy died especially after reaching a clinic, but it's too bad no one warned him - with the multiple known allergies including mold and whatever required his having an inhaler - about the potential for mold in foods, especially grain products. Not to mention, in general as well as a sign of fermentation or mold growth - food that smells like rubbing alcohol (?). The report's actual bottom line is about as far from alarming as can be:

                    "What does all this mean? If you don't have a mold allergy, you needn't fear your pancake mix; if you do have such a sensitivity, you shouldn't keep your flapjack makings around for a few years after opening the box or pouch it came in. It's not worth dying over 50¢ worth of pancake mix, so when in doubt, throw it out."

            3. re: FrankJBN
              chilibaby RE: FrankJBN Jun 15, 2008 06:37 AM

              Cornmeal (especially stone ground) CAN go rancid. Alton Brown has this to say:

              "Although the internet is probably the easiest place to land top-quality cornmeal, you may be able to dig some up at the local mega-mart as long as you're willing to do a little bit of reading. First things first. If the package doesn't say "stone ground" on the bag, just walk away. Ditto, any package that bears the words "quick" or "instant". These are over processed goods and cannot be trusted. Now most stone-ground meals are whole grain and as such, contain the fatty germ of the kernel, which will eventually go rancid unless used quickly or wrapped and frozen. So look for an expiration date that is at least 6 months after the date of purchase."

              For more info, see the transcript of "True Grits" at http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/GEFP/i...

              1. re: chilibaby
                Candy RE: chilibaby Jun 15, 2008 08:54 AM

                I have kept my favorite Indian Head stone ground cornmeal in an air tight cannister up to year. I can only buy 5 lb. bags and we don't go through it that quickly. My Anson Mills Grits get vacuum packed. No problems.

                1. re: chilibaby
                  bushwickgirl RE: chilibaby Jan 26, 2010 04:54 PM

                  I keep my stone ground cornmeal in the freezer.

              2. paulj RE: soypower Jun 13, 2008 12:54 PM

                Where did you get the cornmeal? If it de-germinated commercial stuff like Quaker or Alber, go by the date on the box, or even beyond. It does not have the fat that goes rancid. If it is a more expensive stone-ground meal that was ground with the germ intact, then there is more chance that it is rancid. But that will depend on storage conditions as well as age.

                Also, what kind of recipe are you using? If it is the southern style with nearly all cornmeal, and little sugar, an off taste in the meal will be more evident than in a northern style with half cornmeal, and lots of sugar.

                I wonder what rancid cornmeal tastes like? If it's not too far gone, I suspect it just imparts a slight bitterness to the final product.


                1. PamelaD RE: soypower Jun 13, 2008 06:38 PM

                  Believe me, if you give it a smell you can tell! Does it smell like corn? or does it smell ... off... like bitter, nasty....? If you don't know, I bet it's OK. I keep cornmeal for a long time with no problem.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PamelaD
                    chef chicklet RE: PamelaD Jun 13, 2008 06:52 PM

                    I'm embarassed to say how long I've had cornmeal in my pantry at times, I never thought to look for an experiation date...ok, and now I will.

                  2. jodymaryk RE: soypower Jun 15, 2008 10:41 AM

                    I have had cornmeal that when I smelled it, smelled like rancid oil. You know that smell. It was just, off, not right. However, I did use it that time as I didn't want to go to the store and it tasted fine, but threw out the rest and bought more. Didn't poison anyone and no one commented on it. So......

                    1. a
                      amauer RE: soypower Jan 25, 2010 03:21 PM

                      FYI for future reference. I looked this up as my mix tasted funny and I found the references to oil. I found the culprit, on the cornmeal "mix' was the ingedient Canola Oil, which is notorious for going rancid. I have only tasted it once before. It tastes like something is burning your mouth and throat, like you just ate some cayenne, but it is cornmeal mix!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: amauer
                        guilty RE: amauer Apr 18, 2010 09:58 AM

                        I once made cornbread out of cornmeal that had (unbeknownst to me) gone bad--even though I had stored it in my refrigerator (no telling what the store had done with it, though). That night was one of the most unpleasant of my life.

                      2. Father Kitchen RE: soypower Mar 2, 2010 11:51 AM

                        On the other hand, fresh ground corn meal used immediately imparts a taste that would amaze most people. Since most people don't have mills at home, they may never know what they are missing. But there are more and more grist mills operating in the country. If you find one and can get a bag of freshly ground meal, go for it. Also, flavor varies by variety. Rhode Island white flint corn makes a particularly good cornmeal. You can also get good cornmeal by mail order. It won't be quite as fresh when you get it, but it will still be extraordinarily good. The germ adds so much to the flavor.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Father Kitchen
                          greygarious RE: Father Kitchen Apr 18, 2010 12:24 PM

                          Any particular online source(s) that you would recommend?

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