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Jun 13, 2008 02:36 AM

How Can I Tell if My Corn Meal is Rancid?

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. 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. 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

        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

          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

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

            1. re: dkenworthy

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

              1. re: trojans

                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

                  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

                    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 50ยข worth of pancake mix, so when in doubt, throw it out."

            2. re: FrankJBN

              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

              1. re: chilibaby

                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

                  I keep my stone ground cornmeal in the freezer.

              2. 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. 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

                    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. 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......

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jodymaryk

                      This morning I was about to make cornmeal patties for breakfast just like my mom use to make, but when I opened the half-full bag, a small, diminutive rather, black animal crawled out. I opened it fully and saw another one inside. Then I remember those in Puerto Rico were called 'gorgojos' :) I threw the bag out immediately. Anyone knows what causes these little critters to form in it.?

                      1. re: EzyRodzie

                        The Gorgojos are most likely some variety of Weevil.
                        They do not "form in it" They infest it.
                        Unless your Corn Meal had Eggs in it when you bought it.