Learn how to store wheat flour long term so you can benefit from this key ingredient now, in 2 years, or in 30 years.
Food Storage: How to Store Cornmeal Long-Term
Cornmeal is a coarse yellow flour that can be used to make all sorts of meals. It is the basis for many popular foods, such as fluffy cornbread, pancakes, tortillas, and empanadas, to name a few. Because it’s rich in carbs and vitamins, we recommend including cornmeal in your long-term food storage pantry.
When stored properly, the shelf life of fined cornmeal can be over 20 years when using a 5-gallon bucket with mylar bags. However, they can stay fresh for up to 2 years in airtight containers and up to 10 years in mylar bags alone. Coarse cornmeal, on the other hand, has a shorter shelf life due to its higher oil contents.
We have previously written about how to store grains long-term. But in this article, we will explain the shelf life of cornmeal and how to store cornmeal long-term in detail. But first, let’s talk about the different types of cornmeal.
Types of Cornmeal
Dent corn is a soft starch that can be milled to make cornmeal. But depending on, how the corn is refined will determine if it is bolted or unbolted.
Bolted cornmeal is prepared by having whole corn kernels go through a steel mill and sieve. The sieve removes the pieces of the hull and germ, where many of the natural oils and nutrients are stored. Decreasing the oil content extends the shelf life of the cornmeal significantly.
Unbolted cornmeal is refined using a stone-ground mill, allowing the cornmeal to retain the hull and germ after the milling process. This is called a whole grain corn meal and retains more of the nutritional value. Although this grain is more flavorful and more nutrient-dense, it has a shorter shelf life.
Most of the available corn flour on the market is bolted. However, you can easily find unbolted cornmeal by looking for labels with “whole grain” on the package.
Shelf Life of Cornmeal
As you plan for long-term storage, you should know that the shelf life of cornmeal depends on how and where it is stored. Below is a table to help you understand the best way to store cornmeal.
Bolted Cornmeal (Corn Flour) Unbolted Cornmeal
5-Gallon Bucket 20 Years Not Recommended
Mylar Bag 10 Years Not Recommended
Mason Jar 2-3 Years 2 Years
Freezer 18+ Months 18+ Months
Pantry 12 months 6-12 Months
As you can see, to extend the shelf life, the best way to store fine cornmeal is in a 5-gallon bucket with mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. Using this method, bolted cornmeal has a storage life of 20 years. Store-bought cornmeal will last for about 12 months in the pantry and 18 months in the freezer. It can last 10 years in a mylar bag and up to 2 years in an airtight container.
The best-by date on the cornmeal isn’t the expiry date, but it determines the date by which the cornmeal is still at peak quality. After this date, the texture, color, or even taste of cornmeal might change, but it will still be safe to use.
Step-By-Step Guide to Storing Fine Course Cornmeal in 5-Gallon Buckets
If you are planning to include bolted cornmeal in your emergency food storage location, you should store cornmeal in 5-gallon buckets. Not only do food-grade buckets maintain quality for 20 years, but they are also effective at preventing exposure to air, moisture, light, and pests. However, do keep in mind this method is suggested for fine-coursed cornmeal or corn flour since it has a moisture percentage of less than 10%. Below, we will cover how to store cornmeal in 5-gallon buckets.
Storing cornmeal in a 5-Gallon Bucket
Storing cornmeal is simple; just keep in mind your goal is to reduce exposure to environmental aggressors that can cause the grain to spoil. Here are the proper steps to follow.
- Get a food-grade 5-gallon bucket that comes with a sealed lid (preferably a gamma seal lid). Make sure that the bucket is made of food-grade plastic because an ordinary bucket will leach harmful chemicals into your food.
- Clean and make sure that the container is absolutely dry before trying to use it.
- Add a large mylar bag, and line it around the bucket. An 18 by 28 bag is big enough to fit into the bucket and will protect your food from air, light, and moisture that can spoil your food.
- Fill the mylar bag with the cornmeal, making sure that you don’t fill the bag over 90%
- Add oxygen absorbers to your mylar bag while also pushing air out to remove the air from the container.
- Start sealing the bag with an iron or hair straightener soon after placing the oxygen absorbers inside.
- Once the bag is closed, place the lid over the bucket.
- Finally, label the bucket on the outside and write the date.
Related Article: How to Store food in 5-Gallon Buckets
Related Article: How to Store Food in Mylar Bags: A Guide for Beginners
Other Storage Methods for Cornmeal
If you don’t want to store a large amount of cornmeal in a bucket, other storage options are available. Additionally, these methods are better for corn kernels and unbolted cornmeal since it typically has a higher oil content of over 10%. And if using these methods, you should NOT store cornmeal with oxygen absorbers.
Storing cornmeal in the freezer will help it last up to 18 months. It can last longer, but the quality and nutritional value will start to deteriorate the older it gets.
You should keep in mind that you can only freeze cornmeal once since the moisture pockets in the cornmeal will damage it once it melts. If you try to refreeze it, it can cause mold to grow.
Corn flour can last for 3 years in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers. Other types of cornmeal will last between 1 and 2 years and should NOT be stored with oxygen absorbers. We suggest using mason jars if you expect to use cornmeal on a more frequent basis. This way, you can store what you expect to use, and your cornmeal is still protected from moisture, oxygen, and pests.
You should store the airtight container in a cool, dark, and dry place. As long as the temperature and humidity levels are low, cornmeal will last for years when sealed with an oxygen absorber.
Related Article: Long-Term Food Storage in Mason Jars
How to Tell if Cornmeal Has Spoiled?
To determine if your cornmeal has spoiled, you can simply rely on your sense of sight, smell, and taste. If you notice any of these signs below, then your cornmeal has gone bad, and it’s time to toss it away.
- Sight: Pay attention to what you see. If you notice any insects, larvae, or eggs, as well as any mold discoloration, the cornmeal has spoiled, and there is no need to go to step two.
- Smell: If the cornmeal appears to be fine, go ahead and smell the cornmeal. Rancid cornmeal will emit and have an off-odor, allowing you to know if it is bad immediately.
- Taste: You can cook a small amount of cornmeal to taste it. If it tastes bitter, nothing like how it is supposed to taste. This is the most immediate and obvious sign it has gone bad.
Once you have determined it’s spoiled, it’s best to dispose of it. Spoiled food has limited nutritional benefits, so it is better not to expose your family to it.
People Also Ask:
Below are some frequently asked questions we came across.
How to Make Corn Flour from Corn Kernels?
To make corn flour, you will need to make sure the husk and germ have been removed from the whole corn kernel. In the husk and germ is where much of the natural oils are contained, which causes cornmeal to spoil faster. Once the germ and husk are removed, you will then grind the corn kernels until it becomes a fine powder with a metal roller.
Corn Flour vs. Cornmeal
Corn flour and cornmeal are both made from dry dent corn. However, the difference comes from how they are milled and their texture. Corn flour is often milled by a metal roller, giving it a finer, powder-like texture. Cornmeal, on the other hand, has a coarse and grittier texture. So, in essence, they are the same thing, but they are milled differently, which affects what you can do with them.
Cornmeal vs. Corn Starch
Cornstarch and cornmeal are both derived from dried corn. However, cornmeal is made from whole corn kernels, and cornstarch is made from the endosperm of the kernel. So it is almost entirely made from carbohydrates and has very little flavor.
Corn Flour vs. Corn Starch
Corn flour is a finer version of cornmeal, which uses the whole corn kernel to make the cornmeal, giving it its yellow color. Cornstarch is made by separating and milling the endosperm of the kernel, which gives it its white color. Cornstarch can occasionally be used as a substitute for corn flour, but it lacks the flavor of corn flour and will change how the food tastes.
The shelf life of cornmeal depends on the type of cornmeal. Bolted cornmeal can last decades in your pantry when stored properly in a 5-gallon bucket. Unbolted cornmeal will last for up to one or two years as long as you don’t try to open it. Afterward, it may still be edible, but the quality will start to deteriorate.
If you ever suspect the cornmeal has spoiled, you should dispose of it since there is no benefit to eating spoiled cornmeal.
Related Article: 11 Supplies You Need for DIY Long-Term Food Storage
Related Article: 6 Best Grains for Long-Term Food Storage
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