Corn, in its many incarnations, has been used as a food source for eons. When it comes to dried corn, you may be presented with the following four choices: cornmeal, corn flour, grits, and polenta. Here is a more detailed look at the differences between the fours and their uses.

What Is Cornmeal?

Cornmeal isn't complicated. Field corn is dried and then ground—that's it. So how does cornmeal differ from corn flour, grits, and polenta then? It really isn't. They are all basically the same thing. The difference in the names stems from a combination of how coarse or finely ground the dried corn is and what the end use is.

What Kind Of Corn Is Used?

Cornmeal isn't made from the sweet corn Americans enjoy in the midst of summer; it is made from regular "field" corn, which is also called "dent" corn. Dent corn offers a lot of corn flavor and has the right starch ratio. Dent corn may be white or yellow corn, and if the cornmeal is going to be used for commercial purposes, it will be degerminated before drying. This means that the germ and bran part of the corn kernel will be removed. Because these components are slightly oily, their removal means any products made from them will last longer.

Stone-ground corn will not be degerminated. The kernel is left intact before coarsely grinding. As a result, it will spoil faster, but as it is a dried product, it will still last a considerable amount of time before going bad.

What Is Cornmeal Used For?

One of the most popular uses of cornmeal is for making that ubiquitous southern favorite, cornbread. Cornmeal is also used to make batters, such as that for corndogs, and to "dust" fried fish, usually catfish.

What Is Polenta?

Polenta is a creamy porridge popular particularly in the Alpine regions of Italy and France as well as in the Pyrenees in Spain. It is a hearty dish, and it may be savory or sweet, but it is most often served with savory flavors. Once polenta has been cooked and chilled, chilled leftovers will be sliced and fried, providing another opportunity to use this versatile product.

What Are Grits?

Grits are another classic southern manifestation of basic cornmeal, but grits are ground coarser than cornmeal. They are usually made from white dent rather than yellow dent, too. Grits may be served at breakfast and topped with sugar and milk, or they may have cheddar and jalapenos added to them and serve as the bed for blackened shrimp at dinner.

Where Does Corn Flour Come In?

Corn flour is simply cornmeal that has been ground very fine, like any other flour. With the increase in people adopting a gluten-free lifestyle, corn flour usage has risen because of its use in gluten-free baking. 

For more information on cornmeal, contact a company like Dover Corn Products LTD.