The Wonder Staple

February 11, 2021

Cornstarch has a place in every single home. This starch is often used in countless recipes worldwide. But it turns out this humble ingredient does far more than just that. It can provide numerous cleaning solutions inexpensively, without taking up much space and being kind to the environment. Learn all about cornstarch and its many uses that can go even beyond the kitchen.

A Simple Solution

Thomas Kingsford invented cornstarch in 1842 when he discovered a way to isolate endosperms from corn kernels while working in a wheat starch factory in New Jersey. However, Kingsford did not have food in mind. For the first few years of its existence, cornstarch was used to starch laundry. Cornstarch is produced today in countries including the United States, China, Brazil, and India. 

Cornstarch is a dense, white, tasteless, odorless powder made from the corn kernel’s endosperm portion. Sometimes referred to as cornflour, it is an extracted carbohydrate. ScienceDirect comments it is used in food processing, paper making, industrial adhesives, household goods, cosmetics, and oral pharmaceutical products. Composed of long chains of starch molecules, which will unravel and swell when heated in the presence of moisture. This swelling action, or gelatinization, is what causes the thickening to occur.

Endless Recipe Options

The possibilities are endless in cooking and baking. It can be used as a thickener for pies, sauces, puddings, soups, stir-fry, stews, jams, custards, shortbread, gravies, waffles, casseroles, omelets, fried food, and tacos. It is also widely used in many cake and cookie recipes to produce finely textured baked goods. It is often preferred over flour as a thickener, because the resulting gel is transparent rather than opaque. Relatively flavorless in comparison, it provides roughly two times the thickening power. 

Cornstarch helps absorb moisture from condensation and prevent a slimy texture from developing. Cornstarch should not be added straight into a hot liquid as this can cause it to form lumps. Instead, mix cornstarch into a room temperature or slightly cool liquid to form a slurry, and then stir it into the hot liquid. Frances Crouter, of the Culinary Institute, uses it as a trick to keep dough and fondant from sticking to the counter. 

Being it contains only carbohydrates and no protein, it makes a handy substitute for wheat flour. It is become a trendy ingredient in gluten-free and vegan baking, as it can replace eggs in specific recipes. It can be used as a breading for coating almost any meat or seafood. Make sure to note how it is packaged depending on the facility and what standards they have. It is best to buy organic and non-GMO where available. 

Household Benefits

HealthLine provides consumers with some great solutions for the benefits of cornstarch around your home:

  • Applied directly to the skin or in a bath, it can soothe and calm skin irritations like sunburns, rashes, bug bites, blisters, and allergy-related itchiness. It has been an excellent treatment for athlete’s foot, as well as useful in skin chafing.  
  • Thanks to its delicate texture and excellent ability to absorb moisture, cornstarch makes a surprisingly useful addition to homemade deodorant and dry shampoo. 
  • If you are struggling with a stubborn knot in hair or rope, sprinkle cornstarch on the knot and rub it in with your fingers. The cornstarch will reduce the friction and cause it to loosen easily.
  • With just a bit of cornstarch, you can achieve a matte finish on your nails using the nail polish you already have at home.
  • If you are playing cards looking a little grimy, shake them in a bag with cornstarch to lift dirt and grease from the surface of the cards.
  • Eliminate that musty smell from your books by sprinkling cornstarch between the pages.
  • Use cornstarch to make a homemade spray starch that will keep your shirts and slacks looking crisp.
  • Return the shine by using cornstarch to polish your silver, clean your pots, and even cooktops. 
  • When it comes to sweaty hands, increase your solid grip on tennis rackets, golf clubs, and other sports equipment. 
  • It is useful as a cleaning agent for walls, carpet, stains, mattresses, driveways, stuffed animals, and most fabrics. 

So, the next time you are looking for a household staple with unlimited uses, pick up your favorite cornstarch. When stored in a cool, dry place, corn starch will never expire in an air-tight container. Cornstarch has a place in everyone’s home. Your wallet and family will thank you for it.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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