Starch is a complex type of carbohydrate, normally found in seeds of cereals, roots, tubers and other plant organs. Since it is inevitable element of plants’ composition, starch is one of the most common carbohydrates in human diet. Starch plays an important role in energy storage of plants. Molecules of starch are composed of long chains of glucose molecules linked together, which are essential for keeping energy gained through process of photosynthesis. In food industry, the most common sources of starch are corn, potatoes, wheat, rice and tapioca.
When it comes to food industry, we use cornstarch, sometimes also referred as corn flour. It is often used as an alternative to wheat flour, because it is relatively flavorless, so it does not change the taste of food or meal. Cornstarch is a product we commonly use for preparing various dishes and recipes. It is used as a thickening agent in preparation of biscuits, creams, sauces and stews.
Commercial cornstarch powder is somewhat modified, because original natural starch features often restricts its use in cooking. Therefore, experts had modified its composition, so it can be used in many different ways. Molecules of starch are modified by physical and chemical methods to assume properties that the natural starch does not posses. This way, cornstarch powder has features that make it highly applicable.
Modified starch can dissolve in cold water, thicken without cooking and has prolonged stability in preparation. It is usually used as a common ingredient in some food products that doesn’t require full cooking preparation process, such as some soups, creams and puddings. Cornstarch is one of the basic ingredients of savory dishes, sweet products and it is highly recommendable in gluten-free diet.
Use of cornstarch
Cornstarch is commonly used for thickening sauces and stews, because of its swelling properties. It is frequently used as an alternative to wheat flour. Wheat flour has a lower thickening power, so you would need more flour than starch in order to achieve an even consistency. In addition, cornstarch does not affect other flavors of a particular dish. All sauces prepared with cornstarch appear transparent and brighter than those made with wheat flour. When you use it for thickening creams and sauces, you should stir it in some cold liquid in the first place. That is to avoid lumps in hot sauce or stew.
Cornstarch is very useful in preparation of sweet treats. It is used as a component in sweet creams and biscuits. Milk based creams with cornstarch will appear smooth and shiny and the taste will not be affected. Cookies are usually made from wheat flour, but adding cornstarch could make a positive difference. If you use part cornstarch instead of flour, biscuit will become smooth, soft and fine.
Cornstarch is highly recommended in gluten-free diet. Many people who suffer from celiac disease have to adjust their diet plan in order to ease problems with digestion. It can be pretty difficult, since many commercial food products are made of wheat flour, which is high in gluten. Since corn does not contain gluten, corn flour and cornstarch are good gluten-free food.
Can cornstarch go bad?
Many believe that cornstarch we use as a thickening agent in pastry, pies, creams and sauces can last indefinitely. Since it‘s a fine, dry powder, it seems that it never goes bad and its properties appears the same for years. In fact, that is partially true. Cornstarch does go bad, but only in special circumstances. Actually, it is extremely difficult to spoil it, but it is possible. If you store a package of cornstarch in a proper way, it can last for a long period of time.
All food products have an expiration date. When it comes to cornstarch, many people would agree it is completely safe to use old cornstarch. Many people actually use cornstarch out of date, if it seems alright and fine to use. If you check it thoroughly and make sure it is free of bugs and there are no signs of moisture and mold, then it is probably fine.
Whether it is sealed or opened, that does not make important difference on its shelf life. However, you should store it in a cool and dry place. Once you open the package, keep it tightly closed. You can also transfer it to a resalable container. In fact, that will completely suffice. If you keep cornstarch away from moist, so it can’t absorb any water, it will be fine for years. So, the only important thing is to make it remain dry all the time. Also, it should be kept away from extreme heat. Basically, it could last indefinitely and be normally used whenever you need it.
How to tell if cornstarch has gone off? The only way that will make cornstarch go rotten, bad or spoiled is if it absorb some moist. If it gets wet, cornstarch will turn into a cloudy sauce, which will eventually become translucent and thick. If the package is dry and sealed, there is really a little chance it can go bad. If you notice water or bugs in the package, you should immediately get rid of it.
When used in food, cornstarch lasts as long as the particular dish or product lasts. All food goes bad with the quickest expiring component of the recipe. So, cornstarch alone is almost an everlasting product, which can be safely used whenever you need it. You should only make sure you store it in proper conditions.