Corn Starch

Corn starch, as the name suggests, is a starch which is extracted from corn. It is known by various names such as cornstarch, maize starch or corn flour and is derived from the endosperm of corn kernel. This starch is usually fine textured and is mainly used as cooking ingredient for thickening the sauces.



Corn starch is said to have been invented in the year 1840 by Thomas Kingsford. The invention happened when Thomas was deputed at wheat starch factory situated in New Jersey as a superintendent. The major use of maize starch or cornstarch until 1850s was to starch laundry and binder for industrial purposes.



For making corn starch, corns are soaked for approximately thirty to forty eight hours. Once the germ separates from endosperm, starch is extracted from both by washing. Once the starch gets separated from the soaking liqueur and germ, it is dried and modified as per the use.


Difference Between Corn Starch and Flour

The white flour differs from corn starch as flour consists of gluten while the corn starch is in it pure form and thus, free of gluten. The presence of gluten in the flour lowers its thickening property. The thickening property of maize starch is double to that of flour and thus corn starch helps in making sauces and gravies thick without creating lumps which are usually found in sauces thickened with flour.


Culinary Use

Cornstarch is widely used for culinary purposes. Here are some of its uses:


  • Thickening agent – Maize starch works as an effective thickener and is commonly used for making sauces and gravies. The use of cornstarch is popular in Oriental cuisine and it is often used to make gravies bright and light.


  • Prevents curdling of egg – Corn starch is often used to make custards as it helps in preventing the curdling of eggs which are one of the major ingredients for making custard. Besides, it is also used in making cheesecakes, flans and quiches.


  • For making glaze –The ability of maize starch to help in even heat transition makes it an apt ingredient for making glazes.


  • Lends crispiness – Corn starch is often used in meat recipes as flouring the meat with corn starch before frying, makes the meat brown and crispy.



The appropriate way of using corn starch is to mix it with cold water to form a smooth paste. Once it is done, the mixture can be added to the gravy or sauce whichever needs to be thickened. Direct addition of cornstarch usually leads to lump formation. Boiling of sauce thickened by cornstarch should be avoided as it would make the sauce thinner.


How Cornstarch Works?

When cornstarch is mixed with cold liquid and added to the gravy or the food that need to be thickened, the heat leads to binding of the water molecules. The starch at this time absorbs the liquid and starts swelling. By the time, boiling point is near; the starch grows up to 10 times of their original size. However, when the temperature exceeds 205 degrees, these starch granules start coming to their original size and thus, lead to thinning of sauce.



Corn flour or corn starch might not give the desired results at time. Here are some of the points to be noted while using corn flour:


  •  Less liquid – If the quantity of corn flour is more but the liquid to be thickened is less, the starch granules do not swell completely and thus, not leading to proper results.


  •  High sugar content – High sugar content often interferes with working of starch and can prevent thickening.


  • High fat content – If the liquid is high in fat or many egg yolks have been used, the chances are that the starch granules might not bloat properly causing improper thickening or thinning after cooling.


  • High acid content – If lemon juice or vinegar has been used in high quantities, the functioning of starch gets disrupted leading to reduced thickening.


  •  Excessive stirring – Excessive stirring or mixing often breaks the starch granules and lead to a thin mixture.


  •  Boiling – Boiling or reheating also causes the rupturing of granules which hampers the thickening process.


  •   Freezing – Freezing the mixtures which have been thickened with corn starch results in thin mixture due to breaking of granules.


Name in Different Regions

Corn starch is known by different names in different countries. Here are some of them:


United States of America – Corn Starch


United Kingdom, Common wealth Countries (excluding Canada), Ireland – known as cornflour


Europe –Maize starch


France, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Spain - Maizena



Arrowroot is one of the common substitutes of cornstarch.