Corn starch

Corn starch, maize starch, or cornflour (British English) is the starch derived from corn (maize) grain.[2] The starch is obtained from the endosperm of the kernel. Corn starch is a common food ingredient, often used to thicken sauces or soups, and to make corn syrup and other sugars.[3] Corn starch is versatile, easily modified, and finds many uses in industry such as adhesives, in paper products, as an anti-sticking agent, and textile manufacturing.[4] It has medical uses as well, such as to supply glucose for people with glycogen storage disease.[5]

Corn starch
Food energy
(per 100 g serving)
381 kcal (1595 kJ)
Nutritional value
(per 100 g serving)
Protein0.3 g
Fat0.1 g
Carbohydrate91 g
Other informationdensity 0.54 g/ml [1]
Corn starch powder
Corn starch mixed in water

Like many products in dust form, it can be hazardous in large quantities due to its flammability—see dust explosion. When mixed with a fluid, corn starch can rearrange itself into a non-Newtonian fluid. For example, adding water transforms corn starch into a material commonly known as oobleck while adding oil transforms corn starch into an electrorheological (ER) fluid. The concept can be explained through the mixture termed "cornflour slime".[6]


Advertisement for a Cornflour manufacturer, 1894

Until 1851, corn starch was used primarily for starching laundry and for other industrial uses. A method to produce pure culinary starch from maize was patented by John Polson of Brown & Polson, in Paisley, Scotland in 1854.[7][8] This was sold as "Patented Corn Flour". Brown & Polson were muslin manufacturers who had been producing laundry starch for the Paisley shawl industry and would become the largest starch producers in the UK.


Although mostly used for cooking and as a household item, corn starch is used for many purposes in several industries, ranging from its use as a chemical additive for certain products, to medical therapy for certain illnesses.


Advertisement by the US Food Administration, 1918, indicating corn starch as "wholesome" and "nutritious"

Corn starch is used as a thickening agent in liquid-based foods (e.g., soup, sauces, gravies, custard), usually by mixing it with a lower-temperature liquid to form a paste or slurry. It is sometimes preferred over flour alone because it forms a translucent, rather than opaque mixture. As the starch is heated over 203 °F (95 °C), the molecular chains unravel, allowing them to collide with other starch chains to form a mesh, thickening the liquid (Starch gelatinization). However, continued boiling breaks up the molecules and thins the liquid.[9]

Cornstarch is usually included as an anticaking agent in powdered sugar (icing or confectioner's sugar).

A common substitute is arrowroot starch, which replaces the same amount of corn starch.[10]

Food producers reduce production costs by adding varying amounts of corn starch to foods, for example to cheese and yogurt.[11]

Chicken nuggets with a thin outer layer of corn starch allows increased oil absorption and crispness after the latter stages of frying.[12]


Baby powder may include corn starch among its ingredients.[13] Corn starch can be used to manufacture bioplastics and may be used in the manufacture of airbags.

Adhesive can be made from corn starch, traditionally one of the adhesives that may be used to make paste papers. It dries with a slight sheen compared to wheat starch. It may also be used as an adhesive in book and paper conservation.


Corn starch is the preferred anti-stick agent on medical products made from natural latex, including condoms, diaphragms, and medical gloves.[14][15]

Corn starch has properties enabling supply of glucose to maintain blood sugar levels for people with glycogen storage disease.[16] Corn starch can be used starting at age 6–12 months allowing glucose fluctuations to be deterred.[17]


The corn is steeped for 30 to 48 hours, which ferments it slightly. The germ is separated from the endosperm and those two components are ground separately (still soaked). Next the starch is removed from each by washing. The starch is separated from the corn steep liquor, the cereal germ, the fibers and the corn gluten mostly in hydrocyclones and centrifuges, and then dried. (The residue from every stage is used in animal feed and to make corn oil or other applications.) This process is called wet milling. Finally, the starch may be modified for specific purposes.[18]


Like many other powders, corn starch is susceptible to dust explosions. It is believed that overheating of a corn starch-based powder on 27 June 2015, initiated the Formosa Fun Coast explosion in Taiwan, despite warnings on the packaging indicating that the material is flammable.[19]

Names and varieties

See also


  1. "Density of Cornstarch in 285 units and reference information".
  2. "Cornstarch | Definition of Cornstarch by Merriam-Webster". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  3. "Uses of Corn". Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  4. Starch : chemistry and technology. Whistler, Roy Lester., BeMiller, James N., Paschall, Eugene F. (2nd ed.). Orlando: Academic Press. 1984. Chap. 6, p. 121. ISBN 978-0-12-746270-7. OCLC 9155004.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. Gremse, D.A.; Bucuvalas, J. C.; Balistreri, W. F. (October 1990). "Efficacy of cornstarch therapy in type III glycogen-storage disease". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 52 (4): 671–674. doi:10.1093/ajcn/52.4.671. ISSN 0002-9165. PMID 2403059.
  6. "How to: make a liquid that's also a solid". August 5, 2013. Archived from the original on December 12, 2016. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  7. - Brown & Polson, Paisley - From Boom to Bust
  8. Grace's Guide To British Industrial History - Brown and Polson
  9. "Cornstarch is a Powerful Tool That Must be Used Responsibly". January 28, 2020.
  10. "Ingredient Substitution". September 11, 2007. Archived from the original on May 10, 2011. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  11. "High-Tech Shortcut To Greek Yogurt Leaves Purists Fuming". Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  12. Bilge Altunaker; Sepil Sahin; Gulum Sumnu (March 2004). "Functionality of batters containing different starch types for deep-fat frying of chicken nuggets". European Food Research and Technology. 218 (4): 318–322. doi:10.1007/s00217-003-0854-5. S2CID 93841327.
  13. Manley, Duncan (1998). Biscuit, cookie and cracker manufacturing manuals – Manual 1 – Ingredients. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Publishing Limited. p. 34. ISBN 1-85573-292-0.
  14. "Women's health concerns prompt condom makers to stop using talc". The Free Lance-Star. January 11, 1996. p. D3. Retrieved May 14, 2016 via Google News Archive Search.
  15. "Medical Glove Powder Report". Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  16. "A Sweet Discovery". University of Florida Health. Archived from the original on March 5, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  17. "GSD Type 1". GSD Life. Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. Retrieved October 31, 2013.
  18. "International Starch: Production of corn starch". Archived from the original on May 15, 2011. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  19. Mullen, Jethro; Novak, Kathy; Kwon, K.J. (June 29, 2015). "'All her skin was gone': Horrific aftermath of fireball at Taiwan water park". CNN. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  20. "BBC – Food – Cornflour recipes". BBC. Archived from the original on May 12, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
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