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Surprising uses for cornmeal

Most home cooks have at least a small amount of cornmeal in their pantry at all times. However, many of those home cooks only think to use it when they are craving cornbread. Cornmeal is much more than just an ingredient in cornbread and corn muffins.

Cornmeal is wonderfully versatile and can be used in so many more ways than just to make cornbread. It has very little flavor of its own, so no worries about it changing the taste of certain recipes. It can change the consistency of some dishes, but it is usually in a pleasing manner.

Thickener

Cornmeal makes a fabulous thickener for chili, potato soup and stews. It adds almost no flavor but does add a bit of texture to your hearty soups and stews. 

All you do is wait until the last thirty minutes or so of cook time and add cornmeal, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the pot. Stir it in real well and then add more until you reach the desired consistency. The best part is that you do not have to mix the cornmeal with any liquids like milk, egg or water before adding to the pot. 

Baking

Yes, you already know you can make cornbread and corn muffins, but did you know you can also make cookies and regular cakes? You can substitute cornmeal for the flour in some recipes. That is part of the fun of experimenting in the kitchen. 

Coat meats

Think of this almost like Shake n Bake. Pour some cornmeal into a large plastic baggie and add any seasonings you want such as cracked pepper, chili powder, etc and then add your chicken pieces (one or two at a time) to the bag and secure it and then shake well to coat the pieces. You may want to dip the pieces in egg or even milk before adding to the baggie to ensure the cornmeal will stick properly. Once your chicken is coated, bake as per your recipe. The outside will be golden brown and crispy and the inside nice and juicy!

This also works well for pan frying chicken, pork, and just about any other meat you like. You can also coat vegetables, fish and just about anything else you can think of, and are brave enough to try. 

Ant killer

This is completely out of the realm of cooking, but still a bit interesting to make note of here. Dry cornmeal can be sprinkled on and around an ant den and will eventually kill the ants. The ants will carry the cornmeal back down to the colony. Some ants eat the cornmeal but cannot digest it so they slowly starve to death. 

Cornmeal is so versatile in the kitchen that it is hard to believe it is cheaper than flour. You can buy a nice sized bag, and if kept in an airtight container, will seemingly last forever. So go ahead and try it out the next time you make a big pot of chili or stew!

It is only fair to mention that while you can substitute cornmeal for flour in a lot of recipes, you cannot really substitute it in every recipe.