You might be one of many food preppers who would only need to use small amounts of cornstarch for cooking dishes. As one of the most common kitchen ingredients, you might think about how long can cornstarch really last? Does cornstarch go bad?
Cornstarch can actually last for an indefinite period as long as you keep it in the best storage condition. It usually doesn’t spoil for many years until you finish up the whole pack.
You’ll mostly have plenty of cornstarch left in the pantry, even if you use it quite often. Then, you’ll have it stored for a certain period of time until the day you will prepare a dish that calls for this ingredient.
In this post, we’ll talk about:
- What is cornstarch?
- How long does cornstarch last? What is its shelf life?
- How to tell if cornstarch has gone bad?
- How to store cornstarch to prevent it from deteriorating?
Let’s find out!
What is Cornstarch?
Cornstarch is extracted from corn. It is popularly known as one of the most versatile ingredients in the culinary setting. In 1844, cornstarch was originally created as a staple in many corn-growing locations in the United States and other countries.
Nowadays, this fine powder starchy kitchen ingredient is used:
- As a thickening agent for soups, gravy, marinades, batters, sauces, and casseroles.
- For baking delicious goodies such as cookies, pies, brownies, cakes, and other desserts.
- As an anti-caking agent for finely ground foods for sugar to prevent lumps.
- For frying foods like fried chicken, pork, and fish.
- For giving a glossy or semi-clear finish to dishes.
Cornstarch is often interchanged with wheat flour. Unlike wheat flour, corn starch does not contain gluten at all. Thus, it’s an excellent ingredient for people who are on a gluten-free diet. However, in many cases, most recipes will only call for a small amount of corn starch. Thus, even if you bought the smallest pack available in the market, you may end up having the rest of its content sitting in the pantry for a long time.
Here’s a couple of interesting facts about cornstarch.
- When you combine it in cold water, the starch will sink to the bottom of the mixture.
- When cooked in warm liquid, cornstarch appears transparent instead of opaque. That occurrence is called starch gelatinization. It is the process where the starch granules swell when it is subjected to heated water. As a result, the starch expands as it absorbs the water, giving it a vicious and transparent texture.
- Aside from cooking, cornstarch is also used for industrial and cleaning applications.
How Long Does Cornstarch Last?
You can keep cornstarch in your kitchen for as long as you want and just even forget it in the following months. Yes, seriously, it can last forever as long as it is kept in its ideal storage condition.
Although cornstarch can last indefinitely, its package will always have a printed ‘Best by date’ or expiration date. For food manufacturers, they are mandated to mark their products with these dates.
Anyway, you can be a little less conscious of these expiration dates or ‘best by’ dates as long your cornstarch is stored correctly to retain its quality. Yes, you can use expired cornstarch.
How to Tell if it has gone bad?
Apparently, cornstarch doesn’t lose its potency even if you have stored it for the longest time. You’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t get wet. That’s the only time your cornstarch may go bad.
Moisture, pest infestation, and a lousy storage environment are the main factors that can ruin your cornstarch.
Here’s what to do to find out if your cornstarch has gone bad:
1. Check the appearance
You have to inspect for any signs of pest infestation.
To check if there are any bugs or insects that invaded your cornstarch, pour some of it on a plate and see you can notice any of this crawlies pooling on the white starchy powder. If there are, discard the cornstarch immediately.
2. Check the Texture
Inspect the cornstarch’s texture. If it appears too clumpy, that indicates that it has been exposed to moisture. Moisture and humidity form clumps on your cornstarch, and it can turn into a breeding ground for molds. If this happened to your cornstarch, dispose of it and better get a new pack.
A few clumps in your cornstarch do not always mean it is already spoiled, though. You can get rid of these bits of hardened masses by running them through a fine sifter to get back to their fine form.
The hardened parts of your cornstarch can mess up your measurements. For instance, a cup of clumpy cornstarch is not the same as a cup of sifted cornstarch.
3. Check the Smell and Taste
Good quality cornstarch is bland and odorless. If you detect an off-taste or foul odor, it is best to throw it away.
Remember. Consuming spoiled foods is associated with health risks. Hence, practice proper hygiene and food safety techniques to prevent foodborne illness. More importantly, we advise that it is better that you should utilize your ingredients before they go bad!
How to Store Cornstarch Properly?
Storing cornstarch is similar to storing flour. Humidity, sunlight, moisture, and pests are the enemies of your cornstarch. Thus, you need to keep it in a dark, cool, and dry place. You can store your cornstarch in:
- the pantry
- the cellar
- your kitchen cabinet (if it is not too hot or humid)
That way, your cornstarch is safe from contaminants. Plus, you extend its shelf life as well!
Cornstarch is commonly packed in plastic containers or paper packaging. If the original plastic container is resealable, you no longer need to transfer the content to a new container.
If the cornstarch you bought is in paper or cardboard packaging, we advise that you transfer the content in an airtight container. Packaging materials such as paper or cardboard is not a reliable storage container as it can easily absorb moisture and other odor that will ruin your cornstarch.
After you transfer your cornstarch into a clean and dry airtight container, you must make sure it is tightly sealed to protect the starch from oxygen exposure and pest infestation.
As an additional tip, we suggest that you should schedule time in a month to clean your pantry shelves and kitchen cabinets to prevent contamination and pest infestation that may ruin the food stored in it.
Generally speaking, you don’t need a highly innovative storage place to keep your cornstarch. Just simply stick to a dark kitchen cupboard or the food pantry.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does Cornstarch Lose Its Thickening Property if Stored for a Long Time?
The answer is NO. Fortunately, no matter how long it stays in your pantry, cornstarch will still retain its thickening property. You can expect to have glossy-looking, thick and tasty gravy or soft-baked goods even if you have kept your cornstarch for, like, forever.
Cornstarch is not like baking soda or baking powder that loses its potency over time.
2. Can You Refrigerate Cornstarch?
Sure, you can if you really ran out of food storage space in your kitchen. However, it is not necessary to put cornstarch in the fridge at all.
However, we advise that it’s better to just keep your cornstarch in a kitchen cupboard or pantry. Refrigerating cornstarch apparently does not contribute a great advantage.
But if you really prefer to keep your cornstarch in the fridge, see that you transfer it in an airtight container so it won’t draw moisture from the fridge’s cold air. If that happens, you’ll get a clumpy pack or cornstarch. Worst, it can even get moldy!
3. Can You Freeze Cornstarch?
We recommend wrapping your cornstarch container with food wrap or putting it into a heavy-duty freezer bag as an extra layer of protection.
With this being said, it is easier to store cornstarch at room temperature. Considering that the shelf life of cornstarch stored in the pantry or kitchen is technically indefinite, there is no point in putting it in the freezer.
Cornstarch can last forever. You just need to take good care of it. However, it does not mean it can’t go bad.
Humidity, sunlight, moisture, and pests can ruin the quality of your cornstarch.
You must remember to transfer the content in an airtight container and keep it in the dark, dry, and cool area.
As long as you store your cornstarch correctly, the higher the chance that it will stay at its prime until you finish the whole pack.