How To Use Cornmeal For Pizza – The Ultimate Guide
You’ve probably all heard “you should add cornmeal to your pizza”, but why exactly? It seems like everyone jumped aboard the train, but no one explained why!
Well, it’s simple really; cornmeal helps add a crunchy texture to your pizza, helps crisp it up, and adds a delicious nutty flavor as well!
So, how do you use cornmeal in pizza? There are two main ways you can incorporate it. The first and most popular is dusting the bottom of your regular pizza dough with cornmeal. The second way is actually making the pizza dough and substituting a bit of the flour with cornmeal.
Today, we will be looking at exactly how to use cornmeal when dusting pizza or when making pizza dough.
We will also guide you through the many types there is to use and when which is best. And, to make it even better, we have included an easy cornmeal pizza dough recipe for you to try at home!
What Is Cornmeal?
Cornmeal is a type of course flour that has been ground from dried corn. It is an extremely popular ingredient around the world and is even a staple in many countries.
It is also used to make loads of world-famous dishes like polenta and tortillas.
There are many different types of cornmeal and even sub-categories within each. The 3 main types of cornmeal are classified according to their texture (how finely they have been ground).
You can find it in a coarse grind, medium grind, and finely ground form. Each of these textures has different uses and naturally creates different end products.
Then, cornmeal can also be classified according to the type of corn used. Blue cornmeal is a lesser-known variety made from blue corn.
It has a light-blue or purple color to it and a surprisingly sweet flavor. Usually, blue cornmeal only comes in fine or medium texture.
Another popular type you find is white cornmeal, also known as mielie-meal. This cornmeal is made from white maize that is extremely common in many regions in Africa.
This white cornmeal is often used to make cornbread, especially in the more southern parts of the United States.
But, the most popular type of corn used is yellow maize. Yellow cornmeal can be found virtually across the globe and is used to make tortillas, tacos, and polenta.
Another type of classification used for cornmeal is how it has been processed. There are mainly 2 methods: steel-ground cornmeal, or stone-ground cornmeal.
Using steel-grinding as a production method for cornmeal is very popular amongst manufacturers that mass-produce it. It is extremely common in the United States.
This method completely removes the husk and the germ, leaving only the endosperm to be ground. This method removes a ton of flavor and nutrients.
Stone-grinding corn on the other hand leaves some of the husk and germ in the product. This makes it more of a whole-grain product with lots more flavor and nutrients.
Cornmeal Vs Corn Flour
We have already discussed exactly what cornmeal is, but what exactly is corn flour? Is it the same thing?
In short, cornmeal and corn flour are not the same product.
Corn flour, also commonly called corn starch, is a highly processed product also made from corn grains. Cornmeal is made using the endosperm of the grain, whereas corn flour is extracted from it—only the starchy parts.
It is a very fine white powder that is used to help thicken sauces, soups, and other liquid products in both savory and sweet recipes.
How To Use Cornmeal For Pizza
There are two main ways in which cornmeal can be used for pizza.
The first, and the most popular method it is used, is by dusting the pizza dough before baking it.
The second method is to actually use the cornmeal inside the dough and create cornmeal pizza dough (instead of traditional wheat-based pizza dough).
Each of these uses is obviously very different, but we will discuss both in-depth today, exactly what type of cornmeal you should use, and how it works.
Dusting Pizza With Cornmeal
When dusting pizza with cornmeal, the cornmeal isn’t incorporated into the dough in any way! The reason this method is done is to help give the pizza dough an added crunch, crispy texture, and a little bit more flavor.
You would actually be surprised to learn that most pizza chains use cornmeal on the bottoms of their pizzas for this exact reason!
Not only does it affect the texture and flavor of your pizza dough, but it actually also functions as a non-stick agent.
It acts as a protective layer between the pizza dough and the baking surface, making it much easier to remove the pizza once it has been fully baked.
Now, we must also mention that many people aren’t a fan of using cornmeal to dust the dough with. It can potentially burn, especially when using it on extremely hot surfaces like a pizza stone.
And, some people simply don’t like the grainy texture it adds, but, to each his own!
What Type Of Cornmeal Should You Use For Dusting?
Naturally, cornmeal is used to add texture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use the coarsest form of cornmeal you can find!
We would highly recommend going for medium-textured cornmeal, especially when starting with this technique for the first time. It will give you some texture, but not overwhelm the dough.
If after that you decide that you would like some more texture, then definitely go for the coarser option. The same goes for when you like the flavor, but want less texture; simply choose the finest cornmeal you can find.
In terms of corn type used, we would recommend using either yellow cornmeal or white cornmeal. Both these won’t add a strange color to your pizza dough and will brown beautifully.
And, when it comes to stone-ground or steel-ground cornmeal, we wouldn’t fuss too much about it.
Because you are merely using it to dust the pizza base, you don’t need to take its nutrient content into consideration. You will use so little it won’t make an impact.
How To Dust Pizza With Cornmeal
This is a very easy process. Simply coat your roasting tray, cookie sheet, pizza stone, or other baking dishes with some cornmeal. You do not have to put on an extremely thick coating.
Then, once the surface has been dusted, add your shaped pizza dough. Add the sauce and toppings and bake the pizza as you normally would.
Even though the cornmeal might burn if the temperature is extremely hot (like on a pizza stone), it won’t add a charred flavor to it, but more of a smoky one. And, it will still give you great texture!
You don’t have to use cornmeal on a pizza stone, but we do recommend using it on pizza peels and pizza pans (obviously not the perforated ones). These do have the tendency to cause the dough to stick, so it would be very helpful.
Wheat Flour Vs Cornmeal – Which Works Best?
There is a massive ongoing debate about which is better to dust the bottom of your pizza dough with and trust us when we say, it matters!
In terms of helping prevent the pizza dough from sticking to the baking surface both of these ingredients will get the job done. They will both act as a protective layer between the dough and surface and create a smooth base that evenly cooks.
When it comes to texture and mouthfeel, this is where the big differences start coming in. But we have to say, as always, it comes down to personal preference (this is just ours).
Wheat flour doesn’t add any texture but does leave a lot of flour in your mouth. And when flour and moisture mixes, it sometimes creates a very unappealing sensation.
Cornmeal on the other hand only adds texture because it dries out completely when baked. And, you can even adjust the amount of texture it adds by choosing varying levels of grind.
Another very important factor to take into consideration is the flavor each of these adds. Flour, again, doesn’t do much.
In fact, many people hate the taste of toasted flour on pizza and bread. Cornmeal toasts nicely and adds nuttiness to your pizza base.
Cornmeal Pizza Recipe
Okay, so this is definitely the lesser-known way to use cornmeal with pizza. But, we must say, it is a delicious option to have with a ton of benefits!
Making a cornmeal-based pizza dough will give you quite a unique flavor and a divine texture, especially if you love crispy pizzas! And, what’s even better is that it is just as easy (if not easier) to make as regular pizza dough.
The recipe we have today is a yeast-based cornmeal pizza dough. Cornmeal, especially very textured ones, can create quite dense products even when used in conjunction with regular flour.
However, the yeast helps make it much lighter, especially after allowing it to rise for a bit.
While cornmeal by itself is gluten-free, because we are using it alongside flour, this is maybe just a “less-gluten” recipe. Making pizza dough with just cornmeal will give you more of a dense bread than anything else.
Quick and Easy Cornmeal Pizza Dough
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 1 ½ tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons salt
- To activate the yeast, combine the warm water, yeast, and granulated sugar in a small mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients together well and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes. The mixture will start frothing; this indicates that the yeast is active.
- Next, gently whisk in the olive oil into the yeast mixture. Set it aside. In a large bowl (preferably using a stand mixer), combine the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, and salt. While the mixer is running at a low speed, slowly add the liquid ingredients.
- Continue mixing the ingredients together until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer without sticking.
- Next, shape the dough into a smooth ball and place it inside a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm area (on top of the oven or fridge, or near a window or heat source). The dough should double in size.
- Once the dough has risen, you can shape it into the desired size and thickness and place it on a non-stick baking surface. You can also coat the baking pan or pizza stone (or tray) with more cornmeal.
- Add your toppings and bake the pizza in a preheated oven at 450°F for roughly 12-15 minutes.
What Type Of Cornmeal Should You Use For Making Pizza Dough?
For pizza dough, it is best to use either a fine or a medium textured cornmeal.
We personally prefer using the finely ground cornmeal inside the dough so that you have a lightly textured base, but not too much so that everyone doesn’t like it.
If you want to still add texture after that, use medium or coarse cornmeal to dust the baking tray and bake the pizza base in that.
When choosing a variety of cornmeal to use, if you are looking to go traditional, we recommend using white cornmeal.
It will not add a noticeable color to your pizza dough and it will give it a nutty flavor. You can also use yellow cornmeal which will help give the dough a nicely golden-brown appearance.
And, if you are feeling experimental, try blue or red cornmeal. This is also a great option if you are having themed parties!
For cornmeal pizza dough, we would recommend using stone-ground cornmeal to get the nutrients that this product offers. However, you can use steel-ground cornmeal which is usually cheaper and easier to find.
Now that we’ve gone over some of the best ways to incorporate cornmeal into your next pizza, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Do you have to use cornmeal for pizza?
You don’t have to use cornmeal for pizza, but it does make a big difference that a lot of people (and successful pizza-making chain stores) like.
You might not have even noticed your favorite pizza shop adding it! It adds a nice texture, good flavor, and helps the pizza not stick.
Is adding cornmeal to pizza unhealthy?
Cornmeal is actually a gluten-free product and arguably contains more nutrients than regular flour. So, when adding it to pizza (traditionally already an unhealthy dish) it won’t make a big difference in nutritional content.
At least not in a way that will matter compared to all the other unhealthy ingredients.
Is cornmeal the same as semolina?
While both of these products (or at least the popular varieties of each) look very similar, they are different in loads of ways.
The main one is that cornmeal is made from gluten-free corn grains, whereas semolina is made from gluten-containing durum wheat.
You can use them interchangeably for this recipe, but cornmeal adds that something special.
Why does my pizza stick to my pizza stone without cornmeal?
While you do not have to add cornmeal to a pizza stone (because it does have a tendency to burn at those high temperatures), it will still help prevent the pizza dough from sticking.
Otherwise, your dough is simply too wet and doesn’t crisp up nicely and evenly. Try incorporating more flour into the flour or flour up the base.