Skillet Cornbread

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Sometimes I wake up with a specific craving that has no obvious root. For example, on Saturday morning I woke up with a craving for cornbread. Where did that come from? Was it the fact that I’d been watching the Sean Brock episodes of “Mind of a Chef” at the gym? Actually, that was probably it–strike that first sentence–because in the episode I just watched, he harvested his own corn, shocked the kernels in liquid nitrogen, and made the most incredible-looking corn grits I’d ever seen. I didn’t have grits in my cupboard on Saturday morning, but I did have cornmeal, which is where this idea came from. Then all I had to do was find the right recipe.

Enter Alex Guarnaschelli. I find Alex to be one of the most fascinating figures in the food world. She straddles the divide between the snobby food elite (she made her bones working at Guy Savoy in France; her mother is a legendary cookbook editor) and the populist world of the Food Network. Somehow she keeps her footing, and her integrity, as she shares her mother’s recipe for pâté in her own cookbook (an impressive tome that I plan to buy someday) and then judges someone’s dish made with fruit-flavored sports drink on Chopped.

Her recipe for cornbread reveals the intelligence between everything she does. The ingredients start out familiar enough: cornmeal, flour, sugar (yes, sugar, I love cornbread with sugar and if you don’t, that’s fine, but stop judging! (oh and I can already anticipate your comments, “That’s not cornbread, it’s cake” I’ve heard it all, you won’t convince me so give up now)), kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda.

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Then she ups the ante with the liquid ingredients: whole milk, buttermilk, 2 eggs, and almost a whole stick of butter melted. Yeah, she ain’t kidding around.

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Pour those into the dry ingredients:

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And you’re ready to rock n’ roll.

Now what makes this cornbread recipe extra special is that you cook it in a hot cast iron skillet. That’s why I titled this post “Skillet Cornbread.” What I did is I put the stick of butter in there, put it in the oven, and then when the butter was melted, I poured out most of it into the liquid measuring cup and left a healthy slick of it to keep the batter from sticking.

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That goes into your hot oven and 25 minutes later, you have cornbread. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best cornbread I’ve ever made. Crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, it’ll be my new go-to cornbread recipe from now on. Here’s a wedge of it with that morning’s improvised breakfast of sautéed broccoli and squash with a fried egg on top:

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You’ve gotta serve it warm out of the skillet and slather every bite with some soft butter. Man, was that good stuff. I’m glad I had that not-so-mysterious craving and I’m glad that I found the right person to help me satisfy that craving.

Now have at it: yell at me about the sugar. I’ve got my new favorite cornbread here to protect me.

Recipe: Skillet Cornbread

Summary: Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (well-shaken)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F.
  2. Now this is very easy. Are you ready? Put the stick of butter in a cast iron skillet and put the skillet in the hot oven while you do everything else. Here’s everything else: whisk together the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a big measuring cup.
  3. Now check that butter, it should be melted. Carefully (with an oven mitt) remove the skillet from the oven, pour most of the melted butter into the wet ingredients, whisking while you do so the butter doesn’t cook the eggs–leave about a tablespoon behind. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisk until just combined, and then pour the whole mixture back into the hot cast iron skillet.
  4. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then serve it warm with more butter. Yum.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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101 comments

  1. Yum! I’ve tried making traditional southern cornbread with no sugar and just cornmeal, but it wasn’t for me. I like using a little flour and adding honey to the melted butter for a bit of sweetness.

  2. Yum! I’ve tried making traditional southern cornbread with no sugar and just cornmeal, but it wasn’t for me. I like using a little flour and adding honey to the melted butter for a bit of sweetness.

  3. Dude. I’ve been making East West Grill cornbread since you posted that a few years ago and love it. Do I need to change up?

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  5. Actually my favorite uses brown sugar, albeit less butter and comes from Moosewood’s “Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.” On my sailboat I sub out the butter for coconut oil if out of butter and now make a gluten-free version using GF flour. ’tis yum! The bacon fat? That sounds FABULOUS Sarah!

  6. I’ve been wanting to purchase a cast iron skillet. So many things can be made using one. This recipe reminds me of my grandma and her country cornbread, which I’m sure is Jiffy based but to me it’s grandma’s cornbread. Comfort food and love is what comes from a cast iron skillet.

  7. After having roasted, skinned and frozen 80 pounds of Hatch green chiles this weekend, it’s the perfect time to chop up a few and add to the cornbread. Some grilled corn wouldn’t hurt, either. As for cast iron skillets, buy one NOW. They are inexpensive and, if you invest the time to properly cure it, you will have an incredibly versatile cooking instrument. I know storage space is at a premium for most people, but this would be first in line for available space. Mine is from my mother, probably at least seventy years old and as good as new (actually, much better than new! Check thrift stores not to save money but to buy a little piece of distant history)

  8. This is obviously not a health recipe, but even with all that butter already in the cornbread, do you really still need to serve it with even more butter for it to taste good? I love cornbread and am partial to variations that hold up flavor-wise on their own. It otherwise looks great at least!

  9. The cast iron skillet itself doesn’t really matter as long as it’s iron. It’s the curing that makes the pan. When you by your pan clean it thoroughly with soap and rinse very well. Coat inside of pan with lard. Build a fire in a pit or BBQ grill and let go to to hot coals. In the pit method just put the pan in and leave till coals go out and pan is cool. Wipe the outside with a hot wet rag. Fill the inside with cold water and bring to a boil on your stove top and then wipe it out with a clean cloth. Wipe a small amount of lard into it and store. Don’t use soap once you have done this or you will have to repeat the process. Just boil wipe and coat after use. Using a BBQ grill will work too but put the pan on the grill rack while fire is still burning instead of waiting for coals only. You can do it in the oven but there is a small fire hazard and it makes your house stink. Happy Cooking!!

  10. My Southern Grandma uses bacon fat instead of the butter, otherwise the recipe is pretty close to hers. Try it-it gives it a nice crunch. Plus, bacon fat!

  11. I am going to try this recipe. It is pretty much the way I make it. I don’t add sugar because we never had sugar in it when I was growing up. Possibly because sugar was hard to come by and we just couldn’t afford it. I remember also that my mother sometimes added rendered fat back, that is, what is left over after you have gotten all the fat out of the fat back. these “renderings” were added to the cornbread. Of course, in those days, nobody worried about cholesterol and I don’t recall that anyone in my family was overweight. I love cornbread and milk (either buttermilk or “sweet milk.” That makes a night bedtime snack.

  12. I love the way your mind works! I am the same way, waking up with a very specific craving. It’s so random and I am often like WTF at myself. And I get left with wondering how and where the craving came from. I am not a donut lover (I eat it maybe twice a year), but the other day, I woke up with a sudden donut craving. No idea how.
    Anyways, this looks awesome. The next time I make cornbread, I’ll come back to this post!

  13. I love the way your mind works! I am the same way, waking up with a very specific craving. It’s so random and I am often like WTF at myself. And I get left with wondering how and where the craving came from. I am not a donut lover (I eat it maybe twice a year), but the other day, I woke up with a sudden donut craving. No idea how.
    Anyways, this looks awesome. The next time I make cornbread, I’ll come back to this post!

  14. Yum! Love corn bread. Try putting it in a dutch oven and adding beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, salsa, and cheese. You could mix in bacon or beef too if you’re into that. I saute the veggies a bit first. It’s a delicious and filling dinner. Best to toss in some cumin etc.
    Cheers!

  15. My Grandmother used to use water-ground cornmeal to make cornbread all the time; I wish that had gotten the recipe when she was alive!

  16. I use a quarter cup of bacon fat and no butter. I grew up cooking this cornbread with eggs but then I married a person that was allergic to eggs. If you let your cornmeal and flour set mixed with the buttermilk and milk for 45 minutes or so the flour will develop enough gluten to hold the cornbread together without eggs.

  17. Great,something I can feed my wife,whilst,she and her friends down there 10 alarm chilie from Wendy’s!

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  21. I’ve been making cornbread ‘New-England style’ (in cast iron) ever since I first learned to cook. Try adding freshly-picked blueberries! AWESOME!

  22. Sharon although I have all sizes of antique seasoned cast iron skillets. I will agree with Adam. A 10″ skillet will serve a party of 4 quite well.

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