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Remember grandma's special cornbread? She baked it in a 10-pound, soot-

searing hot, behemoth skillet emerging from my grandma’s oven.  Yet, when the
sweet smell of freshly baked bread and toasted edges filled the kitchen, I quickly
overcame my fears and bellied up to the table with fork in hand.

I learned early on that skillet cornbread is a longtime favorite for a variety of
reasons.  First, it makes excellent use of a humble crop, common to many farms,
homesteads, and even backyard gardens. Once the corn is harvested and dried, it
is ground into a nutritious variety of recipes, ranging from fried catfish to johnny
cakes.

Fortunately, most of us don’t have to worry about crop yields and carrying our corn
harvest to a grist mill for grinding.  Nowadays, high quality cornmeal is modestly
priced and readily available at your local supermarket.  This lets us focus our
attention on turning our humble cornmeal into surprisingly delectable meals.  

Another reason for the popularity of skillet cornbread is because it is as simple to
make as it is tasty. The cast iron skillet is essential to the process.  Cast iron
retains a lot of heat and produces a golden brown crust that is always buttery and
delightfully crunchy. The trick is to preheat the skillet with a generous amount of
your preferred oil (e.g., bacon grease, vegetable shorting, and olive oil).  When you
add the batter to the hot skillet, the sizzle and aroma will tease you with a hint of
what’s in store for dinner.

You can use any recipe you like for skillet cornbread. With that said, please keep
in mind that some recipes turn loose of the skillet better than others.  (See
sidebar “Tips for Getting the Cornbread out of the Skillet.”)

Heavier cornbreads tend to fall out into a single loaf with no effort on your part.
Some of the lighter types (those with a high ratio of wheat flour to cornmeal) may
need a little assistance from you to break free. But don’t fret. Even if the cornbread
doesn’t fall out cleanly, it’s still just as good to eat. If you’re concerned about
presentation, carefully cut the larger portions into uniform pieces and save the
crumbles for sprinkling on a casserole, a salad, or any other highly flavored dish.

Okay, let’s get started.  If you don’t have a recipe, start with this one. It makes a
somewhat heavy cornbread and is very filling.

What you need:
A seasoned cast iron skillet: If you have a new cast iron skillet or need to clean
and season an old skillet see “How to clean and season your cast iron.”

Also try a larger or smaller skillet to create a thinner or thicker batch. Some people
like their cornbread not much thicker than a pancake and some like a 3 inch
wedge.

Ingredients
1 egg
1 cup cornmeal (yellow or white)
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted shortening

Preheat the skillet – Do this first!
1. Add 3 tablespoons of shortening (or your favorite cooking oil) to an 8” or larger
cast iron skillet. Place the skillet in the center of the oven and preheat to 400
degrees.

Prepare the batter
1. Add sugar to egg and stir in well.
2. Add dry ingredients and mix.
3. Blend in vegetable oil.
4. Add milk and stir. Do not over mix. If you have a few lumps, it’s perfect.

Pour and bake
1. Carefully remove hot skillet from oven and pour in batter. (Remember – there’s
is hot oil in the skillet! One alternative is to preheat the skillet on the stove top and
move it to the oven for baking.) You should hear a good sizzle.
2. Return to oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Pay more attention to the color of
the crust at the edges of the skillet. The top may not brown as well as the bottom,
but it will be turned over anyway.

Slice and serve
While the skillet is still warm place a cutting board over the skillet, flip over, and lift
the skillet.  If the cornbread does not fall out, flip back over and gently work around
the edge with a butter knife. Be careful to not scratch the seasoning on the skillet.
Try again.

With the cornbread turned over, slice into wedges and serve on the cutting board
or on a plate. Enjoy!
Cast iron skillet cornbread, ready to serve
cornbread batter, sizzling in skillet
Skillet cornbread, browned at the edges
skillet cornbread cooking in oven
Skillet cornbread, freeing the edges
Flipping the skillet to remove cornbread
Skillet cornbread, perfect crust
Cornbread crust, golden brown and crispy
Skillet cornbread, ready to eat

  • Be sure to use enough cooking oil in the
    preheated skillet
  • Let the cornbread cool a little longer so it
    holds together better
  • Use a thin utensil (e.g. a butterknife) to
    separate the cornbread from the edges of
    the skillet. If you use a metal utensil, be
    gentle and avoid scraping the seasoning
    off the skillet.
  • Use a heavier cornbread recipe (with more
    cornmeal than flour).
Sometimes your cornbread will refuse to come
free of its skillet without breaking apart. Here are
some tips for getting your cornbread out of the
cast iron skillet in one piece -- or mostly in one
piece.
If all else fails, carefully cut the larger portions
into uniform pieces and save the crumbles for
sprinkling on a casserole, a salad, or any other
highly flavored dish.

Whether the cornbread falls cleanly out into a
picturesque loaf or dumps out into a pile of
crumbs, it all tastes just as good.

How to Make Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

Old Fashioned Skillet Cornbread with a Thick, Buttery Crust

How to get your cornbread out of the
skillet in one piece -- or close to it