08 November 2010

Skillet Cornbread

If I could only take one thing with me to a desert island it would probably be my cast iron skillet. It would be useful for bashing the local fauna on the head and for cooking said fauna over an open fire.*  Though I am not on a desert island my cast iron skillet is still in daily use, and has developed such a lovely patina that I don't need to grease it to cook an egg so long as I have properly preheated it first.

There are a few tricks to cast iron, and anyone who loves their cast iron will tell you what they are and they'll all be different and you'll get confused. Here's what I do with mine: cook with it often, scrub with hot water and a plastic scrub brush, heat it dry on the stove-top, repeat. It is a frying pan. Its ancestors helped tame the West. You don't need to coddle it.

My favorite (right now) use of my cast iron is cornbread. There are two basic forms of cornbread: Southern and Yankee. Southern cornbread does not have sugar in it. Yankee cornbread does. I don't think preferring one over the other says anything about the state of your palate, your sense or your immortal soul, though some people believe otherwise. I make Southern cornbread because sugar in the main course confuses me. Here's my recipe:

What, you wanted directions? And maybe something more legible than the fine art pictured above? Okay, but only if you promise to try the recipe. This is really, really good cornbread, especially when it's still hot. I usually serve it with pinto beans, but it stands up to spicy chili and pretty much anything else you want to pair it with. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can use an 8”x8” casserole dish.

alien moon


2 Tablespoons butter (for the pan)

¼ cup butter

1 cup cornmeal
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda

1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit. If using casserole dish, put the 2 T butter in the dish, and put the dish in the oven while it heats.

Melt the ¼ cup butter and set aside to cool.

Combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly, you want to make sure that the baking soda and baking powder are distributed evenly.

In a medium bowl beat the egg. Stir in the buttermilk and milk. Stirring constantly, add in the ¼ cup melted butter.

If using a skillet, put it on the stove-top on high heat and add the 2 Tablespoons butter. Heat until butter begins to bubble.

Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined. If using casserole dish, carefully remove it from the oven (hot!) and place it on a stable heat proof surface. Pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet/ casserole. Immediately place skillet in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Check after 15 minutes and rotate if necessary for even browning.

*I would probably only smack the fauna on the head if they attacked me first. Besides, if I were really alone on a desert island I'd probably eat a poisonous berry and die anyway.


  1. Okay. Now tell me what you do with your pinto beans.

  2. Short Answer: I cook them in water. Longer answer coming soonish.

  3. Good ... because I want to know about beans, too. Having strange cravings for rice and beans. S. will not be happy about this, I'm sure.

    We have a cast iron skillet that we bought first to make cornbread. It's lived many lives since, but it still likes cornbread best. :)

  4. Making this tonight, though I don't have quite enough baking powder. (How could I possibly run out of baking powder? Someone keeps losing my running shopping list, that's how.) But I noticed that you've used the 1/4 cup butter twice in the method and not the 2 tblsp. Which goes where?

  5. 1/4 cup melted goes into the buttermilk mixture; 2 T goes into the pan to make the cornbread all crusty.

    I think it's right in the recipe, it's just that I had you melt the 1/4 cup and then set it aside to cool, otherwise it would be too hot and curdle the buttermilk.

    It's possible I'm very bad at writing recipes.

  6. You just need to change "1/4 cup butter" in the paragraph starting "If using a skillet" above to "2 T butter". And maybe clarify what you do with the 2T butter if you're using a casserole: I presume you swirl it around in the hot dish before putting in the mixture.

    That should clear up any ambiguity. (Feel free to delete this comment (and the other one) once it's all fixed.)



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