Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread
From Cook's Country
Unlike sweet and cakey Northern versions that are better suited to the dessert table, Southern cornbread recipes contain neither sugar nor flour, making them savory enough to join the main course. We wanted to develop a proper Southern cornbread recipe that made cornbread with hearty corn flavor, a sturdy, moist crumb, and a dark brown crust that would win Northern allegiance. Finely ground Quaker cornmeal gave our cornbread the right texture, and dry-toasting the cornmeal in the oven for five minutes intensified the corn flavor. Buttermilk, which tasters preferred to milk, added a sharp tang that worked well with the corn. When it came to fat selection, a combination of butter (for flavor) and vegetable oil (which can withstand high heat without burning) worked best in our Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread recipe.
While any 10-inch ovensafe skillet will work here, our first choice (for both tradition and function) is a cast-iron skillet. Avoid coarsely ground cornmeal, as it will make the corn bread gritty.
- 2 1/4 cups cornmeal
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
1. Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and middle positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat 10-inch ovensafe skillet on middle rack for 10 minutes. Bake cornmeal on rimmed baking sheet set on lower-middle rack until fragrant and color begins to deepen, about 5 minutes. Transfer hot cornmeal to large bowl and whisk in buttermilk; set aside.
2. Add oil to hot skillet and continue to bake until oil is just smoking, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and add butter, carefully swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour all but 1 tablespoon oil mixture into cornmeal mixture, leaving remaining fat in pan. Whisk baking powder, baking soda, salt, and eggs into cornmeal mixture.
3. Pour cornmeal mixture into hot skillet and bake until top begins to crack and sides are golden brown, 12 to 16 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Serve.
Secrets to Southern-Style Corn Bread
Follow these steps to ensure bold corn flavor and the perfect texture, inside and out.
1. Toasting the cornmeal gives the bread richer corn flavor.
2. Combining the hot cornmeal and buttermilk softens the cornmeal, resulting in a tender, sturdy, slightly moist crumb.
3. A greased and thoroughly heated pan creates a crisp crust.