Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recipe: Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread

Cast iron skillet corn bread ready for serving. 


Corn bread made in a cast iron skillet is a fine side dish to just about any meal.  It goes especially well with dutch oven chili, red beans and rice, and blackened fish.  This combination of New World maize and Old World cast iron cookware dates back to at least the 1600's in North America.

True to its pilgrim roots, this from-scratch recipe features only the basics:  corn meal, flour, butter, salt, baking powder, brown sugar, milk, and an egg.  It's really easy, and gets you from hungry to eating corn bread in about 22 minutes.

The key to outstanding cast iron corn bread is to start things off on the stovetop.  Pouring your batter into an already-hot cast iron skillet adds body to each slice in the form of a toothsome bottom crust.  It also introduces a nice nutty flavor since the butter added to the hot skillet browns a bit before the cold batter brings the temperature down.  This method also eliminates any sticking that could occur if you added cornbread batter to a cold cast iron skillet. 

I like to cut my corn bread into slices right there in the skillet, and serve it in place.  Keeping it in the skillet makes a nice presentation, and keeps the corn bread warm until it's time for seconds (and there will be seconds!). 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (also works dandy with gluten free all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt (or 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk (2% and skim are also acceptable)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (half a stick)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (for the hot skillet)
Process
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven is warming, combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Make yourself a little well in the middle to hold the wet ingredients (shown above, at right).

Heat a medium cast iron skillet on the stove at medium high heat.  While the pan is heating, melt your butter in a separate dish, and combine the beaten egg with the milk.  Once the cast iron skillet is just starting to smoke, pour the milk and egg mixture into the well in the dry ingredients, and then add the melted butter last.  Mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Add a tablespoon-sized pat of butter to the hot cast iron skillet (it'll be rolling smoke at this point), and swish it around for even coverage.  A little browning of the butter is ideal, but you don't want it to burn.  Pour in the corn bread batter, and then transfer the skillet to the oven to finish.

Bake until a knife or toothpick comes out clean, or about 16-18 minutes.

Slice the cornbread like a pie right in the skillet, and serve hot with butter and honey.

14 comments:

  1. We made this last night with an awesome batch of chili and it was the first time we've had cornbread success! Thanks a bunch. Keep posting these awesome recipes, 'cause it's almost as good as hanging around in the kitchen absorbing your goodness.

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  2. Hey Campbell!

    Glad it worked out for you guys... and thanks for the encouragement. Hoping we can hang out in a kitchen together sometime soon.

    -D

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  3. I tried this tonight and it was great. We had it with BBQ'ed pork ribs that sat in the oven all day @170º on a chunk of cast iron then were transferred to the Weber kettle w/Mangrates and mesquite charcoal. We also had baked beans that had been on low in the dutch oven all day.

    The only thing I'd change is adding a touch of honey and maybe something that would give it a bit of bite.

    I was in my local antique store today picking up a very old cast iron waffle iron and found a cast iron cornbread skillet. This skillet is a round 8" skillet that makes 8 individual slices and it makes that delicious brown glazed crust on the bottom and all sides of each slice.

    If you'd like to pictures of the cornbread skillet, waffle iron and tonights meal then shoot me an email at lumberman svo (<---one word) at google dot com.

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  4. Hey John,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Glad to hear the corn bread was great! Pork ribs and baked beans sound delicious.

    I usually smother my corn bread in honey once it's baked... so I do tend to keep the cornbread itself less sweet.

    When I was cooking in Alaska, we'd make this cornbread with a bunch of cheddar cheese and diced green chiles... which might provide that "bite" you're after. I'd say one of those small cans (4.5 oz.) and maybe a cup of shredded cheddar cheese ought to do it.

    I have seen the sectioned skillets you're talking about, but don't own one. Have to add that to the list. Nice work picking one up at the local antique shop!

    Thanks again for stopping by.

    -Derek

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  5. What size should the cast iron skillet be?

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  6. Hi There,

    For this recipe, I use what I call a medium cast iron skillet. It's a Lodge 8-inch skillet (model: 8SK). It actually measures 10 1/4 inches across the top, and 8 1/4 inches across the bottom.

    Hope that helps!

    -Derek

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  7. I want to try this and have a skillet that will work, but when cooking with charcoal and a volcano oven would I cover the skillet in order to retain heat? I use 12 briquettes to get my 350 degrees. Thanks

    Mike

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  8. Hey Mike,

    I don't cook with briquettes, but yeah, you'd definitely want to cover the pan to retain heat. Ideally you'd do it in a dutch oven with most of the briquettes on top. Hope that helps!

    -Derek

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  9. Hello. I only have a large cast iron pan and I am really interested in making this corn bread recipe. Like right now! Anyway I have a bit family so can I use my pan and maybe double the recipe?
    Thanks,
    Brittany

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    Replies
    1. Hi Brittany,

      You can definitely double the recipe and use your big pan.

      Enjoy!

      -Derek

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  10. Derek,

    Cooked this recipe for our 8 ASM's after our troop's vigourous day on the mountain bike trails near the New River State Park. Turned out nice. The briquette calculator came in handy and was accurate. Stewing the chili in a 12" dutch over calls for 18 briquettes underneath with 6 on the lid. While cooking cornbread calls for 6 underneath and 16 or so on the lid. I was able to stack the dutch ovens with Chili on the bottom and cornbread on top in order to minimize footprint in the campsite.

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  11. Thanks for your comments on the chili and corn bread. Sounds like your troop had a fine meal! Great idea to stack the dutch ovens... conserves heat and, as you noted, also minimizes the campsite footprint.

    Happy camping!

    -Derek

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  12. Thanks for the recipe! I've been looking for a good conbread recipe to make dressing with and I believe this is it! It turned out great, my husband ate over half of a 9x13 pan of dressing!

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    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it! Thanks for stopping by.

      -Derek

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