Southern-style Cornbread
    (originally from America’s Test Kitchen)


“ Unlike its sweet, cakey Northern counterpart, Southern cornbread is thin, crusty, and decidedly savory. Though some styles of Southern cornbread are dry and crumbly, I favor this dense, moist, tender version. Cornmeal mush of just the right texture is essential to this bread. Though I prefer to make cornbread in a preheated cast-iron skillet, a 9" round cake pan or 9" square baking pan, greased lightly with butter and not preheated, will also produce acceptable results if you double the recipe and bake the bread for 25 minutes. ”

(Christopher Kimball, editor-in-chief of Cooks’ Illustrated magazine)

I tripled this recipe and substituted one cup flour for one of the 3 cups of cornmeal. It came out delightful although I also like doing it the “authentic” way. However, you cannot get it out of the skillet without destroying it. If you leave it to cool in the skillet, it sweats against the cast iron as the latter grows cold. Therefore, serve it straight out of the oven and onto the table.

Makes one 8" skillet of cornbread. Double this recipe for a 10" skillet.

  1 tsp vegetable oil
  1 tbsp melted butter
  4 tsp bacon drippings
  1 cup cornmeal
  2 tsp sugar
  ½ tsp salt
  1 tsp baking powder
  ¼ tsp baking soda
  1/3 cup boiling water
  ¾ cup buttermilk
  1 large egg, beaten lightly

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 450°. Set 8" cast-iron skillet with bacon fat (or vegetable oil) in heating oven.

If you use butter, you will need to keep a very close eye on it or it will burn even with the vegetable oil to temper it. One solution is to add the butter to the oil already in the skillet as you take it from the oven—just before you pour the batter in.

2. Measure 1/3 cup cornmeal into medium bowl. Mix remaining cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in small bowl; set aside.

3. Pour boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal; stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in buttermilk gradually, breaking up lumps until smooth, then whisk in egg. (Substitute milk with lemon juice for buttermilk.)

4. When oven is preheated and skillet very hot, stir dry ingredients into mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove skillet from oven. Pour hot bacon fat (or melted butter) from the skillet into the batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour batter into heated skillet.

5. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and instantly turn cornbread onto wire rack (if you can—I usually cannot without losing it because it sticks to my skillets); cool for 5 minutes.