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World's Best Cornbread Recipe

Buster began cooking as a wee pup by watching his mother fix the kibble. He was hooked. He loves preparing—and writing about—food.

Fresh from the oven cornbread, still in the skillet.

Fresh from the oven cornbread, still in the skillet.

What Makes Delicious Cornbread?

  • A crispy, crunchy exterior with a moist, light interior.
  • Lots of intense corn flavor.
  • A tender crumb.

I've been baking cornbread for years, and have made more mistakes than I can count. Slowly, though, I've been able to perfect it.

Here's how to make the most delicious cornbread you've ever tasted. You'll love serving this with chili or stew, or fresh peas, or simply eating it hot from the oven with loads of sweet butter.

This is true, downhome cornbread!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of yellow cornmeal (it's okay to use white cornmeal, but I prefer yellow)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I prefer canola oil)

Step 1: Make the Batter

  1. Turn on your oven to 400°F to preheat.
  2. Put 3 tablespoons of canola oil into a black 12-inch skillet, and put the skillet into the oven so it'll get hot. The skillet with the oil should be in the oven about 15 minutes or so. You want the skillet, and the oil inside it, to get piping hot, but not to begin to smoke.
  3. You'll use two bowls, one large and one small.
  4. Into the larger bowl, put the dry ingredients. Stir them till you're sure that they've all been mixed together thoroughly. Make sure your baking powder/soda have been completely incorporated into your flour and cornmeal.
  5. Into the smaller bowl, put the wet ingredients. (I usually put my butter into one of my small mixing bowls and put it into the microwave, on high, for about 20 seconds to melt the butter.) Then I pour in the buttermilk, then break in the egg, and use a fork to mix it all together.
  6. Now here's the trick: Pour the liquid ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients.
  7. Use a spatula (or large wooden spoon) to mix the wet and dry ingredients, using only a few swift strokes—about a dozen turns. It's okay if there are small bits of dry flour/cornmeal here and there. The point is to mix lightly—if it starts to look smooth like cake batter, you've gone too far. (It'll still be good, but these instructions are about making a great cornbread.)

Step 2: Bake

  1. Use an oven mitt to remove the hot skillet from the oven and place it on your counter. Then pour your cornbread batter into it, then return the skillet to the oven.
  2. Bake for about 20 minutes. I encourage you to set your timer for 15 minutes, then check the cornbread and turn the skillet halfway around (if your oven browns unevenly—this is usually for older ovens).
  3. Some ovens run really hot—so your cornbread might be ready in slightly less than 20 minutes. For other ovens, it could take a little longer.
  4. When will you know it's done? When the top has turned a gorgeous golden brown.
  5. Remove it to the counter and let it sit for about 8 minutes. Place a plate on top of the skillet (use an oven mitt—the skillet will still be really hot) and invert so that the cornbread falls onto the plate. The top (what had been the bottom on the skillet) will be dark and beautiful!
  6. Let the cornbread rest for about 10 minutes, then slice into wedges. The crust will be dark and crisp, the interior will be moist and have a heavenly crumb.
  7. Trust me—you and your loved ones (or guests if you're serving it for a dinner party) are going to rave. Enjoy!
A piping hot slice of incredible cornbread!

A piping hot slice of incredible cornbread!

Questions & Answers

Question: I have a hard time finding plain meal; it’s all self-rising. Can I use self-rising meal in the cornbread recipe instead?

Answer: Yes, you can. If you use self-rising cornmeal, then don't add any baking powder; otherwise, follow my recipe and you should have some great cornbread!

Question: Can you substitute regular cream for buttermilk when making cornbread?

Answer: Buttermilk has an acid in it that reacts with the baking soda to help with the tenderness of the bread.

To make a buttermilk-substitute, stir one-half teaspoon of lemon juice into milk or cream.

Question: Should I use salted or unsalted butter for this cornbread recipe?

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Answer: I use salted butter, but unsalted would work, too. I think cornbread tastes best with a slightly salty taste, but I realize this is a personal call.

Question: I’ve never had cornbread. Can you eat it as dessert?

Answer: Cornbread is usually eaten alongside a meal. However, my dad used to crumble cornbread into buttermilk -- a common practice in southeast Texas -- to eat with a spoon at the end of his meal. Does that make it "dessert"? :-)

Question: I gave my spouse the grocery list, which included buttermilk for making cornbread. She brought home low-fat cultured buttermilk and I used it. It did not taste good although the texture was great. I'm assuming one needs to use old-fashioned buttermilk?

Answer: Actually, low-fat is fine. I wonder if you used enough salt? Breads -- quick breads and yeast breads -- suffer when there isn't enough salt. It's the one thing that will destroy the taste.

Question: Can I make this cornbread recipe in mini loaf pans so everyone has their own?

Answer: I've never tried this recipe in mini loaf pans, but I think it would work. Once in the oven, I would check them after, oh, 12 minutes or so. My hunch is that they will bake slightly quicker in smaller pans.

Question: I'm looking forward to trying out your cornbread recipe! Have you tried making it with bacon drippings instead of oil? Do you have a recommendation between trying it that way or sticking with canola oil?

Answer: Yes, you could use bacon drippings. Use the same amount as called for in the recipe for canola oil. I suppose this is a personal preference issue. I don't care for the bacon taste it gives to the cornbread, but I do like bacon drippings when I'm making mustard greens or collards.

Question: Do you pour hot oil into the batter for the cornbread recipe?

Answer: The other way around: you pour the batter into the hot oil. Good luck with your cornbread!

Question: What size skillet do you use for baking cornbread?

Answer: This recipe is for a 12" skillet.

Question: Does the cornbread recipe need sugar?

Answer: You can leave out the sugar if you wish. I think it adds a complementary taste to the corn.

Question: I'm going to a potluck. Have you ever made muffins with this cornbread recipe?

Answer: Yes, the recipe makes great muffins. Put a half teaspoon of oil in each muffin tin, then spoon the batter in. Check after 15 minutes -- muffins require a shorter baking time. Look for a toasty brown top; then they'll be ready.

Question: Can I use a muffin pan to make cornbread?

Answer: Yes, you can. You can use oil spray like Pam or you can put a little oil into each section then spread it with a paper towel.

Question: Are you using a cast-iron skillet?

Answer: Definitely!

Question: Can I make corn muffins with this cornbread recipe? If so, how many does it make and how long do I bake them for?

Answer: Yes, this recipe can be made into muffins. Fill the muffin tin cups about 2/3s full then bake at 400F for about 13 -- 15 minutes. The length of time will depend on your oven. I suggest you set your timer for 13 minutes, but it may take longer. You want the top to take on a deep golden brown. This recipe makes 10 -- 12 muffins.

Question: What is the oven temperature set to cook the cornbread? I’m assuming 400°F

Answer: Yes, the cornbread bakes at 400 F.

Question: Can I use an 8 inch cast iron? If so, how far to the top of the pan do I fill the batter and how many minutes cook time?

Answer: If using an 8-inch pan, you would fill it to within a quarter-inch (7 mm) of the top. This recipe makes more than that, so you'll have leftover batter. You could make corn cakes I suppose...? (Corn cakes are poured into a greased skillet, like pancakes, and cooked till done. They're thin cakes you can eat with butter or syrup or honey.

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