Cornbread can fall into many categories….the good, the bad, dry or moist, sweet or not, yellow or white. This recipe for “Black Skillet Cornbread”, from the new cook book “Skillet Love” by New York Times Best Selling Cookbook author Anne Byrn, published by Grand Central Publishing, is in my opinion, simply “the best cornbread” I have ever eaten. I always hesitate to declare anything “the best” as that concept is full of conflict in that my best might not be yours. I take exception to my rule and challenge you to make it and see if you agree or not. The recipe itself is part of the deliciousness, but the key “ingredient” is the cast iron skillet in which it is cooked.
“Skillet Love” has more than 150 recipes, from “steak to cake” all baked, charred, roasted, fried, grilled and browned in a 12 inch seasoned cast iron skillet. Did you know that you can quickly make a pound cake in cast iron? How about the crispiest crust pizza ever? A whole roasted hen along with vegetables? These recipes, the history of cast iron cookware, how to season a new cast iron skillet as well as how to keep your old one in great shape is all to be found between the pages of this delightful book. Beautiful photography by Danielle Atkins, lively prop styling by Jessie Pickren and the food styling by me and Anne.
When asked what is my go-to cooking pan, I always reply it is my much loved and cared for cast iron skillet that belonged to my Grandmother on my Mother’s side who I never met. It is old and shiny black with a beautifully seasoned finish. It has moved along with me in life, it has pleased me when life was not so pleasing and has cooked many tasty upside down cakes and crispy breads, never failing to satisfy. It is just a cast iron skillet, a material object, but it has a life of stories within. I have added many cast iron pieces to my collection of pots and pans over the years. Some of my favorites come from Lodge Cast Iron which is made right here in Tennessee. Lodge was the perfect skillet for this most perfect of cornbreads.
The “sizzle” is the key to success when baking cornbread. Placing the skillet, with oil, in a cold oven then turning it to 450 degrees and leaving the skillet until it is very, very hot and the oil is “shimmering” before adding the batter is how to get the crusty goodness. Be patient. This can take a few minutes, which is when you can gather and measure out your ingredients. Maybe have a sip of wine or a cup of tea. Just be patient…see that sizzle?
A couple of things before we get to the recipe. Good cornmeal is also a key to making good cornbread. There are so many varieties on the market that it can be confusing when shopping. White, yellow, stone ground, rough, smooth, self rising or plain? I used Anne’s favorite cornmeal from “The Old Mill”. Their white self rising cornmeal can be bought from their online shop. It is stone ground, silky and grainy at the same time and makes a great skillet of cornbread as you can see.
This is how we ate it yesterday…a hot bowl of tomato soup topped with shredded Gruyere.
If you live in Tennessee you cannot get much more local than this cookbook. The author, the photographer, the prop stylist and I all live in Nashville. Lodge Cast iron is made in South Pittsburgh, TN. The Old Mill cornmeal is ground in Pigeon Forge, TN. Bon Appetit.
Black Skillet Cornbread
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease or veg oil
- 1 3/4 cups self-rising white cornmeal
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup veg oil
- 1 1/2 cups full-fat buttermilk
- 1 to 4 tablespoons water (optional)
- Add bacon grease or veg oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Whisk together the cornmeal and flour. Stir in the oil and buttermilk until smooth. If batter is too thick, thin it with the water.
- When oven comes to temperature, remove the skillet and pour in the batter. It should sizzle. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cornbread is deeply browned, 12 to 17 minutes.
- If need be, run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cornbread out onto a cutting board, bottom-side up. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut into wedges.
Recipe used with permission, from the cookbook “Skillet Love” by Anne Byrn.