Friday, January 19, 2007

Iron pan, perfect cornbread

Classic things bring me joy. Perhaps it’s part of my frugal nature, but give me something that is destined to last for years over something trendy or disposable any day. One of my oldest treasures is my cast iron skillet. It’s my favorite tool in the kitchen and if I’ve cooked a meal, chances are at least one dish was touched by my iron skillet’s surface, seasoned by almost a hundred year’s worth of food memories. If I think about it enough, it almost gives me chills to think of all that history gracing each meal.

I wish my iron skillet was an old family heirloom because that would make for a better story. As much as I’d like to embellish, however, I have to admit I bought my iron skillet in an antique shop. (Hey, at least it’s old!) I found it in Iowa City many years ago, and the shop owner told me it was cast in the early 1900s. There’s no date or brand on it, so unless I carbon dated it there’s no real way of knowing its true age. It’s said, however, that a flat bottom means the cookware is older than one with ridges; mine is flat. It’s also blacker than midnight and heavier than a house. (Making it ideal for both toning my arms and shooing away door-to-door salesman.) And working with it is a dream as it heats evenly, is nonstick and transfers brilliantly from the stove top to the oven. It’s a true one-pan wonder.

Even though I haven't inherited any of my family's iron cookware, my grandmother, my mother and my uncles all use cast iron that has been passed down through the generations. Yes, they have the pleasure of cooking with iron pots and pans that were also used by my great-grandmothers. There were no blacksmiths in my family, so my great-grandmothers bought their cast iron back in the early 1900s, but that doesn't make them any less amazing; it's thrilling to cook with something that has served people for a hundred years. One skillet my mom has is tiny, probably six inches in diameter. When I was young, I considered it my own personal pan because it was perfect for frying one egg, the first thing I learned to cook. So, I reckon my love for iron cookware was set at a young age.

You can find old iron skillets at garage sales, flea markets or antique stores. If you wish to purchase one new, Lodge out of Tennessee is the only company still manufacturing them in America today (though Wagner, another classic brand, is supposed to resume production this year). Until recently, new iron cookware only came raw and in order to make it usable you had to season it yourself. But apparently some consumers want instant gratification, so Lodge introduced a pre-seasoned line under the Lodge Logic label. I find it sort of illogical, but I guess you have to give the people what they want. (There have been rumors that Lodge is phasing out its unseasoned iron ware, but I haven’t seen anything to validate this.) If you buy your cast iron new, I highly recommend getting it unseasoned. Seasoning is not only fun, but it's a way of bonding with your new cast iron friend.

Once you buy your cast iron piece, seasoning it for the first time is an easy process. First rinse with hot water and dry completely. (Do not use soap!) Coat the entire piece of cookware (both inside and out) with either vegetable oil, lard or bacon grease. Cook it in an oven set at 450-500 degrees until it quits smoking (about 15 minutes). Take it out, pour out any oil and put it upside down back in the oven at 250 degrees for two hours (you might want to put some foil under it to catch the excess fat). After you've let it cool, do the touch test. If it's smooth, it's ready to go, but if it's sticky it didn't get hot enough. Scrub off the gummy bits and start over.

After it’s seasoned, you don’t want to wash it with soap because that will ruin the finish. To clean it, just stick it in water and scrub (if you need more grit than a sponge or steel wool use salt). To dry it, put it on a stove and heat it until all the water is burned off, otherwise the cookware will rust. If, after using it for a while, you start to see rust, rub it with steel wool and re-season the cookware. It may seem like a lot of work, but trust me, if you take care of your cast iron, it should provide you with a long, happy cooking relationship.

I can do a lot with my cast iron skillet: scramble eggs, fry fish, broil beef, bake biscuits, sautee vegetables and roast chiles. I suppose I could use other cookware for these jobs, but I don’t like to fuss with lots of pots and pans—using the same skillet works for me. But there’s one dish that nothing but a cast iron skillet will do: cornbread. Why? If you bake it in anything else cornbread will not achieve the desired crispy crust. Now, I don’t want to start a debate about cornbread—but it is a fact that there are differences between Northern and Texan cornbread: Northerners like it sweet while Texans like it salty. We are also known to jazz it up with jalapenos, green chiles or cheese. But the one thing a Texan will never, ever put into their cornbread is sugar. That said, my mom—who has a legendary sweet tooth—admits to putting honey in hers (so I have to question her Texan creditentials), but never mind that. Cornbread is for dinner, not dessert.

Here’s a classic Texan cornbread recipe, baked in a cast iron skillet, of course. Be sure and get the cast iron good and hot, as that’s what sears the batter and makes for a crispy, crunchy crust.

Cornbread
Ingredients:
2 cups of cornmeal (yellow or white)
½ cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil

Method:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Put the drippings or oil in a large (10-inch) cast-iron skillet and place it in the oven for a few minutes until it’s sizzling.
Mix together dry ingredients. Set aside.
Whisk egg and buttermilk. Mix with dry ingredients
Take cast iron skillet out of oven, and pour hot oil into batter, and mix.
Pour batter into cast iron skillet, bake in oven for 20 minutes. Cornbread should be brown on top and pulling away from the sides of the skillet.

Do you cook with cast iron? What do you cook in it?

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107 comments:

Julie said...

I use my cast iron skillets more than any other piece of cookware. Mine are all Wagners which are about 20 years old (a gift from a friend I've lost touch with -- the cast iron skillets outlasted the friendship) and their surface is silky and non-stick. I don't own any non-stick frying pans; whenever a recipe calls for them I use my cast iron. Love them!

Luisa said...

I love my cast-iron skillet - it hangs on a little hook on the brick wall in my kitchen and always makes me feel like a pioneer woman when I use it. I've used it for lots of things, including cornbread, of course. Also, searing meat and making apple pancakes. And regular pancakes. And eggs. And so on. Yum. I hope I use it my whole life and then pass it on to my children and their children. No seasoning necessary as it will be all imbued with a life's worth of food!

nika said...

I ALWAYS burn my cornbread in my cast iron pan.. but my mom always did too. She seems to have passed that trait down to me :-) But, you see, I like those burned bits! Love my cast irons too.

In the distant future, when my grandma dies, I hope to get her cast irons (might have to fight my mom for them :-))

Amanda said...

I've got a question for you about cast iron. I got my skillet from my mother, and it seems to have some sort of coating on it that's chipped away. It's black, but I can still see it on the sides. Do I need to worry about this, or can I just season and scrub away?
Thanks!
Amanda

nika said...

Just to jump in.. dont scrub it off unless its a chunk in the middle of the pan surrounded by unoxidized and unseasoned metal. Thats years of seasoning. If its super pitted on the cooking surface you might need to scrub down to the surface tho I bet many cast iron enthusiasts would say dont touch it at all!

Try some of these links
http://whatscookingamerica.net/Information/SelfCleanOven.htm

http://www.cyberbilly.com/meathenge/archives/001138.html

http://frugalliving.about.com/od/shoppingsmart/a/castiron_2.htm

Yvo said...

Hahahah Lisa, please, you're reading my mind here (sort of). I was just asking Grocery Guy the other day because I still don't get it...
Here's my story. I've read, heard, seen the wonders of cast iron and wanted some. My brother decided to pick me up a skillet for Christmas, and wound up getting me a pre-seasoned one from Lodge (because he heard me say that seasoning one sounded complicated and hard). Now I have the darn thing, taking up loads of space and heavier than anything else I own, but I'm terrified of using it because it says I can't wash it with soap. And that when I'm done, I'm meant to spray it or rub it lightly with oil (after I rinse/scrub it with hot water?). But uh, won't that oil attract mice/roaches? I do live in Manhattan, and if I don't have roaches, well, the neighbors have them so I might as well, too. I don't understand! Please, explain it to me so I understand. How do I keep it in good condition and not worry about rodents getting to it??? Thanks!!!!

Yvo said...

PS I like my corn bread salty but too often it's served sweet. Guess I'm not 100% Yankee afterall =P

Homesick Texan said...

Julie--I reckon our cast iron skillets will outlast all of us! But yes, I've never felt the urge to buy a nonstick frying pan because cast iron does the job beautifully.

Luisa--Must be a strong hook! And I've never had to season mine either, that's the best thing about constant use, it just keeps reseasoning itself.

Nika--I can see the appeal in the burned bits, especially with lots of butter! My family's the same way--we don't care about the land, the furnishings or anything else--we all just want the old cookware!

Amanda--Yes, as Nika's said, the black part is the seasoned part. Unless it's rusty, I'd just rinse it and proceed with re-seasoning it.

Nika--Thanks for all the links!

Yvo--I never rub mine down with oil after using it, I just clean it with water (and sometimes salt), rinse it and then heat it on the stove to prevent rust. I use it often enough that it stays seasoned naturally. I think vermin are more attracted to crumbs than oil, for what that's worth (so be sure and keep your leftover cornbread in the fridge!

Susan said...

I once had a cast iron skillet which I dropped--from a good distance--on my foot. I no longer have the cast iron skillet. Course I never had much luck cooking with it. This may be a New England thing or just me, but for a breakfast, I love to butter the cornbread and toast it, then top it with a really ripe mashed banana and drizzled honey.
P.S. I made your mole sauce last night. It was sooo delicious! Thanks again.

Stephanie said...

Ah, Lisa, I don't have a great cast iron skillet but I will get one. I've wanted one for years. Thanks for urging me to get it and yes, I'll go buy one second hand. I just posted tonight about my vegetarian "chili" with lost of references and kudos to you. Thanks for this excellent posting, next time I'm doing my cornbread YOUR WAY. (And will be changing more than 20 years of cornbread history but I'm reading for a change, thanks to you!)

Anonymous said...

I use my cast iron skillet for gumbo, jambalaya, searing steak, chicken and dumplings and just about everything. I also have a cast iron pizza pan that I use for a comal for tortillas and roasting tomatoes, chiles, garlic and onion for salsa. Jack's Skillet: Plain Talk and Some Recipes From a Guy in the Kitchen by Jack Butler is a great book about cooking with a cast iron skillet. I also use cast iron cornstick and star muffin pans for blue cornbread (had it at Stephen Pyles Star Canyon restaurant and bought them as souvenirs) I also love my le creuset dutch oven which is enameled cast iron. I'm careful with the pans so I don't get hurt especially since my small dog loves to run around the kitchen.

Glenda said...

We don't own anything cast iron, although every time we make cornbread I do wish we had a cast iron skillet or a cast iron cornstick muffin pan in which to cook the cornbread. One of these days I will trek to the local specialty-kitchenware store and spring for something cast iron.

In the meantime, to at least get the skillet shape, I use a glass pie pan which I grease and sprinkle with cornmeal. It helps make the exterior crunchy, but the crunchiness factor doesn't compare with how it turns out when made in cast iron.

We like a variety of cornbread. Sometimes we include a bit of sugar in the batter, sometimes cream-style corn, sometimes kernel corn, sometimes green onions and corn and cheddar, sometimes nothing other than the basic ingredients. It all depends on what we're having it with.

We definitely prefer a lower, more dense cornbread. And I realized as I was composing this comment that I have a thing about cornbread not being square LOL. Maybe it goes back to my grandma always making cornbread in a cast iron skillet and so, in my mind, cornbread should be dense and triangle-shaped. Isn't that funny!

Your recipe looks nice and simple and very tasty. I'll snag some buttermilk this weekend and whip up a batch of this (sans cast iron skillet, for now anyway). Thanks to a previous post of yours, I have a mason jar of bacon grease on-hand now =).

Going back to my question about butter beans (I can't remember in which post's comments section I posted that), don't worry about getting a recipe for those. I've been mulling it over and have an idea of what to try in my recipe. Butter beans and cornbread will be a perfect way to offset the way-too-rainy-and-cold-for-way-too-long weather we've been having out here in west Texas the past several weeks.

Homesick Texan said...

Susan--Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the mole! Sorry to hear about your foot--I bet that hurt!

Stephanie--You won't regret having a cast iron skillet. It's amazing that something so simple and inexpensive can outperform so many other pots and pans. And I can't wait to hear about your next batch of cornbread!

Homesick Texan said...

Anon--That star muffin pan sounds cool, next time I'm in Dallas I'll have to check it out. I'll also have to hunt down Jack Butler's book--it sounds right up my alley.

Glenda--I agree, cornbread should always be pie shaped, never square. And I'm so glad you've started collecting bacon grease--you won't regret it as it adds so much flavor to so many dishes--butter beans included!

Glenda said...

Does anyone use a cast iron skillet on a smooth-cooktop stove???

I went and checked out some cast iron cookware today and opted to not buy anything, as the bottoms of the skillets felt a bit rough, and I was afraid they'd scratch up my smooth-cooktop surface.

I know I could use a cast iron skillet in the oven, but if I'm going to get something to just use in the oven, I'd rather opt for some of the cool shaped cornstick / corn muffin pans I saw =).

Mae said...

Hiya,

Right. I've put cast iron skillet on my shopping list for this year just so i can make this utterly tempting and utterly gorgeous looking Cornbread.

Thanks for the lovely note. x

drbiggles said...

Hey,

Ya need to get that dang flour out of that recipe. It's close to being a yankee version, don't wanna do that! And up that bacon fat amount, I did a 1/3 cup last time, perfection.

I don't have anymore room for cast iron skillets. The fambly ones adorn the walls (I still use them) and they're stashed here and there with another stack next to the stove.

In fact, I just finished a little weekend trip to see a friend and brought a nice skillet with me to use while there. He has a 4 dollar 8" nonstick. Ghastly thing.

xo

Terry B said...

My biggest problem with cast iron is that it tends to be reactive with tomato sauces and other acidic foods. My favorite skillets these days are Calphalon One [NOT the non-stick version]. They sear meat well, including putting a nice char on steaks, release easily when the meat has caramelized and give you those brown bits to scrape up when you deglaze a pan. Cleaning up is also a breeze.

Freya said...

I recently bought an oval cast iron skillet at a flea market for 10p (around 15c) and it was being sold as a fajita pan. It is incredibly heavy but this cornbread recipe has given me an idea for next weekend when we're cooking up a tex-mex feast (I'm grabbing influences from all here, but never mind!): just need to find some cornmeal now! My husband, whose American, would bring me packets of Cornbread mix when he visited but now he lives here we long since depleted our stocks! Have to make our own from scratch!
Freya

Homesick Texan said...

Glenda--I have a gas stove so it's no problem for me, but you might be careful with a smooth top, aren't they made out of ceramic? I love those corn stick pans, they can come in some really cool shapes.

Mae--You won't regret it!

Dr. Biggles--1/3 cup of bacon grease? Wow!

Terry B--Yes, that is a problem with cast iron. Calphalon is good, but I don't own any.

Writing at the Kitchen Table--What a great flea market find! And I can't wait to hear about your Tex-Mex fest!

Jerry said...

A few days late perhaps, but I just hadda chime in on this one.

I've had my cast Iron skillet since the day I moved out of my Mom's house. It's the same skillet that my Great Grandmother used in the 1920's, and is still the best nonstick surface I have.

The only problem is that I have to guard it from my sister...

Yvo said...

Lisa- thanks! I just used it for the first time the other day to make steak, and it worked beautifully! Of course, bf's dad was over and told me that it's okay to wash it with soap, so BF proceeded to wash it with soap which upset me.... sigh. Oh well. He swore he didn't scrub too much but it still seems... wrong, somehow.

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

My old iron skillet is the best for roux, nothing sticks to it!
A friend was offering to wash up and started to pour dish soap in my pan...I almost had to use it on her!

drbiggles said...

Hey,

Yeah, or you could knock that down to 1/4. The last few times I used Duck Fat.

I suggest you try it, just once. I made cornbread the way you did it for years, and years.

Mebbe 5 years ago my sister married and He said my recipe was fouled due to Cookie Ingredients (flour and sugar). Real cornbread had none of that.

So far, after 5 years and I don't know how many batches, his recipe has attained a 100% postive feedback rating over anything anyone has ever had.

The only time it got a little better was when I added 1 cup of coarsely ground corn meal. It's true love.

Biggles

scribbit said...

I have one and hardly use it but you've got me excited to try new things in it. I also bought a Dutch Oven this year and have been using that quite a bit--I posted a great spicy enchilda recipe that everyone goes wild for. The cornbread looks terrific, the chocolate covered corn chips are . . . um . . . interesting :) My husband would love them, he's a huge fan of mole from his days living on the Tex/Mex border.

Anonymous said...

My mother never cooks with anything except iron skillets or crockpots. She insists on cooking eggs and omelets on in them too, even though I've tried and tried to show her the wonderful benefit of non-stick skillets for that. However, I admit, for cornbread, nothing beats a well-greased (with bacon grease) iron skillet that's been well-heated before you pour the batter into it. I like to make it with a good portion of hominy instead of just cornmeal (my mom tells me about her grandmother making lye out of the ashes of the fireplace to make her hominy; I just buy masa corn flour myself, and mix it with some ordinary corn meal for texture); it gives it a savory smoother texture. I also add fresh jalapenos, but my mom doesn't care for that all that much--East Texas food wasn't traditionally very spicy until the last 3 or 4 decades introduced Mexican flavors to a southern tradition of cooking. --Allen Garvin

Janet said...

does your cast iron skillet ever have black bits that flake off?

Anonymous said...

I use mine (2 of them) as mini pizza stones. I just turn them upside down in the oven (at 350) and cook either mini pizzas, or more often than not, just homemade bread rolled out like pizza dough :)

If the bread ain't good enough to be eaten by itself (maybe with a little salt on top) then it ain't good enough to put pizza toppings on.

Scott said...

Amen on the sugar. Let them that wants cake eat it.

Terry said...

I've had my cast iron skillets for 35 years and the only thing that has touched one skillet is cornbread. The other one is for fried chicken.

I like your blog & have your link posted on mine.

B.D.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I was wondering what to do with leftover corn bread?

Reel Woman said...

**tilts head sideways**

Leftover corn bread? What's that? Never heard of it...

Michael said...

Hi y'all! I guess I need to get a cast iron skillet(I used to have one,but its gone). This cornbread recipe looks great, but I need to know if it is moist inside or crumbly? I am looking for a recipe that is moist inside and doesn't fall apart like mine always does. If anyone knows of one please e-mail me at MikeKopp37210@yahoo.com and share with me. Thanks, Michael

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you ever put in a little pancake mix instead of the flour, it makes the cornbread less crumbly and a little more creamy, and I alway store my cast iron skillets (8 of them) in my gas oven and I never have a problem with rust (Louisiana is so damp).

Jim said...

I like to cook out doors. Can you tell me if Cornbread can be made over an open fire in a Cornbread Mold/Pan? Thanks; Jim

Anonymous said...

Yvo -- I understand your concern about washing the pan. But, think of a cast iron pan as you would a BBQ grill -- the heat actually does all the killing of any bacteria that survives the washing process. You really just need to scrape and pan when it is hot and rinse. Do not use soap as it will break the bond between the metal and the oil (soap is a "degreaser" so completely counteracts the chemical bond you are otherwise trying to achieve over time). In fact, the more you cook fatty foods in the pan (especially at the beginning of its life), the stronger the non-stick bond will become.

As far as storing, do not cover as moisture could accumulate and cause rust. Although you do not need to oil the pan between uses to preserve its qualities, if you choose to, you could wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel. If you are concerned about pests, you could use "mineral oil", which is neutral, non-reactive, will not turn rancid, and would not attract "critters". Mineral oil can be found in supermarkets and pharmacies (but will not be in the cooking section) -- it could also be used to protect your cutting boards from moisture. -- Ray

Dylan'sNaggy said...

I recently purchased some cast iron skillets on sale. They have a pebbled surface inside and out. Is this normal? Will that surface wear with age?

Homesick Texan said...

Dylan'sNaggy--Sure, it's normal. I've never cooked with it but have heard of people using it. And I don't see why the surface would wear down unless you use sand paper on it.

geogoddess said...

I found your blog while looking for a cornbread recipe. I love my cast iron. Mine isn't a family heirloom either, but my parents found most of them in various yard sales and second hand shops. My dad won't part with his just yet.

I cook just about everything in mine... except spaghetti sauce and fish. It doesn't matter if its a single egg for breakfast or a several course meal, I love them.

Great blog :))

Anonymous said...

I have 3 of them, they came as a set from Wagner. One of them was so small I've never used it, but the medium and large ones I use a lot! Here in Boston we make a sweet cornbread with sugar in it, but I've also made the salty version with jalapenos and Monterey Jack cheese for some southern friends. I clean then under hot running water with a stiff brush, then dry them on the burner for a minute or 2 until all the water drops are gone. I give them a rubdown with a little canola oil on a paper towel so they stay shiny and seasoned for the next use. You can't beat them for searing meats and fish quickly to carmelize surfaces instantly. Cast iron handles intense searing heat better than copper pans, my usual pans of choice.

dee said...

love your blog!
i just bought my first cast iron skillet a couple of months back and i'm still a little afraid of it - i grew up on teflon (i know, i know!).
i'm taking the bull by the horns/corn by the ears, and facing my fears with this recipe to go with tonight's chilli. wish me luck!

dee from choosandchews

Zank said...

Great post and the cornbread looks perfect.
http://zanksironskillet.blogspot.com/

james said...

When I started living on my own after I got out of the Marine Corps, I bought a bunch of Lodge cast-iron secondhand at a tag sale in Connecticut. The fella had used it one summer for camping and was sick of lugging it around, so it was cheap.

First thing I did was run it through the oven on the self-cleaning cycle, taking off the manufacturer's 'seasoning' and leaving bare cast iron. Then I put it all in a milk crate and dragged it down to a machine shop where I had them grind the inside surfaces smooth and flat. Then I seasoned all the pieces, lids and all.

These are my favorite pieces to cook *anything* with, and with the slick smooth insides, nothing ever gets stuck.

Byron in Austin said...

James, I never thought about having the inside and edges machined. Does that help your lids seal better now?

I've got a good set of Lodge skillets and use them all the time. I very rarely use my non-sticks...

I love the flavor that you get when searing chops, beef or chicken...

Also, I have seen medical facts that state that the minor levels of iron injested over the life of the pan is actually good for you, versus the teflon that you ingest that kills lab rats... :)

Great Blog!!! Lots of great comments and ideas..

Anonymous said...

Reading your posts reminded me of my mother and her Iron skillet (the first pan she gave me she hated it) I love it and think of her every time I use it. I even bought a 14" to go with it

Anonymous said...

I used to use my cast iron skillet that I got from my mother. Then I was told not to use cast iron on a glass top range. I was told that the cast iron will get hot enough to break the glass. Has anyone heard of this?

Anonymous said...

What do I do with leftover cornbread? The same thing I do with leftover wine :)

Kassy said...

I'm embarrased to say that even though I have a cabinet full of cast iron skillets and dutch ovens in many sizes, I rarely use them. However I ALWAYS use them for my cornbread and for campfire cooking. Like a previous poster, I have a glass top stove (came with the house) ... but I have never broken the glass on it when frying bacon. Also, I was relieved to see that sugar is NOT an ingredient in your cornbread.. phew...

Jana said...

Okay, I know this is really risky to say, after reading all the posts, but.... I inherited a cast iron skillet from my mother-in-law and have never liked it - especially for cornbread. For those who doubt, yes, I'm a native Texan. I actually don't like a crispy outer edge, so I suppose that's why I don't care for the cast iron. What I love cooking my cornbread in is my stoneware. It cooks so evenly and gives a high and fluffy texture without crumbling. If you've never tried cooking cornbread in stoneware, I highly recommend it.

By the way, I'm the owner of a Tex-Mex restaurant in Livingston, TX named El Burrito Mexican Restaurant. If you're ever that way, go in for Tex-Mex or authentic Mexican dish. Tell them you met Jana on the Homesick Texan website and have a large order of Chile con Queso compliments of me. We use 100% American cheese in our "kay-so". :D

Lisa-your chile con queso recipe sounds great and I plan to try it at home. While I'm the owner of a Tex-Mex restaurant in TX, I now live in GA and my daughter has grown to love the white cheeses used for queso here. Funny thing is, they don't call it chile con queso here and don't know what it is. It's simply "cheese dip". I do have to say, we have some pretty comparable Mexican food here unlike some other states I've lived in. I've tried a couple of recipes on her with no success. I think your recipe might do the trick if I go heavier on the white cheese. Thanks for sharing with another homesick Texan.

Nancy said...

My dear Mother could bake the best cakes in the world, and yep, always baked them in an iron skillet. They were always perfect!

Kathy said...

before you run out to the store to buy a new cast iron skillet, check your resale shops like goodwill. get one that is already seasoned and has been loved by another first.
Kathy

Kasey said...

If I had an iron skillet...I adore cornbread, but haven't made it with buttermilk! This definitely sounds like a winner.

Evelyn said...

I am using a Wagner and have been for years as it belonged to my husbands grandmother and mother. I got the pan (as well as a few more) because his mother lived with us our whole married life. Makes great cakes, cornbread and yes, I fry fish in it. I even have a square iron skillet and a very tiny one to just fry an egg.

Lara Jane said...

This is interesting... my Southern husband told me real Southern cornbread doesn't contain sugar or flour. (I lost his grandmother's recipe and she's out of town so I'm Googling for something similar!)

Anonymous said...

Love the comments about cast iron heirlooms. When my Grannie Nellie had to move into assisted care we were moving things out of her house. I was asked if there was anything that I wanted. YES!!! Her cast iron skillets! She had two that meals were cooked in for more than 60 years. She told me once that she had purchased the skillets right after she and grandpa married . Lots of biscuits, cornbread, cobblers, chicken, salt pork, etc had been cooked in the pans. There was also thick crusts of cooked on "bits" on the outside walls of the pans. Inside was like silk. I tried chipping away the outside crust. Then I hit upon the idea of putting them into my oven, upside down and running them through the oven cleaning cycle. The outside crusts burned away on the outside and but left the perfectly seasoned inside. Both of my sons hinted strongly (and often) that they would love to have one of "Grannie's skillets" . When my mother-in-law passed away there was a cast iron skillet in her pantry that she had used for years. I put one of my Grannie's skillets and my mother-in-law's skillets on the countertop and had the boys chose one. Every time the skillets are used, memories of our loved ones and wonderful meals they prepared for us come to mind.

Barbara said...

I have two cast iron skillets. I've had them for 40 years. I think I bought them from a thrift shop or maybe a garage sale. My husband anoys me when he uses soap after cooking in them but at least he tries to reseason them. Anyway I love mine and use them for everything from omlets to chinese stir fry. I'm really enjoying your blog and I'm not a texan!

learp17 said...

I just made this recipe and it is awesome! The only problem I had was the oil didn't incorporate 100% with the rest of the batter so there was a layer of eggy-ness along the top of the bread, but I'll know better next time and combine it better. This problem did not affect the flavor or the enjoyment, and I LOVED making it in my cast iron pan! Thanks for the great recipe! Also I'm thrilled to have found your site.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Terry in central Texas. I have corn stick pans.. triangular pans... of course round. Mine are Griswold and Lodge. Cast iron is so incredibly easy to cook with. One thing my mom made when I was a kid was Pineapple upside down cake... you can only make this truly perfect cake in cast iron. If you have never had one ... make it.. you will be hooked.

And I agree.. Cornbread is not sweet.
Terry

jyll said...

Although I'll agree that cornbread is not sweet, the thing I looked forward to after dinner when my Mom made cornbread was covering it in butter and either honey or molasses for dessert!

George said...

I made this and failed miserably.
The cornbread was like a hard dense mush almost all the way through.

I think i need to use more baking powder if I'm using Bob's Red Mill Corn Flour instead of regular cornmeal.

what do you think?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

George--It is a dense cornbread. But it could also be the age of your baking powder--if it's not fresh it doesn't work as well. But you could also try using a bit more.

Harry from BC, Canada said...

Griswold, Wagner, GSW, love them all,yall im Canadian. Love the story Just tryin the recipe rat now. Your sooo right about cast iron cookin. Gotta git goin and help my wife to make this kick ass corn bread. Goin to try the 1/3 cup of bacon grease.

Big R said...

I love your blog! I am the son of Texans who's family migrated to California during the dust bowl years, so I grew up eating Tex-Mex as well as Bakersfield Mexican food.
I am now living in Malaysia, when I came I brought two of my favorite cast iron pans (you shouda seen the customs guys face whe he pulled them out of my bag...)Chipoltles and few other staples.
The don't eat much Mexican food here, so I cook it for friends to their delight... Although getting ingredients is a challenge

lizmarsden said...

Hi Lisa

I was wondering, is there something I can use instead of buttermilk? it's hard to find here in the UK, I even had to look on Wikipedia to find out what it was!

Liz

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Liz--I'd use regular milk. You can also, however, approximate buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of regular milk and let it sit for five minutes.

lizmarsden said...

I made this today completely wheat-free using a standard bought gluten free flour blend (rice, potato, tapioca and xanthan gum) and it is PERFECT. A gluten-free classic. Thankyou so much.

Though next time, I'll use a different tin as its about 25cm wide and only 4cm high! Not exactly sandwich material...

I'm thinking of making another, poking holes in it and soaking in golden syrup as something to give to my friends on our weekly board-games night :)

asriel said...

We just made this bread today, and it's delicious! I think I have to adjust it to my temperamental oven, though. By the time it browned on top, the bread was a bit dry - should I turn the heat up to 475 or 500? The bottom was crispy and brown, but I like it a bit chewier. Would I get that effect with a little more oil?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Asriel--More oil would make it more crisp, I would think. And perhaps turning up the heat a bit might make it cook more evenly.

Alexandra said...

I use my cast iron skillet nearly every day! I love it and it seems to get better every day...

I'm not Texan but I agree 100% that cornbread should not have any sugar in it. I got on a cornbread kick last year and did all kinds dressed up with greens (kale is a favourite) and adding quartered tomatoes on top of the batter. The recipe I had called for 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup flour with only 1 cup of buttermilk. Yours is a higher proportion of cornmeal... I might try it tomorrow and see...

For those looking for alternative to buttermilk - I usually use plain yogurt or kefir.

Sharon (New York, NY) said...

Here's one more, and maybe the best, reason to use cast iron pans: non-stick surfaces (teflon as well as others) are proving to be carcinogenic--even the government says so. I've been phasing out my non-sticks altogether, learning to season the cast irons properly. I started using them on a lark six years ago, and simply love them(though I understand that if anyone in your family suffers from gout, you should avoid them as they do release trace amounts of iron into your food). Anyway, though I use stainless and a couple of fantastic heavy old aluminums from my grandmother (they must be at least 70 years old at this point), if you need to cook anything on high heat, fry anything, move food from stove top to oven or the reverse--there's nothing better.

P.S., though there's no Southern blood in me, I'm so happy to find a corn-bread recipe without sugar--that's how I love it! And I appreciate the tip above about the gluten-free flour. I'll be sure to make this.

P.P.S. For the person who asked about using cast irons on ceramic or glass stove tops--the answer, sadly, is no. They scratch.

Diane said...

I purchased antique GRISWOLD CAST IRON CRISPY CORN STICK PANS off of Ebay to make corn bread for when we have fish fries. I coated them well with Pam, and the cornbread still stuck to pans and the bread didn't even look like a corn cob. Any suggestions before I resell these things? Thank you in advance Diane Pallecone mamacone@gmail.com

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Diane--You need to season it. Rub bacon grease on it, place it upside down on a foil-coated sheet and then bake it at 250 for an hour. You may have to do this several times.

Avery said...

I have used cast iron cookware for as long as I can remember.I'm 56 and my mother used cast iron too. I had her set, which was many pieces, but after 2 house fires and 5-1/2 feet of water in my house after Ike, sadly, hers is all gone. Perhaps, the piece I miss the most is my tiny skillet, about 5 inches in diameter. I also had a Dutch Oven. I cook most of my things in my cast iron. I do not cook anything delicate in them, though. I wouldn't make pancakes or french toast without them, nor would I cook cornbread (absolutely NO sugar in my c/b!:) in anything else. Fried chicken, dirty rice, black-eyed peas, chicken fried steak, and cream gravy all must be cooked in cast iron. I've never bought pre-seasoned cast iron; I love doing it myself and NEVER use soap on mine. When I first married, my husband thought he was doing me a big favor and scrubbed mine with dish detergent and boasted he had gotten them REALLY clean. I nearly cried.

Your cornbread recipe is almost identical to mine but has a bit less flour; I will cut the flour in mine and try yours. I know it will be good. I heat my grease in my skillet on top of the stove before pouring it into my cornbread (I love to use bacon grease.) Once I pour in the batter, I cook it on top of the stove for just a couple of minutes before putting it in the oven. This give the finished cornbread a GREAT crispy crust.

greenturtle said...

I'm very passionate about cast iron cooking. I collect cast iron, but I also use what I collect. I very rarely cook in anything else!

I have a cast iron blog. http://ramblingsoncastiron.blogspot.com

elynnicole said...

I mostly use mine for cornbread and searing steaks. It makes an amazing pineapple upside down cake. I also have a smaller one and the cornbread divided pan. Are you using the full size skillet (10 in maybe)for your cornbread?

Cookin' in North Carolina said...

I love my cast iron skillet! We're vegetarians, so it's also a good source of iron for us. (Yes, the iron does absorb some into the food you cook.)

Anyway, I found this site by looking for a cast iron skillet cornbread recipe - I've followed much of your instructions, but used regular oil, then topped the batter with a sprinkling of cloves and molasses. It's baking now - wish me luck! :) I'm going to serve it with homemade lentil soup.

Helen said...

Im so glad that I found this site..just luck...I recently moved in with my wonderful boyfriend...We both have cast iron cook ware and won't use anything else...He has this cast iron pan that is divided into 8 wedges,I've never seen one befor, but he says its for making cornbread...So wow this is the first site I find for a cornbread recipe and its also about cast iron...Well long story short he has this wonderful wood stove which ive been dying to try out and this was my first attempt..The cornbread was fantastic...looking beautiful in little wedges..I think the wood stove gave it that added bit of wonderful flavor...
Thanks for this blog
Cant wait to read more

Deana said...

I cook almost exclusively with cast iron. I have my great grandmas skillets, but have added a loaf pan, muffin pan, dutch oven, & grill pan to the mix. I have been searching for cake pans and casserole pans for years. I don't want new stuff. I scour antique stores and estate sales instead. Items with character & history. I enjoy your recipes, thanks :)

Schrodie said...

I just made a few batches of cornbread for a club outing-- of course it was all baked in a cast iron skillet! Is there any other way to make cornbread? Some like my mom will say, "Yes, use a glass dish." That's fine if I want to bake a cake... but nothing else lets cornbread get its nice rispy crust and soft innards the way that cast iron does. Perhaps that's why my cornbread always gets eaten first when I go back home to (eek!) Illinois! But admittedly, I have a sweet tooth and I do like a dollop of fresh honey. But cut me some slack; I have happy little bees who obligingly make some of the finest wildflower and rose honey for me! Gotta keep them in a job. :)

gidgeteats.com said...

I had a cornbread fail last night, so hopefully I'll have better luck with this recipe!

Anonymous said...

I use mine for everything. I have a huge one, 2 traditional size and a very small one. I also have a cast iron stew pot with cast iron lid. (My sister found it under our house in Texas - she gave it to me because I use cast iron and she does not). Mine are all old and flat on the bottom. I was given the huge one by a co-worker who's mother used it all the time, but he did not. Others are from auctions. I make stew in the stew pot. I use the small one for eggs, etc. I do all my skillet cooking with the cast iron. I also have a old cast iron griddle.

Anonymous said...

If you ever have any - what is the best way to store leftover cornbread?
~Mrs. MAC

Gitanacowgirl said...

One of my favorite things to do with leftover cornbread is to split it open, slather it with butter and toast it under the broiler the next morning for breakfast., then top it off with peach preserves or blackberry jam (homemade from your peach trees or blackberries from the pasture are extra bonus). Ahhhhh! Heaven! No one ever did this in my family and I thought it was such a great invention as a little girl. Although I'm now an adult who has explored and cooks cuisines from around the world, this simple concoction still warms me to my toes and makes me smile from ear to ear.

Rebekah Wood said...

I just purchased my very first cast iron skillet and it's about high time, too! I've enjoyed biscuits, sausage and eggs, country fried pork, and now I'm waiting for this cornbread! Mmm mmm. Thanks for the info on caring for the skillet. I won't let anyone even touch it for fear they'll use soap on it! haha

Carol said...

Great recipe! I grew up with the cast iron skillet cornbread. This recipe is soooooooooooo like my grandmother's recipe...which was AWESOME. Thanks for sharing!

Liz said...

Would this recipe work if I omitted the salt and used only baking powder? Or would/could you recommend a different ratio of the two ingredients? Thanks for your help!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Liz--It wouldn't taste as good without the salt, but it should still be okay.

Hecathe said...

Hi Lisa!
I made my first ever cornbread today, and it was great! It's also the first time I'm eating cornbread, but I think (guess) that my bread would get an approved-by-Texas stamp is there were such a thing :) I can't wait to try some of your other recipes (today, I'll have cream gravy to my pork roast)
Snowy and icy greetings from Sweden, the country without cornbread!

Anonymous said...

The size pan is not mentioned in the recipe. Is it 10"?

Thanks, Phyllis

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Phyllis--Yes, 10 inches.

Michael Taylor said...

I know I'm late to the party commenting on this but I thought of you today when I was reading Robb Walsh's latest cookbook, Texas Eats. It contains two cornbread recipes and both include sugar...what was he thinking?!

Viking Jones said...

Regarding using cast iron on a glass top stove:

1. Set the pan gently on the top where you want it.
2. DON'T MOVE IT.
3. Heat it slowly.
4. Remove the iron to a hot pad to cool. Mainly because glass tops are horrible about the surface staying hot...

The slow heat is because glass top stoves are very difficult to keep temps stable while cooking. I put my flat pan down, I don't move it while I'm cooking, and I get it heating up at least 5 minutes before I'm going to use it. While I don't think the pan could get too hot to actually crack the top of my stove, by heating it slowly on a lower heat I don't risk it. Cast iron is a great heat conductor, and it also holds heat really well. I very rarely heat my cast iron on anything over medium on my glass top.

So if you have a glass top and have avoided using your beloved cast iron, get back with it! Just be careful.

All that said, I have a flat 10" pan I use for anything that doesn't need an actual skillet to use. My pan doesn't have sides, so I can't do cornbread or soup in it. I've been hunting for a previously loved skillet (or four) in the local resale shops for a while.

Dan said...

What do I cook in my 100+ year old skillet? EVERYTHING!!!! You can't get the right kind of "burn" using anything else!

Ted Samsel said...

Trying this out with a sort of carne guisada..

Anonymous said...

I'm delighted to have found your blog. I have used a cast-iron skillet ever since marriage 41 years ago--and my skillet lasted longer than the marriage! I used to do Civil War living history and learned to cook over an open fire. Didn't take my skillet with me, but found a cast iron Dutch oven more versatile (bacon and taters in the morning, stew for supper, and maybe biscuits or fruit cobbler for dessert). I still have my grandmother's cast-aluminum skillet....we enjoyed many a yummy fried-chicken dinner out of that one :-)

Anonymous said...

Being Texan also, I have eaten Beans and Greens, with Cornbread, Pinto Beans or Butter Beans with Cornbread and have always had something close to your recipe. I use a bit more oil, and do set the pan to sizzlin before I put my batter in. One good hint, heat your oil 1/4 cup or so,to about 175 or so, put your oil in the batter, whip it up and let it sit out for 10 min while your pan goes up to sizzlin at 400 or so. When your pan and oil left over in the pan get there, put your batter in to set the crust and cook it the appropriate time depending on the depth of your batter. Your cornbread will be nore even textured. And by the way, the little bit of cornbread that escapes from the table has been know to be crumbled up in a glass of milk (or buttermilk) as my Dad showed me. He would put a little pepper and salt in his cornbread and milk.....I worked at Cracker Barrel and have pretty much all of the items that Lodge offers, they all work well just make sure they are seasoned well....STEAKMAN

Susan said...

I made this recipe from your cookbook last night - and it's the best cornbread I've ever made!

We use our cast iron skillet for all kinds of things, too - from roasted potatoes on the grill to chocolate cake.

Edie C...Deep in the heart of Texas. said...

I have about 5 cast iron skillets different sizes and that is all I ever use. Goes from fried potatoes, to pancakes, to steak, to cornbread, just whatever I am cooking on the stovetop or oven. My first I bought when married 50+ years ago and then inherited my mothers from her mother. They will go to my daughter one day. She already gets glassy eyed when helping me in the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

I love mine, i have 1 lodge 10in pan with a lid that is also a pan.(this is the one i use for cornbread.)i have a cast iron dutch oven with a lid that you can put in a fire and cover with coals. And my favorite, my grandma's 12" skillet that is so seasoned you can fry an egg without anything and it wont stick. I put enough bacon grease in the bottom that the batter floats.

reidfo said...

I too love my cast iron! Elise, I was skeptical, but you got this recipe very close to what I grew up with in Texas. A TINY bit of sugar, baking powder, nearly all yellow corn meal (little bit of flour), and definitely bacon drippings. No butter though.

Mom either made this in a casserole dish when making a large amount, or in her Lodge cast iron cornbread molds. I call them molds, because the pans had little molds you would pour the batter into that were shaped and textured like ears of corn. Years later I bought one of these to, and it's my favorite fun way to make cornbread.

DBStar said...

I use my cast iron skillet for pineapple upside down cake. It is the best way. I also use it for fajitas and of course, cornbread.

Anonymous said...

This comment is almost 6 years late, but I wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed this cornbread. To your recipe, I added some minced red & green jalapenos (maybe 1/4 cup) and about 1/2 cup of corn kernels. I tossed them with the dry ingredients before adding the wet. Also, I used a regular 9-inch round pan in place of the 10-inch iron skillet. The cornbread had crispy brown edges and was cooked through, possibly because my oven is convection.

The cornbread was a PERFECT accompaniment to a mess of pinto beans. We served guaco & some homemade salsa negra on the side.

SUBLIME.

Thanks for your fab cornbread recipe! I just knew this was the right place to turn : You rock!

Anonymous said...

Cast iron rules, it's the original nonstick cookware.

TBG said...

I love my cast iron skillet too. I've baked cakes in it, biscuits, cornbread, made chili, pot pies, gravy, you name it. My young wife never used one until she met me and she loves it too because when it is properly seasoned, it cleans up better than a non-stick pan. I also love it for the versatility. I can even cook with it in my wood smoker.

Gloria Morgan said...

Found this while searching for the perfect cast iron skillet cornbread recipe. Huzzah! I believe I may have found it.

And while I'm here, I feel I must join the cast iron love party: I love mine too! My in-laws visited us for the first time last weekend, and I wanted to impress them with my cooking (we're still newlyweds and this is the first time I've cooked for them in my home). So what did I do? Oh, just some filet mignon perfectly seared in my trusty cast iron skillet (which was a wedding gift)! They loved it, and my FIL, who is an expert BBQ/griller, said it was a perfectly cooked steak. Cast iron FTW!

Can't wait to try this recipe! Nothing better with BBQ than hot, salty crispy-edged, fresh-out-of-the-oven cornbread.

Margaret said...

Yum! I served this with your frijoles a la charra and it was great! I have a newer cast iron skillet and I was worried it might stick but it came right out no problem. Thanks for the great recipes!

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm John from England. I found every one's comments on cast iron cook ware very interesting. I have three Lodge cast pans, a10 1/2 inch skillet an 8 inch skillet and a10 1/2 griddle. Fantastic pans they weigh a ton but give such good results. Far better than any non-stick pans as they are so versatile and can be used on any type of stove, oven or open fire. They are so easy to clean, just a scrub with some hot water, back in the oven or on the stove with a smear of oil and they are ready for my next cooking session. They were given to me by my son who brought back two sets after a visit to New Orleans, I can't imagine how much his excess baggage must have cost ! I've had them about 20 years and believe me they are well seasoned and well used. Now to try some corn bread recipes ! then it's roast lamb, roast potatoes, pumpkin and veggies all cooked in my cast iron pans.

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