Cornbread has been served on the side of pretty much every classic Southern dish you could think of since Colonial times, but don’t be fooled – it’s no second fiddle. Sure, cornbread is best enjoyed with something (like our recipe for slow-simmered Carolina chili), but it’s strong enough to stand on its own.
The secret to perfectly cooked cornbread every time? A hot cast-iron skillet.
Baking cornbread in a cast-iron pan is perhaps the most Alabamian method of cornbread preparation, which gives it that signature golden finish. If you’ve never made cornbread this way, it just might become your go-to recipe.
Take your mouth south with this skillet cornbread recipe! Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and drizzled with honey – it is so good, y’all.
All About That Ancient Grain
Cornbread is a cornerstone of Southern cuisine, but it would not exist as we know it today were it not for the indigenous peoples who introduced corn, or maize, to European settlers in the 1600s.
Maize, a “three sisters” crop, is a grain native to the Americas that evolved out of centuries of careful domestication by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica. Over generations, the grain was transported north to the present-day United States, where indigenous peoples used maize for food and trade.
The Evolution of Cornbread: From Dietary Staple to Delicacy
Wheat was the dominant crop during the Colonial era, but it couldn’t withstand the South’s hot, humid climes. This opened the door for corn, which was easy to grow and even easier to prepare by grinding it into fine cornmeal with a mortar and pestle.
An abundant corn crop meant plenty of cornmeal to go around in recipes for bread, porridge, and ale – pillars of the Colonial diet. Soon, cornbread recipes evolved from simple salt, water, and cornmeal mixtures to ones that used ingredients like eggs, buttermilk, and baking powder.
In tough economic times, cornbread was a cheap and satisfying alternative to fluffy and expensive wheat flour biscuits. It made a hearty meal when paired with a side of humble beans and greens or crumbled into a glass of milk. Before long, cornbread grew from a basic necessity to a delicacy that people wanted to make.
Learn how to make skillet cornbread by watching the video below, or down the free skillet cornbread recipe card. Don’t forget to serve it alongside a bowl of Carolina chili!
Alabama Skillet Cornbread Recipe
This recipe calls for a cup of buttermilk. While regular milk works just fine, the richness of buttermilk really makes this cornbread recipe sing. You can usually find buttermilk at the grocery store, but it’s pretty easy to make your own.
Drop 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup and add enough whole milk or 2% milk to make 1 cup. Whisk to combine and let sit for 5 minutes before using it.
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Place butter into a 9-inch cast-iron skillet and pop it into the oven to melt while it preheats.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, honey, and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and swirl melted butter to coat. Pour cornbread batter into skillet, return to oven, and bake 22-25 minutes or until golden brown. The cornbread is ready when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Serve with a pat of butter and drizzled honey.
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