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Cornbread in Cast Iron Skillet

So today I'm planning on making my first ever scratch Cornbread, and I'd like to do it in my cast iron skillet. I found this Pioneer Woman recipe that looks pretty good: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...

Just a question though... I don't have shortening. Do you all think using bacon fat as a replacement would be fine? I also do not have buttermilk, although I could probably make some with milk and lemon juice, right?

Or, if you have any other rockstar skillet cornbread recipes, I'd be happy to hear them. I only have 2 eggs at my disposal, and of course, no shortening or buttermilk, but have a stick of butter and plenty of bacon fat and other oils.

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  1. I always used bacon fat when I made cornbread, wouldn't have had it any other way!

    Milk and lemon juice works fine but taste it since not all lemons are super acidic. You can always add just a touch of white vinegar if you have to.

    I don't know how the Pioneer Woman does it but pouring the batter into a HOT pan is a must, it gets the best crust.

    3 Replies
    1. re: weezieduzzit

      the PW recipe was what I thought of before reading that in the thread because I've just watched her do her show on cornbread in a CIS. she did pour her liquid gold batter into a screaming hot skillet with screaming hot fat. liked the visual of watching it~you could almost see it immediately get that golden crust just upon pouring.

      1. re: iL Divo

        But too early and it burns. Just a warning. Do the fat shortly before the batter is my suggestion, or the crust will be too burned to eat. TV has a lot of illusions.

        1. re: coll

          "TV has a lot of illusions."
          not remembering seeing the finished product, in other words, when the cornbread was actually just being pulled out of the oven. thanks for reminder, it's helpful. wish hubby liked cornbread more then it'd fill in his hips-instead of mine:(

    2. I only use bacon fat in my skillet cornbread. I put the skillet in the oven dry as it preheats, then dab the bacon fat on just before pouring in the batter. When I want my cornbread to be special, I use heavy cream rather than buttermilk, so rich.Half and half would work too.

      And a small can of creamed corn can only make it better, as will a small can of roasted diced green chiles. Maple syrup instead of sugar. I don't think I do much traditional when I make mine!

      1. Great. I bought my cast iron skillet for the cast iron cornbread, so I definitely remember this. The recipe looks to be the savory cornbread which I definitely think should be done in a skillet. I agree that you can use bacon fat. It is actually better than regular shortening.

        1. yes to the bacon fat and be sure to heat your CI skillet before pouring the batter. Make sure the batter rests before pouring too!

          I think you would be fine w/o the buttermilkā€¦.

          1. Agree with all the subs/methods mentioned, but here's the Pine household take: part of the yum of CI cornbread is the super-crunchy edges, so a skillet isn't the best for that (all that landlocked inner area). We have one of those corn-pone pans, so that every piece piece gets crunchies. Oh, and make a compound honey butter to slather as soon as it's out of the oven--heaven. Let us know how your recipe turns out.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pine time

              Oh see I don't like the crispy parts... I always like the middle piece best :) Same w/ brownies.

              Oh and there will definitely be some honey butter action going on! This is part of my "splurge" meal for the week so all bets are off.

              1. re: juliejulez

                So funny--differences make the world go-'round! Enjoy your not-crunch cornbread!

                1. re: pine time

                  Bacon fat is the best, and yes....heat the fat and the skillet before adding your batter. And above all else - NO sugar allowed in your cornbread!!!!!!! (hmmmm, wonder if that'll bring up some discussion. ;) )

            2. I often make cornbread in my skillet. I use this recipe:
              I preheat my skillet on the stove before adding the batter.

              1. For some reason, soured milk never works for me in cornbread. It turns out totally different. Buttermilk is the way to go.

                Yes to bacon fat!

                11 Replies
                1. re: Becca Porter

                  Agree on the buttermilk. And, I've tried that buttermilk powder, reconstituted. Didn't think that worked well, either.

                  1. re: pine time

                    You know until I read this, I forgot I did have buttermilk powder. But like you mentioned, I've found it's not really the same as using real buttermilk when I've used it in other applications.

                    1. re: paulj

                      It is much denser, and it seems almost like I can taste the leavening. It isn't as deeply flavored.

                      It's odd. I agree that buttermilk powder doesn't work as well here either.

                      1. re: Becca Porter

                        Leavening - you mean the baking soda? The denseness suggests to me that the substitute isn't as acid. Maybe there isn't enough lemon juice. A possible solution is to cut back on the baking soda, and use some baking powder.

                        Increasingly I am seeing recipes that use baking powder as the primary leavening agent, and the buttermilk/baking soda as a flavoring. The OP's PW recipe falls in that category.

                        I'm not sure what you mean by 'deeply flavored'. I associate that term with complex flavors in meat stews, chocolate and mild chile peppers. Those are bitter notes and umami. To me buttermilk is acidic, which is usually described as a 'bright' flavor.

                        1. re: paulj

                          My leavening is baking powder. I agree that it is likely a different level of acidity. The recipe is perfect w/ buttermilk and weird with sour milk.

                          The combination of bacon fat/corn/buttermilk to me is deeply flavored in good cornbread. It is not present when the leavening is off.

                          1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 egg, 1 1/8 cup buttermilk, and 1/4 cup bacon fat/veg oil.

                          1. re: Becca Porter

                            I expect this recipe would rise just as well with plain milk, maybe even better.

                            Baking powder usually has 2 acid ingredients, one that reacts right away when liquid is added, the other requires heat. There's just enough baking soda in the mix to balance these two acids. When an acidic ingredient is added to the batter, it will react right away with some of the baking soda. This could reduce the amount of the later heat rise.

                            Is the sour milk thinner than buttermilk? If so, it might react with the baking soda faster, and exacerbate this effect.

                            It doesn't make much sense to me to add lemon juice to the recipe if baking powder is the primary leavener. It will just add a sour, lemony taste.

                            1. re: Becca Porter

                              Sounds delicious. Writing down the recipe. What temp. for approx. how long?

                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                425 for about 20 minutes. I heat up the fat in a cast iron skillet, and then pour half of the hot fat into the batter. I haven't found another recipe to match it.

                                I just tried Kenji's new one from Serious Eats. It was sad in comparison.

                      2. re: Becca Porter

                        Another vote for buttermilk. But find a buttermilk that does not have added thickeners or sweeteners such as I bought once at Fred Myer. Yuck.

                        Buttermilk is best for cornbread.

                        When I make, I use half butter/half oil. I've never used bacon fat for baking, ever.

                      3. The cornbread turned out pretty well. I think it would have been better if I had real buttermilk. But the bacon fat worked out quite well. I'll keep at it :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: juliejulez

                          I think you are talking about making buttermilk with lemon juice? But coincidentally, I am just about to post about Kate's real buttermilk and several things I baked with it. The corn muffins I made were very disappointing. Luckily it was just us, I made cornbread for guests a few weeks later and made sure to do the heavy cream version.

                        2. I use that recipe for cornbread too but I use melted butter in place of the shortening that goes into the batter and I just pour some canola into the skillet instead of shortening and preheat it in the oven.
                          I also never have buttermilk so I use milk and vinegar. Works great! Oh, and I use a little more cornmeal and a little less flour.

                          1. We just made the cornbread recipe from the Lee Bros. Charleston book and it was really, really good. (And we went to the store for buttermilk.)

                            1. Baking powder and plain milk work just as well as baking soda and buttermilk. A good rule of thumb is 1 tsp baking powder per cup of flour (that would include cornmeal).

                              The PW recipe already has baking powder. I'd just use regular milk and forget the baking soda.

                              Oil, melted butter, or melted bacon fat would work just as well in this recipe.

                              There are recipes that use all cornmeal, and ones that use half and half (flour and cornmeal). This is in between. Some like some sugar, others don't want it anywhere near their cornbread (except when eating it).

                              Some find plain cornbread to be boring, and end up adding all kinds of enhancements, such as canned corn, cheese, peppers, raisins (I'm kidding about this last one).

                              Mixes like Jiffy have sugar, and tend to have half flour.

                              1. bacon fat in cornbread? in a cast-iron skillet? this is better than an extended warranty! just make sure the grease has spread onto the sides as well before pouring in the batter.

                                buttermilk would be nice (and I think a little sugar is OK) if you have frozen corn that's good (or if canned ya have to adjust the liquid ratio)

                                1. I always substitute bacon fat for the vegetable oil in my recipe, and grease the pan with more of the same. Works great!

                                  Other than that, this is the recipe I use:

                                  Real Southern Cornbread

                                  This would work fine in a cast iron skillet, but I make mine in two cast iron cornstick pans. This just fills them.

                                  1. For next time:

                                    This scallion cornbread is great, and it doesn't call for buttermilk or shortening or other things you typically might not have on hand: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/co...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                      This looks great, thanks :) I like the addition of the honey to the batter since I usually slather it on top too :)

                                    2. Do you have plain yogurt? I dilute plain yogurt with milk or half and half and have found it to be a good buttermilk approximation. I never buttermilk on hand because I only ever need a cup and then I'm stuck with the rest of the quart.

                                      And subbing bacon grease would only improve the recipe. Good luck!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: ohmyyum

                                        I do, but as I posted above, I already made the cornbread last night. Thanks for the tip though!

                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                          I'm sorry, I hadn't finished reading the thread yet! Glad it turned out ok!

                                        2. re: ohmyyum

                                          I love buttermilk, so leftovers aren't a problem. However, I have frozen leftovers in 1 c. portions--wouldn't use it for straight drinking (texture changes), but worked fine for baking.

                                        3. Frankly, I've been making cornbread in my cast-iron skillet for decades now & I've never ever used "shortening". Always butter. And my cornbread has always turned out tender & delicious. Go figure.