Trick question time. What’s better than cornbread?
Answer: cornbread with cheddar cheese, and not much else.
Now a real stumper: what’s better than cheese cornbread?
Cheese cornbread in a skillet.
I know you’re probably saying to yourself ‘Bee, get a grip. How is skillet cornbread better than regular cornbread?’ and I have two answers prepared for that question. The first is that there’s more bread-to-pan contact, which means more crunchy bottom pieces and crispy cheese poking out of the sides.
The irrational answer is ‘because it is’, and I might have stuck my tongue out at the computer while I typed that.
Answer A mostly covers it, though. My mom hates cornbread, and she was alright with this because there were more crispy cheesy bits for her to smear around in her rib sauce. (It’s a texture thing for her; the fluffier center pieces had too much of that cornbread graininess that she hates.)
It’s not exactly hard to make cornbread, I won’t kid you there. But there are a few insider tricks to make your cornbread better; cooking it in a skillet is just one of them. Not overmixing is another.
Soaking your cornmeal is the third and absolutely the best. You want to do this as early as possible; overnight is ideal. Measure out your cornmeal into a medium sized bowl and mix it right then and there with the liquid you’ll be using to make the bread, then cover and refrigerate. Every few hours go back and stir it up a little bit.
Personally, I use buttermilk. One of these days I’m going to split half-and-half between buttermilk and beer. And really, regular milk works too if you don’t have buttermilk on hand (but pro tip: mix about a tablespoon of lemon juice with every half cup milk you use and you’ll get just about the same result).
Here’s the recipe I used; I started with the basics to give you a backbone, but beyond that you can adjust as you see fit. (Usually I use a tablespoon or two of sugar, too, but I wanted a strictly-savory bread to counter the sweet on the ribs and coleslaw.) This recipe will make enough to fill a 6″ skillet; I suggest doubling if you’re planning on feeding more than four or five people.
Skillet Cheddar Cornbread
- 6 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (heeaping) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons melted butter or oil
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- Before doing anything else, soak your cornmeal: mix with the buttermilk in a medium sized bowl. Let sit at least a few hours (preferably overnight).
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 6″ cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter to grease.
- Combine flour, salt, baking powder, butter/oil, and egg white with the soaked cornmeal, mixing until JUST combined. Stir in the cheese and transfer to the greased skillet.
- Bake for 25 minutes (the top will be nice and golden, and some of the cheese should have bubbled up to the surface) or until a toothpick draws clear. Let cool 5-10 minutes, then cut into wedges (with a butter knife, so as not to scratch up your skillet) and serve.