Southern Cornbread

Southern Cornbread
Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Though some styles of Southern cornbread are dry and crumbly, we favor this dense, moist, tender version. Cornmeal mush of just the right texture is essential to this bread. Make sure that the water is at a rapid boil when it is added to the cornmeal. Though we prefer to make cornbread in a preheated cast-iron skillet, a 9-inch round cake pan or 9-inch square baking pan, greased lightly with butter and not preheated, will also produce acceptable results if you double the recipe and bake the bread for 25 minutes.

Serves 8

4 teaspoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil
1 cup (about 5 ounces) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup rapidly boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten lightly

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Set an 8-inch cast-iron skillet with the bacon drippings in the heating oven.

  2. Measure 1/3 cup of the cornmeal into a medium bowl. Whisk the remaining cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a small bowl; set aside.

  3. Pour the boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal; stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in the buttermilk gradually, breaking up lumps until smooth, then whisk in the egg. When the oven is preheated and the skillet is very hot, stir the dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Pour the hot bacon fat from the pan into the batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour the batter into the heated skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and instantly turn the cornbread onto a wire rack. Cool for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.