Why You Have to Cook Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet


Cornbread recipes differ from one part of the country to another. Northern cornbread is not as sweet as cornbread made in the South and is made with a more grainy texture, while Southern cornbread is a little sweet with a more tender cake-like texture. 

Cornbread cooks best in a cast iron skillet because it produces a crust that is golden brown and crisp. This holds true no matter what recipe you use.

A slice of cornbread with a cast iron skillet and the rest of the cornbread in the background

Why I Cook Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

Cornbread should be cooked in a cast iron skillet for these reasons:

  1. Even Heat- Cast iron distributes the heat throughout the skillet providing a cooking surface that cooks consistently in all parts of the skillet.
  2. Better Crust- Cooking cornbread in a cast iron skillet produces a thick, crisp crust that is golden brown and delicious, while cooking the rest of the cornbread perfectly throughout.
  3. Maintains the Cookware- Cooking cornbread in cast iron actually benefits the cast iron cookware.

The only problem with having cornbread with such a golden brown, thick, crispy crust is that you will be tempted to eat the entire crust leaving the rest of the cornbread looking rather forlorn.

How Cast Iron Creates a Crisp Crust

Cast iron creates a crisp crust:

  • By distributing the heat to all parts of the skillet,
  • By allowing you to use enough oil or butter to almost fry the cornbread, thus creating a crispy crust, and
  • When you pour the cornbread batter into a very hot cast iron skillet that has been preheated to oven temperature prior to adding the batter.

Should I Preheat Cast Iron Before Baking Cornbread?

Cast iron should be preheated before baking cornbread so that the cornbread will have the thick, crisp crust that is so delicious.

If the cast iron pan has not been preheated to oven temperature before pouring in the batter, the crust will not be as thick and crisp as it should be, and the crust will have the texture of cornbread baked in any other type of pan.

The Best Way To Preheat The Skillet For Cornbread

Here are two equally good ways to preheat the skillet before making cornbread:

  1. Preheat the skillet over medium heat on the stovetop.
  2. Preheat the skillet by sliding it into the oven while the oven is preheating. 

Either way of heating the skillet will work just fine, but wait until the pan is heated and you are about to pour in the cornbread batter before adding oil to the bottom of the skillet. The hot pan will heat up the oil almost immediately.

How To Clean Cast Iron After Cooking Cornbread

After baking cornbread, the cast iron skillet or pan should not need washing. It can be wiped out with a damp cloth and dried well. Then, a small amount of oil should be rubbed into the surface of the skillet with a paper towel before putting it away. Just be sure that there is no excess oil sitting in the bottom of the skillet.

Check out my article on the best seasoning oils for cast iron, in case it is almost time to re-season it.

How Cooking Cornbread Good For Cast Iron

Using cast iron to cook certain foods is actually good for the surface of the cast iron, and making cornbread is one of those foods.

The reason for this is that the surface of cast iron is naturally rough and pitted and has to be seasoned prior to its first use by applying a layer of oil to the entire surface of the pan, inside and out, and then baking the pan in a hot oven. 

During this seasoning process, the oil forms a non-stick coating on the skillet through a process called polymerization, which serves two purposes:

  1. It protects the surface of the skillet or pan by forming this protective coating, and
  2. It makes the food cook much better without sticking.

So, each time something like fried foods or cornbread cooked in oil is cooked in your cast iron cookware, it is adding another layer of seasoning to the pan as the food cooks, creating a thicker layer of seasoning to protect the skillet and to improve its cooking performance. 

This is the reason that using casting iron often actually improves its cooking surface and cooking performance.

Two Cast Iron Skillets in Anne James' Kitchen
Two Cast Iron Skillets in My Kitchen

Why Your Cornbread Sticks to Your Cast Iron Skillet

Over time, the layer of seasoning on cast iron cookware can wear down and stop being effective at preventing food from sticking. When that happens, the pan should be reseasoned.

The process of re-seasoning cast iron cookware is a simple one. Just follow these steps:

  1. Wash the cast iron well and remove any excess oil buildup. If there is any rust on the surface of the pan, clean it off, even if it requires using steel wool.
  2. Spread an even coating of oil on the entire surface of the pan, inside and out.
  3. Wipe the surface of the pan with a paper towel to be sure there is not any oil that has puddled in the bottom of the pan.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500℉.
  5. Place the cast iron skillet upside down on the top rack in the oven.
  6. Place a foil sheet below the rack holding the cast iron to catch any oil drips.
  7. Bake the skillet for 1 hour, then turn off the heat and leave the pan in the oven until it cools. (I usually leave the pan overnight.)
  8. Once the pan has cooled completely, remove it from the oven, wipe it down with a damp cloth, and it is ready to use.

For a demonstration of how this process works, here is my video on how to season cast iron.

Cooking Cornbread Without Cast Iron

Cornbread can definitely be cooked without using cast iron. It can be baked in any kind of oven-proof skillet or pan that is deep enough to accommodate the batter without running over. 

The only problem with cooking cornbread without cast iron is that you will not get the thick layer of crisp crust that is the result of baking cornbread in cast iron. The cornbread will be good, but not as good as when cooked in cast iron cookware.

If you don’t have a cast iron pan, you definitely need one, in my opinion. Here is the one I recommend to folks, found on Amazon. It’s very similar to my favorite cast iron pan.

I also wrote an article on the topic of choosing a cast iron pan. If you want to check it out, just click here.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss Cast Iron Skillet Care | 8 Things You Must Know.

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Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

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