Salt and Pepper Skillet Cornbread


Some Southerners will happily argue till they are blue in the face defending the honor of unsweetened cornbread, a preference that tends to divide the South from the North. But I find that a touch of sugar adds a layer of complexity that is well worth breaking the rules. More important to me is the baking vessel: specifically, a cast-iron skillet, preferably one that is slicked with bacon grease.

 Makes one 9- or 10-inch skillet

2  tablespoons bacon grease or olive oil

1 ½  cups yellow cornmeal

½  cup all-purpose flour

¼  cup sugar

2  teaspoons baking powder

2  teaspoons sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top

1  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for  sprinkling on top

½  teaspoon baking soda

2  cups well-shaken buttermilk

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

2  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet with the bacon grease and place it in the oven to heat while you mix the batter.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper, and baking soda in a large bowl and stir to mix. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and butter and stir until just combined; do not over-mix. The batter should be lumpy.

Pour the batter into the hot skillet and sprinkle the top with a little salt and pepper. Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven, turn the cornbread out of the skillet, slice into wedges, and serve warm.


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