Why This Recipe Works

Unlike its sweet, cakey Northern counterpart, Southern cornbread is thin, crusty, and decidedly savory. It is traditionally made with cornmeal and no flour or sugar. We used yellow cornmeal for potent corn flavor, and we toasted it in our cast-iron skillet to bring out its flavor even more. Veering from tradition, we added a small amount of sugar to enhance the natural sweetness of the cornmeal. A cornmeal mush created by moistening the toasted cornmeal with sour cream and milk produced a fine, moist crumb. Baking the cornbread in a greased, preheated cast-iron skillet gave it a seriously crunchy, golden crust. A combination of oil and butter for greasing the skillet (as well as in the batter) struck the perfect balance in the flavor and structure of the bread—the butter added richness, and the oil raised the smoke point so the butter wouldn't burn.


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2 ¼ cups (11 1/4 ounces) stone-ground cornmeal
1 ½ cups sour cream
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon Salt
2 large eggs

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Makes 1 Loaf

You can substitute any type of fine- or medium-ground cornmeal here; do not use coarse-ground cornmeal.

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toast cornmeal in 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer cornmeal to large bowl, whisk in sour cream and milk, and set aside.

2. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Add oil to now-empty skillet, place skillet in oven, and heat until oil is shimmering, about 10 minutes. Using potholders, remove skillet from oven, carefully add butter, and gently swirl to incorporate. Being careful of hot skillet handle, pour all but 1 tablespoon oil-butter mixture into cornmeal mixture and whisk to incorporate. Whisk sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into cornmeal mixture until combined, then whisk in eggs.

3. Quickly scrape batter into skillet with remaining fat and smooth top. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top begins to crack and sides are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Using potholders, transfer skillet to wire rack and let cornbread cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.