Cornbread is very simple and quick to make. But, like so many “simple” things, it takes a lot of practice to master. For me, the best cornbread has to tick a few boxes. First, it has to be cooked in a cast-iron skillet, started on the stove, and finished in the oven. The crispy, deep brown, caramelized crust achieved when you cook cornbread this way is unbeatable. Then, when you bite into the soft crumb inside, you want to taste a tangy sourness that only buttermilk can give. I don’t add flour or sugar, and I always use lard as the fat.
This Basic Cornbread recipe is my gold standard. It’s the cornbread I grew up with. I use different cornmeals every now and again, but for the past few years, I’ve been consistently using Jimmy Red cornmeal. It has the perfect earthiness and sweetness. If you’re using the right corn, there’s no need to add sugar. —Sean Brock
Excerpted from South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.