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IDEA ALLEY: Big skillet + doubled recipe = perfect cornbread

by Kelly Brant | June 16, 2021 at 1:51 a.m.
(Illustration by Kelly Brant)

Lew Sorrells recently asked for assistance scaling up a favorite cornbread recipe.

The original recipe is baked in a 9-inch skillet. Like most cornbread recipes you can simply bake it in a larger skillet, but the increased surface area results in flatter, thinner cornbread.

Sorrells wanted to keep the texture and thickness of the original recipe, but use a 10-inch skillet.

The first thing I did was prepare the original recipe so I would know exactly what Sorrells was aiming for. Unfortunately, I don't have a 9-inch skillet so I couldn't duplicate Sorrells' recipe as precisely as I wanted. I figured fluffier is better than flatter, so I used an 8-inch skillet.

The finished cornbread was among the tallest I've ever baked. It was thick and fluffy with a crisp crust and almost ethereal crumb. One bite and I understood why it is Sorrells' favorite.

After measuring the volume of my cast iron skillets — my 8-inch skillet holds approximately 5 cups and my 10-inch skillet holds almost 11 cups — I baked a couple of test batches.

One came out too eggy. Another came out too bland. Finally I decided I was making things too complicated and tried just straight doubling the recipe.


It flies in the face of conventional baking wisdom, but it worked.

Thick and Fluffy Big Skillet Cornbread

  • Canola oil or other high-heat vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups cornmeal
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons PLUS 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk

Pour enough canola oil into a 10-inch iron skillet to cover bottom of the pan.

Place skillet in oven and heat to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk.

Add the egg-milk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir until just moistened

Once oven is heated, remove skillet. Carefully pour hot oil into batter and stir vigorously to combine. Pour batter into hot skillet and bake until brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

■ ■ ■

A few weeks ago I received an email announcing a new seasonal menu item at Tacos 4 Life. I wrote back explaining that I don't cover restaurants, but I'd love to share a recipe from the restaurant or the Samuelson family.

To my delight, Ashton Samuelson agreed to share a family favorite. The recipe was accompanied by the following note:

"In between college and beginning their restaurant venture, Tacos 4 Life founders Austin and Ashton Samuelson lived in California for two years. Ashton was a teacher and had a little boy in her first-grade class whose mother became like a mentor to her. She would often invite Ashton and Austin over for dinner. This recipe was given to them by this mentor and always reminds them of her and the two wonderful years they spent in Southern California!"

Samuelson notes this pasta is delicious with Tacos 4 Life grilled chicken, shrimp or pork added.

Editor's note: This recipe has not been tested by the Democrat-Gazette.

Fresh Tomato Pasta

  • 5 tomatoes diced into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

In a bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, minced garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix and set aside to marinate. Place by a window in the sun if possible.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add spaghetti; cook 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and add tomato mixture. Top with parmesan cheese and basil and serve.

Makes 4 to 8 servings.


◼️ Fried chicken like that at John Noah's restaurant in Pine Bluff for Kitty Rubenstein.

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