Why You Should Think Twice Before Baking Cornbread In A Pyrex Dish

When you've got a bubbling pot of chili on the stove, there is no better complement to the meal than freshly baked cornbread. This sweet and savory treat has become a comfort food staple across the U.S., especially in the South, and there are so many variations on the basic recipe, which involves cornmeal and liquid (often buttermilk). 

Besides the recipe, the baking dish you choose to use can be the difference between good cornbread and great. For home cooks, reaching for a glass baking dish such as Pyrex is a common choice when cooking things in the oven. And while it's true that Pyrex is a versatile and useful baking tool, it is not your best choice for traditional southern cornbread, which is made to have a crispy and crunchy exterior. If you use a glass baking dish such as Pyrex, you aren't going to get this textured crust.

Glass baking dishes are not good at conducting heat

When you bake cornbread in a glass dish, the end result will be light and pillowy through and through. While many people love this quality, it means there is no significant contrast in texture between the crust and the interior. 

The reason for this has to do with the relationship between glass and heat. Glass is an insulator, but it is not a great conductor of heat. It is slow to warm up, and you need a super hot dish in order to form cornbread's signature crust while still achieving an even bake throughout. While it is possible (and typically suggested) to preheat a Pyrex dish, it is not as well-suited for high-temperature baking as other materials, and it can sometimes break when exposed to sudden temperature changes, like a preheating oven. Glass dishes can work really well for other baking needs, such as banana or zucchini bread. But when you want something with crispy edges, you need a material that can handle high heat better than glass.

A cast iron skillet is your best choice for cornbread

One of the most common strategies for getting this desirable crusty effect is to bake your cornbread in a cast iron skillet. The benefit of using cast iron is that it retains heat really well, helping to make the batter nice and crispy around the edges. Cast iron can also withstand abrupt temperature changes better than glass. 

To achieve ideal cornbread, heat up your cast iron skillet in the oven and then melt some butter into it. Pour your cornbread batter into the already hot pan. This will cause the exterior of your cornbread to start baking immediately upon contact with the pan. Preheating your skillet will help ensure an evenly baked end product. When your cornbread is ready to come out of the oven, you'll find that the outside is crispy, buttery, and delicious and comes out of the pan easily. Pair it with your favorite soup or chili recipe, or slather on some butter and enjoy it all on its own.