Brown Butter In The Skillet For Even Better Cornbread

Cornbread must be one of the most adaptable breads ever devised. Whether you're making muffins, crumbling the bread up with sausages for dressing, or using the batter to encase hotdogs, there is almost nothing that does not improve with a helping of cornbread. But what about the bread itself? Are there ways that it can be improved upon? Of course, there are. One such way is browning your butter right in the skillet. 

On the list of cooking fats for making cornbread, butter stands up there with the likes of lard and bacon grease. Even just melted over a piece of warm cornbread, butter brings its wonderful creaminess to the savory sweet bread. By browning the butter in the skillet, however, you achieve two things: You both grease your skillet and provide an excellent, fatty base for a stellar crust. 

This method really doesn't work without a hot cast iron skillet. Perhaps the best receptacle in which to make cornbread, cast iron retains heat incredibly well. It plays a balancing act with the butter and helps achieve that desired golden-brown crust. Plus, you have the added bonus of presentation. Cornbread just looks so good in a cast-iron skillet. Note, however, that you don't need to make brown butter in advance of placing it in the skillet. Instead, place both butter and skillet in the oven, and let it do the work for you.

Use the oven to your advantage

Before we go any further, we need to answer exactly what brown butter is. Brown butter is melted butter that has been heated to the point where the milk solids begin to toast and turn brown. As a result of this, the butter takes on a wonderfully nutty aroma and flavor. It transfers that flavor to the cornbread for a nutty, brown, and crispy, crust. You can make brown butter in a pan by heating it gently and watching for the point where the milk solids begin to fleck with brown. However, when making cornbread, it is far easier to use the oven to your advantage.

Add about 2 tablespoons worth of butter to a skillet around 12 inches in diameter. The amount of butter can increase or decrease depending on the skillet size. Place the butter and cast iron in the oven as it preheats. The rising temperature will heat the pan, which will in turn melt and brown the butter. You can mix your batter up while this is happening.

By the time the oven reaches temperature, the butter should be melted and beautifully browned and nutty. Swirl the brown butter around so it evenly coats the skillet, then add your batter, and bake as normal. The result should be a wonderfully fluffy cornbread, with an amazing, crispy bottom crust that's nutty, sweet, and salty. Once you've tasted it, you'll never go back to your old way of making cornbread again.