The Store-Bought Cornbread Mix That Needs To Stay Out Of Your Shopping Cart

Cornbread's old-fashioned simplicity has numerous brands attempting to box it up. Sadly, not all of them do it justice. Out of the 10 boxed cornbread mixes we ranked, one brand landed itself at the bottom: Martha White's Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix was the product to forget and forgive for its failed attempt at the Southern staple's concept. Although the boxed cornbread mix remained simple in true cornbread fashion, it was problematic when it came to representing what we crave in quick bread— and probably shouldn't land a spot in your shopping cart as a result.

The main issue with this cornbread mix is that it came out extremely dry. Being a plain quick bread that relies on few elements to shine, cornbread quickly becomes unpalatable if lacking its moist feature. Our Tasting Table taste tester split the finished product apart, and as the muffin crumbled in her hands, so did her heart. Sure, cornbread can turn out pleasantly crumbly at times, but Martha White's mix exceeded the degree to which it is acceptable, treading well into desert-dry territory.

On tasting it, this store-bought cornbread came off a bit harsh. There was a distinct chemical taste that could only be explained by the presence of too much baking soda or baking powder. This taste was so strong it overshadowed the fatty buttermilk flavor meant to offer relief and subtlety to cornbread. Coupled with its dry texture, there was no feature to redeem Martha White's cornbread mix from its fate of ranking last.

Too much cornmeal can cause dry cornbread

It's not unheard of to end up with dry cornbread, even if you make it from scratch, so Martha White's mix is not the rarest of anomalies. In this case, the most likely cause of the dreaded crumble is the use of excess cornmeal in its ingredients. Unlike wheat flour, cornmeal lacks gluten – and hence elasticity. So, when added in excess amounts, it can lead to a dry texture and bread that disintegrates easily. The best remedy for this is simple: Add more wheat flour. 

Wheat flour gives cornbread mix elasticity that will make the final product lighter and more chewy instead of crumbly. If you compare the ingredient list of Martha White's cornbread mix to our top-ranking one — Bob's Red Mill Golden Cornbread Mix — you'll notice that Bob's Red Mill lists flour as its first ingredient, followed by sugar, then cornmeal. Contrastingly, Martha White lists a blend of cornmeal and flour first. 

Because ingredients are listed according to quantities (most to least), this may indicate a high proportion of cornmeal in Martha White's mix, explaining its more crumbly texture. Additionally, Martha White's cornbread mix calls for just water to mix with, whereas Bob's Red Mill and most other store-bought mixes call for eggs, melted butter, or a combination with water. Perhaps Martha White's cornbread mix can be rescued by our foolproof addition for cornbread that's actually moist, which is loaded with fats to make it tender.