One Step Can Help Prevent Cornbread From Sticking To A Cast Iron Skillet

As Chris Rock once famously said, "Cornbread. Ain't nothin' wrong with that."

According to The Charlotte Observer, what comes to mind when we think of cornbread today — fluffy, sweet, yellow-hued bread — used to be called corn pone. This version of the dish, it says, was created by British colonists as they adapted their preexisting recipes to fit ground maize, but they didn't add sugar. However, all sorts of variations can be considered cornbread nowadays: Stanford Daily classifies Johnnycakes, arepas, and even hushpuppies as types of cornbread.

If you haven't considered making your cornbread in a cast iron skillet, think again. These skillets have been gaining popularity in the US since the late 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution made cast iron easier to produce. The main difference between your modern cornbread and the colonists' corn pone, however, isn't the sugar — it's that we probably wouldn't have Jiffy instant corn muffin mix today if the colonists had never been able to cut their corn pone out of the pan. The thought alone is enough to make a home cook shudder. Luckily, there's a simple step to help prevent cornbread from sticking to your cast iron skillet, and it doesn't require any ingredients or tools that you don't already have.

Preheat your cast iron skillet

To pop that hot, golden cornbread out with ease, preheat your skillet before baking. New England Today explains the science behind it. The surface of cast iron expands as it gets hotter, which opens up small abrasions in the pan. As the pan cools, and the small rifts swell shut, they can physically trap particles of your cornbread in the pan itself. No thanks. Maybe that's what American R&B singer Wilson Pickett meant when he joked, "I used to always have a pretty high, little clear voice, but as I got older, I got a little cornbread in it."

Preheating also adds a firm crispy outside to the bread, per Cast Iron Recipes, which diversifies the texture and can keep your soft cornbread from falling apart. When rap artist Big L sings, "I smash mics like cornbread," there's a reason for the comparison; it's notoriously crumbly. When the raw batter touches the already-hot pan, it begins cooking a little faster, thereby improving your delicate bread's structural integrity.

Preheat in the oven or on the stovetop

To thoroughly preheat your skillet, The Kitchn recommends simply popping the skillet in the oven while it gets hot. Then, once the oven is preheated, take the warm skillet out and add a little butter or oil to the bottom of the pan before pouring in your batter. For extra non-stick ease, world-renowned chef Alex Gaurnaschelli of Food Network also recommends coating the bottom and sides of your skillet with butter before pouring in the batter.

Not only does preheating help prevent batter from sticking to a cool pan, it also helps the skillet get an even bake, per Today. Cast iron has a tendency to heat slowly and unevenly, it says, so warming that skillet is a good way to ward off a patchy bake. According to Lodge Cast Iron, you can also preheat your skillet on the stovetop. Since cast iron is a material that naturally holds heat, it says, you won't need to use a burner setting higher than medium.