Meathead’s Corn Bread Odyssey takes root in Meathenge Labs

What a strange trip this has been. It all started innocently enough. Meathead (brother inlaw) has his way of making corn bread. NO COOKIE INGREDIENTS, is the guideline. No flour, no sugar. He wanted the bite and crunch of the corn meal, nothing in the way. His grandmother made it this way and unfortunately she never wrote it down. So Meathead has been winging it for years, tweaking this and changing that. I was lucky enough to get a piece a few months ago, heaven. I asked for the ‘recipe’ and he was kind enough to put something down. This last Sunday was time and off I went on the hunt for the perfect cornbread.

Here’s the recipe he sent me:
2 Cups Corn Meal
2 Cups Buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon Baking SODA
1 Egg
Salt to taste
1/4 Cup of lard/bacon grease/shortening
(optional) 2 scoops of mayonnaise
This seemed simple enough. I got my meez together and off I went. The oven was set to 350 before I started. The egg, lard & buttermilk were alowed to come to room temperature. Lard up your favorite cast iron skillet, preheat for 15 minutes.

Ain’t it pretty? It all came together just fine. I popped it in to the oven and checked it at 20 minutes. Nope. The toothpick didn’t come out clean until another 15 minutes.

Hmmm, no browning. No sugar either. Could have probably jacked the heat to 375 or 400.

Melty butter with melty warm honey. Hard flat and bitter from all the buttermilk. I was the only one that ate the entire slice, toss to the trash. This was NOT the corn bread I’d had a few months ago. No sir. After about an hour, I was ready to try again.
This time ol’ Biggles was going to fix things. I used a recipe off the side of some corn meal box I had laying around. The meal I’d bought from our local hippy store, some bulk stuff. Anyway, here’s how I modified it. Fluff it up a bit, ya know?
4 thirds Cups Corn Meal
2/3 cup unbleached white flour (stoned buhurerrerr)
1 Cup buttermilk
1 Cup whole milk
1 TBS Baking Powder
2 Eggs
2 or 3 lumps o’ butter
1 tsp salt
Sprinkled fancy sugar on top of batter in skillet before cooking
1/4 Cup of lard/bacon grease/shortening
1 dollup mayonaise

30 minutes at 350, smelled okay. Top looks funny. Let cool a few minutes and slice a slice.

Melty butter with warm honey. It wasn’t until I forked off a piece and bit down that I noticed the corn bread had separated on me. On the bottom was corn bread and on the top was some kind of custard, or something. Click on the image above, I’ve pointed out the separation there. My wife walked in, looked at it and said, “Uh, no.” and walked out. I tipped the skillet in to the trash, cleaned up and went to bed. And that is pretty much how Sunday went.
Upon hearing of my failed attempts, Mr. & Mrs. Meathead showed up Monday night with a pan of corn bread he’d just made. Heaven. Meathead admitted it was a ‘work in progress’ recipe. “Gee, no kidding.” said Biggles. But that’s okay, I’m batting even worse with the Southern Fried Chicken.
Xo Xo

17 thoughts on “Meathead’s Corn Bread Odyssey takes root in Meathenge Labs

  1. Both recipes seem very strange to me. The first one is equal parts dry ingredients to wet. Why? And the second one has milk in it?? And Baking Powder? Very strange!
    a rule that usually works: in the presence of acid (cocoa powder, maple syrup, buttermilk, lemon Juice, etc), baking soda is usually the leavener of choice.
    also ther is no such thing as four thirds! That is really silly! The frasction math in baking is hard enough, don’t wanna make it more confusing.
    My recipe is really easy if you wanna try that route….tee hee.

  2. Hey Shuna,
    This is clearly what happens when you haven’t a clue. The first recipe is closest to what Meathead does and the corn bread comes out GREAT. Everyone had a piece. But when I do it, no go. The second recipe is worthless and something I did as I was rolling along. Apparently I should have kept on rolling.
    I’ve saved your recipe and it’ll be the one, you bet. I don’t have the time to muck about and play with baking recipes. Fussing with herbs, spices and meat I can do. That’s easy and so far I haven’t ruined a piece of meat. Well, except for the time I attempted a Country Fried Pork Rib. But that was over ten years ago, the dark ages.

  3. Excellent trial and error, no better fancy learnin tool on earth. Guess I gotta make a stab at that starter that has been brewing for a few months. It’s about the process, right?

  4. Hey Molly,
    Process. Yeah, sure. But it’s kinda nice to NOT throw out the fruits of your labor in the end. I would have enjoyed a nice slice of day old corn bread today!

  5. How about this cornbread from Cooks Illustrated:
    1 1/2 c flour
    1 c cornmeal
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    3/4 tsp salt
    1/4 c brown sugar
    3/4 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen, thawed)
    1 c buttermilk
    2 eggs
    1 stick butter, melted
    Directions: Puree corn, brown sugar, buttermilk and eggs in food processor. Pour into dry ingredients. Fold together a bit then add melted butter and mix until combined. Pour into 8″ square baking dish and bake at 400F for 25-35 minutes.
    They say it’s a hybrid between dense southern skillet cornbread and “cakey” northern cornbread. And you know they tested it to death. 3/4 tsp salt? Would the extra 1/4 tsp kill ’em?

  6. Hey Nic!
    Thanks, I appreciate the effort. But CI makes my skin crawl. However, I have heard good things about the baking end of what Kimball does. But the show and the mag can bite my meaty behind.
    What I’m going for is the more solid southern version. NO COOKIE INGREDIENTS, flour/sugar. But I think I’m going to have to give a little on the flour end of things.
    CI has two eggs, that’s 1 too many. Not enough corn meal. NO CORN kernals, no jalapenos and no CHEESE. Buttermilk? Okay, but their recipe has no lard or bacon drippins. That’s just WRONG. And no dollup of mayonaise? How would Grams feel on that one?
    It’s either a Yankee recipe or it ain’t. And sister, that’s a yankee recipe if I ever seened one. If you had what Meathead made, you’d be a convert in a blink. Makes you want to HUNT, try, experiment, figure it out. Which is what I attempted. But I ain’t no baker. Shuna has the recipe that looks best so far.

  7. Alright. How about this one. It’s got bacon, jalapenos and cheese. No flour and only one egg, too.:
    1/4 cup bacon grease, vegetable oil or shortening
    2 cups cornmeal
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 1/2 cups buttermilk
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
    2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
    Preheat the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
    Place the bacon grease in a 10-inch black cast-iron skillet and swirl to coat the sides and bottom evenly. Place skillet in the oven to heat.
    In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper and mix well.
    In another small bowl combine the buttermilk, egg, melted butter, jalapenos. Add to dry ingredients and stir to combine.
    Remove the hot skillet from the oven and carefully swirl to evenly distribute the hot grease. Quickly pour the cornmeal batter into the skillet and bake until firm and golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve hot, with butter on the side.

  8. Hey Nic,
    Where at did you find that one?
    Again, I can do without the additives of corn, cheese and peppers. But this is an interesting one. Especially with the black pepper.

  9. Ok, I don’t know what I was thinking, since it doesn’t have cheese and you could easily take out the jalapenos. No actual corn, just meal.
    I got it from my brother, who got it from Emeril, but axed the roasted garlic that he tossed in there. My cornbread doesn’t want to have garlic in it. The original’s here:,,FOOD_9936_19269,00.html

  10. Hey Nic,
    I don’t know what you were thinking either. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll do that one too. Sans the garlic as well. Garlic? In cornbread? Eeek!

  11. LOOK, there’s a REASON why cornbread is simple!! It’s Southern Soul food cookin’!! Baking powder has absolutely NO reason being there. Final, kaput, period.
    And when cornbread has corn in it those kernals do a funky thing whilst baking. they get like the stuff that won’t come out of your teeth.
    You wanna do something amazing with corn? wait until corn season. I love making corn ice cream.
    Although I understand why you don’t want any cookie ingredients in your corn bread, the white flour makes it rise a bit more and gives you more surface to taste amazing cornmeal.
    I agree with you about CI, thank you for saying it. It is too weird; there’s a soul sucking machine that those recipes and words go through, I feel bad for them.

  12. Wow! This is a southern thing. Nobody in California has the faintest CLUE how to make cornbread. I learned from my Daddy who was from Louisiana. Jan learned from her Grandma who was from rural Georgia (just like Jan is – I on the other hand am from England – so take the following with a pinch of snuff).
    point 1 – sugar does not belong in on around near or in the same room as cornread.
    point 2 – you wants your baking soda and your baking powder (yes, you do), your buttermilk, your heavy duty fats, your cornmeal, a little flour to help it along, lots of salt AND NOTHING ELSE! No corn, no peppers, no ognion, not even bacon – although bacon grease is the heavy duty fat of choice…some people say there is a place for egg. I’m with them.
    point 3 – heavy iron skillet or heavy iron corn stick tin (little rows of space shaped like corn in cast iron to make little individual sized cornbread sticks) ONLY
    So far you are close…
    Now – the heinous admission – real Southerners use cornmeal mix – this is a blend of cornmeal, flour, salt and baking soda – that you buy ina bag like flour. This is not that weird crap you buy in supermarkets in California.
    OK. Grease skillet heavily – preferably with bacon grease. Put pan in oven and Heat oven to 425. Mix (very quickly) 1 egg, 3 tablespoons oil (I use olive but I’m a philistine), 1 1/4 cup buttermilk. In another bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 cups cornmeal, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda. Blend the two bowls together very fast and dump into the skillet which you retrieve rapidly from the oven without burning yourself, then slide it back in there. Bake about 30 minutes until light brown on top and you get a clean toothpick.
    And, yes, because I am an unreconstructed messer about with recipes, you actually CAN add bacon, onion, herbs, spices, etc. I don’t like corn and peppers though.
    If you are from the West or North and you think this is a bit too dry then you got it about right.
    Serve with greens and gravy and also pour a little more buttermilk on top if you want.
    We’ll do grits next time…I really mess about with those!

  13. Hey Shuna,
    Thanks for chiming in. Us yanks don’t know much about corn bread, I don’t think. The dumb recipe on the box of meal says baking powder. Meathead has it right, it’s really good. But not me. I’ll have to keep practicing. Oh well. Heh.

  14. Hey Owen!
    Damn man, you came through with both hands and fire coming out your backside. I’m glad that not only do we have all this good information up for everyone to see, but that I have it where I can FIND it when I need it! I’ll clearly have to get back to the kitchen. I have at least two recipes I want to do, both Southern & Yankee. YEAH !!!

  15. What makes cornbread taste bitter?
    Can it be from “old” baking powder????

  16. Hey Lee,
    Maybe, but I really doubt it. If your baking powder or soda is old, the bread won’t rise. If it’s bitter, you’re using too much salt. Or sour milk, tee hee.

  17. Heat bacon grease on stove top while oven is heating to 450. When stove top cast iron skillet with bacon grease is smoking it is ready to pour in the corn bread. My grandmother’s recipe was similar except she used 1 c cornmeal, one egg, 1 and 1/3 c buttermilk, 1/4 t bp and 1/2 t bs. This will come out really crunchy on the top.