Cornbread is one of those foods that everyone has a particular way of cooking. It may be a generations-old recipe, an heirloom cast iron skillet, or even a traditional way of prepping the pan.
You’ve probably heard everyone’s take on how to keep cornbread from sticking to the pan, but are all tips right, or are some of them more right than others?
That’s what we set out to verify for ourselves. So keep reading to find out how to whip up a batch of delicious cornbread without worrying about the cleanup.
Cornbread is a simple dish with just a few ingredients. The biggest differences in recipes are more in the ratios and techniques, and boy do they vary!
The reason why your cornbread tends to stick can be traced back to a few reasons. Just try to keep an open mind, even if it differs from how grandma used to make it.
1 – Not Enough Oil in the Pan
Not having a layer of fat buffering the batter from the pan will definitely cause the batter to stick. The proteins in the milk, eggs, and flours will cling to the hot, naked metal for dear life.
Using butter to coat the pan will also have a similar effect. Butter has a lot of water and milk solids, which tend to burn at high temperatures.
And I’d hate to anger the nonstick cooking spray enthusiasts, but you can’t use it here. The thin spray of oil or butter isn’t enough to create that barrier and the batter will just ignore it as it sticks.
How to Fix It:
Use a liberal coating of neutral oil, like canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil, about ¼ cup for a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
If you want the butter flavor without burning or sticking, try using clarified butter or ghee, which has a high smoke point. It also won’t leave any black residue on the bottom of your cornbread or pan.
2 – The Pan Wasn’t Seasoned or Preheated
This is especially important for cast iron pans and skillets, which need to be impeccably seasoned and heated before cooking cornbread.
Seasoning cast iron creates a polymerized oil layer on the cooking surface that’s both waterproof and nonstick. Every time you cook something in it, it adds to the seasoning layer.
Just be careful, as cooking some acidic foods, like tomato sauce, ruins the seasoning and leaches harmful compounds into the food you’re cooking.
Preheating kind of “activates” the seasoning layer on the cast iron, making the surface less sticky to wet batters.
How to Fix It:
Make sure your skillet is well-seasoned before you start. Preheat your skillet or pan at 350℉ for about 5 minutes, then take it out and pour the oil in and swirl it to coat the bottom and the sides.
Pour the prepared cornbread batter into the pan. It will create an immediate crust on the cornbread that you can hear for yourself; that signature sizzle that we all know and love.
3 – The Batter Is Too Wet
This one is tricky because some cornbread recipes are intentionally too wet and come out more like a corn pudding than a bread. However, here we’re talking about the cornbread you can slice and butter, not the one you scoop with a spoon.
If you add too many wet ingredients, like pureed corn or a high percentage of buttermilk, you run the risk of a batter that’s too loose. This can be delicious, but the crumb structure will be too airy and not dense enough to hold together.
How to Fix It:
Play around with the ratios of your recipe. Chances are, you won’t get a batter that’s too dry and crumbly unless you cut a significant amount of the wet ingredients.
And remember, enough oil in the pan or skillet means you’ll develop that crust early, so the batter has a better chance of not sticking.
4 – It’s Not Cooked Long Enough
On some occasions, the problem isn’t in any part of the recipe per se, it’s in the oven you’re cooking it in. Some ovens run cooler than others, so you could be doing everything right but still end up with an undercooked cornbread.
In recipes with a thick batter, you’ll know the cornbread wasn’t cooked long enough when it doesn’t pull from the sides. You can also test it with a cake tester or toothpick and see if any wet crumbs stick to it.
How to Fix It:
Just cook it for a little bit longer. You can check to see if your oven runs too cool by getting a thermometer to check if the temperature is right. This will save you a lot of trouble in other baking endeavors, too!
5 – It’s Burned
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Cornbread that’s been left too long to bake will eventually burn, and the crust will turn a deep brown or black and stick to the bottom of the pan.
Not trying to stir anything up here, but this has a higher chance of happening to sweet cornbread recipes with a lot of added sugar. Those sugar molecules will caramelize and burn faster, then fuse with the pan until you coax them out with a spatula.
This doesn’t mean that cornbread recipes that don’t add a lot of sugar can’t have this happen, though. Cook any recipe long enough in a too-hot oven and you’ll get the same charred results
How to Fix It:
You don’t have to give up your grandma’s sweet cornbread recipe for this. Just get a thermometer to make sure the oven isn’t running too hot and set a timer for the appropriate cooking time.
More Tips to Keep Cornbread From Sticking
Even if you’re doing everything we mentioned above right, you might still find your cornbread in a sticky situation. Here are a few other tips and tricks you can try out to get the cornbread without sticking.
Use Parchment Paper or a Silicone Mat
This is a bit of a cheat since it prevents the largest area of the cornbread at the bottom from sticking. Just oil your pan as usual then cut a round or rectangular piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. You can also use a silicone baking mat.
When the time comes to turn it out, just loosen the sides using a butter knife and turn the cornbread out on a cooling rack, then peel off the parchment paper. Et voila! Perfect cornbread in one piece.
Use a Silicone Mold to Bake the Cornbread
Consider investing in a silicone mold that will guarantee you easily unmoldable cornbread every time. They come in different sizes for a single large cornbread or individual cornbread muffins.
The biggest trade-off here is the lack of a crispy bottom crust, as the cornbread will steam in the silicone. However, if you use this next trick, you’ll get exactly what you want without the fuss of a cast iron pan.
If you don’t like the cakey texture a silicone mold leaves your cornbread with, just fry it in some oil after it’s baked!
I mean, you can use silicone bakeware without oil. So ultimately, you’re using the exact amount you would have used in a cast iron pan.
Wait for the cornbread to cool slightly so it comes out of the mold in one piece. Then, get your nonstick pan, add enough oil to coat the bottom, and wait for it to heat up.
Don’t be too impatient! The oil can soak through the baked cornbread if you don’t let it get hot enough, and nobody wants that.
Fry the cornbread for about 3–5 minutes, or until the bottom looks golden and crispy. Serve warm alongside your favorite chili!
How to Remove Cornbread That’s Stuck to the Pan
If the deed is done and you want to know how to turn out cornbread that’s already stuck, try one of these tips:
- Loosen the sides with a butter knife, then flip the cornbread onto a clean kitchen towel or wire rack. Gravity will do the rest and tip it out eventually.
- Use a thin silicone spatula to pry it out of the pan. Just go around the outside first, then push it further to the center, and it’ll all come out in one piece.
- Cut it up and serve it right from the cast iron pan! It’s a bit more rustic, but no one will complain when there’s delicious cornbread in it for them.
Cornbread is heavenly, but when it’s stuck in the pan, it can be hell to get out! Learning how to keep cornbread from sticking will make this delicious side dish less of a pain to handle.
Just make sure you have enough oil in the pan, that your cast iron is seasoned and preheated, and that your cooking time and temperature are right.
If all else fails, just bake it in a silicone mold and fry it off in a nonstick pan to get that delicious crust!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.