The Science of Cast Iron
Chef Sean Brock Explains it All
Okay, so we’ll tell you up front, this issue of the Standard Edition is going to be the Sean Brock Special. In part, because we love the guy, for his food, for his restaurants, and perhaps most importantly of all, for his big brain.
The award-winning Southern chef has been called many things—farm-to-table hero, Southern culinary revivalist, agricultural anthropologist—and we’ll add one more, which anyone who has eaten at his renowned McCrady’s in Charleston already knows: mad scientist.
We caught up with Brock to ruminate on the science behind the pan.
Southern chef Sean Brock shares the key to cast-iron cornbread.
Sean Brock has been looking at the American South differently these days, less as a large homogenous mass of land beneath the Mason-Dixon Line steeped in the same beloved cooking traditions, and more as a multitude of distinct microregions, each with its own unique stories to tell—and dishes to share.
And few recipes embody this quite like one of the award-winning chef’s own personal favorites, as showcased in his new cookbook, South.
The iconic, comfort food staple of cornbread.
Photo Credit: Netflix, Chef’s Table (Sean Brock) 2019
JIMMY RED CORNBREAD
Recipe courtesy of Sean Brock's latest cookbook: South
2 cups coarse cornmeal, preferably Geechie Boy Jimmy Red Coarse Cornmeal
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups full-fat buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon Rendered Fresh Lard, melted
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes.
Combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine the buttermilk, egg, and ¼ cup of the lard in a small bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just to combine; do not overmix.
Move the skillet from the oven to the stove, placing it over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of lard and swirl to coat the skillet. Pour in the batter, distributing it evenly. It should sizzle.
Remove the skillet from the eye of your stove and place back in your preheated oven. Bake the cornbread for about 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm from the skillet.