An easy cornbread recipe that cooks up in a cast iron skillet over your campfire. Perfect with a bowl of chili on your next camping trip!
Chili and cornbread are like the yin and yang of campfire cooking. One dark and spicy, the other light and fluffy. The two are integrally linked like opposite sides of the same coin. But while simmering a pot of chili over a campfire seems pretty straightforward, baking a loaf of cornbread using only an open flame sounds a little more daunting. Nevertheless, it can be done, and, if you ask us, must be done to achieve harmony and balance in your meal.
When it comes to campfire baking, the secret is heat control. Cornbread is a quick bread by nature and only needs a short while to fully cook. However, too much heat and you’ll scorch the bottom, not enough heat and you’ll be waiting around for days or left with a wet, doughy middle. Ideally speaking, you’re looking for the section of your fire that could be roughly be called medium-low on a stovetop burner.
The other secret is heat retention. If you’re lucky enough to have a lid for your cast iron pan (or a dutch oven lid that also fits your skillet), we highly suggest you use it. But for everyone else, aluminum foil is probably going to be your best bet. Cover the top and crimp the edges to keep it in place. Even something as thin as foil can trap the rising steam inside the pan and allow the cornbread to cook from the top down.
This recipe is designed to avoid flipping the bread midway through. To achieve this, the batter has to be relatively thin in order to cook all the way through on a unidirectional heat source. It won’t be the big fluffy loaf your grandma used to make, but this version eliminates the need for any high stakes spatula work over an open fire. Just set the pan in position, cover it, and remove it.
The cornbread we cooked here was done in a 10” cast iron pan. If the pan you’re using is smaller or larger, you’ll want to appropriately scale the recipe to match. When poured into the pan and spread evenly, the batter should be roughly 1 inch thick.
Campfire Skillet Cornbread
1 cup cornmeal (medium grind)
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk ((if using dry powdered milk: 3 tbsp powder + 1 cup water))
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon oil ((we used coconut oil and loved it))
In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt to combine.
Add the milk, egg, and honey to the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until fully incorporated.
Over your campfire, heat the oil in your cast iron skillet. Swirl to coat the bottom (be sure to use something to protect you from the heat – the skillet will get very hot!). Pour the batter into the skillet, ensuring that it is in an even layer. Cover the skillet with foil, crimping the foil around the edges, or cover with a lid.
Cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, then move off the head and let the bread rest (still covered) for an additional 5 minutes.
Cut into slices and enjoy with a big bowl of chili!
If you make this meal next time you’re camping, let us know! Leave us a comment below or follow us on Instagram @freshoffthegrid and tag your camp cooking photos #sporkandknife so we can check them out!