Ode to a Cornstick Pan
The cast iron cornstick pan has quite the legacy. As a visually unique object, the sight of a cornstick pan tends to stir memories, whether it belonged to a parent, grandparent, or simply hung on a wall as decoration. Curious about the love for this pan, we spoke to some members of our community about their own cornstick pans.
What is a cornstick pan?
To answer this, we have to back up a little. Cornbread, one of the most beloved Southern staples, infamously uses cornmeal as the base for the bread. The original cornstick pan plays off of this by making cornbread in the shape of ears of corn. In fact, the shape and name of the pan may lead some people to think it’s used to cook corn ears, like Lodge fan Marcy Brizzolara’s daughter.
“In a store, I showed my girls the cornstick pan and told them it's just like the one we have at home that we inherited from Granny,” she said. “My oldest asked what you do with the pan. I told her it’s for cornbread for soups and such. She looked a bit perplexed and asked, ‘Where do you find corn-on-the-cob to fit the holes?’. She was totally serious! After we stopped laughing, I explained cornbread batter and the corn cob shapes, and promised to make it for dinner that night. We walked the pan to the register and bought it then and there.”
While this pan design has been made since the 30s, Lodge began making the cornstick pan in the 1950s.
One of the main benefits of using this pan versus a skillet for cornbread is that folks who love an edge piece get an irresistible one every time.
“The cornstick pan reminds me of my childhood because my mom would make a big pot of soup to dip them in—or pinto beans. They always had those crispy edges that were the best!” said Jordan Byram of South Pittsburg, Tennessee.
Originally, people could choose from either a 5-stick or a 7-stick pan. Last month, as Lodge released the first ever full line of cast iron bakeware, the cornstick pan received a makeover, moving to 6 wells to accommodate the most popular cornbread mixes on the market today.
The pan now comes with two handles, making it easier to grab in and out of the oven without leaving thumbprints on the bread. There are also two feet on the bottom of the new cornstick pan to keep it steady in the oven.
The cornstick pan is often seen as a treasure.
Many of our Lodge pan fans fall into one of two categories with cornstick pans: Either they inherited a cornstick pan from a relative or they did not inherit the one from their youth and have been searching flea markets, yard sales, or stores for one ever since.
Jennifer Prairie Lovet of Knoxville, Tennessee, bought a cornstick pan for herself at a hardware store in North Carolina.
“I always wanted one, so one year for my birthday, I got it for myself,” she said. “It made the cornbread just as I hoped — crispy and golden, no matter what recipe I used.”
Some people, like Sharice Adkins of Virginia, ask for one for a gift. On Christmas morning, when it was her turn to open a gift, she opened the box and found a cornstick pan. She was already pretty excited, but then the surprise got even better.
“My stepmom told me that there was a story behind this gift. It turns out it was my grandmother’s cornstick pan,” she said. “I don’t know the exact date, but the pan is probably 50+ years old. In my opinion, receiving the old one was even better than getting a new one.”
For Zachary Boles of Jacksonville, North Carolina, the cornstick pan was something he was unsure about using. In fact, he was a little leery about most cast iron. His grandmother passed away, leaving him all her vintage pieces, but they sat unused. It wasn’t a venture he felt prepared for at that time. Then, one day, he bought a cheap cornstick pan at a local flea market, tried restoring it and through that experience found a new love for cast iron cookware.
“I saved my grandma’s iron from the scrap heap, a decision I consider one of the most important of my life,” he said. “Not only is there is nothing more satisfying then bringing a vintage piece ‘back from the brink’, but it also brought me closer to the woman who I, in my youthful ignorance, assumed would be around forever.”
Tips for Using a Cornstick Pan
For starters, we recommend using a cornstick pan often to make memories, because it’s a pan that’s hard to forget. Just ask Jordan Byram, a South Pittsburg resident.
“My favorite memory is of a cold winter’s day and my mom making a big pot of vegetable beef soup with a basket of cornsticks in the middle of the table. I loved dunking them in my soup—as many as I wanted. It’s such a good memory and I still think of times like that when I see that pan or eat a cornstick to this day,” she said.
When you get ready to make something in a cornstick pan, our test kitchen recommends you brush each of the cornstick wells with ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil, making sure to coat the entire cavity, and then place it in the oven to preheat. This will deliver crispy crusts.
“Don’t feel limited to cornbread with this pan,” said Kris Stubblefield, associate culinary manager at Lodge. “You can make stuffed pancakes by pouring batter into a hot cornstick pan, adding a sausage link, and topping with more pancake batter. You can even make brownies. Just remember to get creative and have fun!”
Pass it on.
Once you have a cornstick pan of your own, remember that these pieces often mean a lot when given to the next generation.
“One year for Christmas I was working with a tight budget,” said Jennifer Prarie Lovett. “I was searching for thoughtful gifts and when I found out my new son-in-law wanted a cornstick pan I passed it on to him. He was excited to get it, and uses it often.”
Cheesy Herb Cornsticks
These Cheesy Herb Cornsticks have so much flavor, we often grab one for dunking and an extra one just for eating.
Rosemary Polenta Cornsticks
This perfectly portioned side dish with crispy edges with a creamy, cheese- and herb-flavored center can be made in advance and reheated in the oven.
Creamed Corn and Smoked Gouda Cornsticks
These simple cornsticks are perfect for dipping into soups and stews - and they take less than 30 minutes to make!