Published February 1, 2005. From Cook's Illustrated.
Making Cornbread from scratch is not difficult, but with all the mixes on the market we wondered if we could get from-scratch quality out of a box.
We gathered several brands of cornbread mix, prepared them in the test kitchen, and held a blind tasting.
As easy as our Southern Cornbread is, nothing can beat the convenience of these mixes—just pour into a bowl, add milk (and sometimes egg) mix, and bake. Within 30 minutes, you can have a hot, steaming cornbread on the table. But can the taste come close to homemade? Not remotely.
All of the cornbreads were dismissed by tasters as tremendously inferior to homemade. All received scores that hovered just above or below the "Not Recommended" cutoff; three are barely recommended and four are not recommended.
The problem with all of the cornbreads was summed up by the one taster who wrote, "Overall, there is no corn flavor; all have an inexplicable savory flavor." Breads were overwhelmingly dry and bland; none tasted like the corn for which they are named. The better-rated cornbreads rated high for sweetness and moistness.
So what to do if you're looking for easy cornbread with great corn flavor and moist texture? Unfortunately, there just isn't any shortcut; you have to make it yourself.