Where do you stand on this pantry staple? 

Recipe: Classic Skillet Cornbread

The secret to our crunchy, buttery-crusted cornbread is a screaming-hot cast-iron skillet, yellow cornmeal, butter, and just a pinch of sugar.

Jen Causey, Claire Spollen, Torie Cox

There are few small cardboard boxes as polarizing as Jiffy’s cornbread mix. While some grew up with the aqua-and-white package in their cabinets, others scoff at its sweetness.

The controversy over boxed or bagged cornbread mix does seem inherently tied to the debate over the presence of sugar in the ingredient list. Many argue true cornbread has none, while others are more lenient. And like many things, it all seems tied to one’s childhood.

WATCH: Classic Skillet Cornbread

While many boxed mixes can err on the side of cloying or even produce a result more akin in texture to a scone, there are some pre-made concoctions that we’ve found to be wholly suitable in times when the cornmeal jar has gone empty or the day’s activities have depleted the time necessary to make it from scratch. We are not a publication that judges at such times.  Among our more favored mixes, we’re fans of Bob’s Red Mill Stone-Ground Cornbread Mix, Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix, and, for something more jazzy for, oh say, tailgates, there’s Zatarain’s new Cheddar-Jalapeno Cornbread Mix.

And there are also the ways in which you can make boxed cornbread mix taste a bit more homemade: grease a cast iron skillet and heat it up in the oven until it’s hot before you pour the batter in; use good quality buttermilk as your liquid; and try to use a mix that requires butter instead of oil.

The ultimate solution to all these quandaries? Make your own boxed mix by mixing together the dry ingredients of your favorite recipe in bulk. Place in jars or to-go containers, and when the time comes you’ll have the convenience of boxed mix with all the taste of homemade. Perhaps with cornbread, you really can have it all.