What Is a Master Recipe?

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PWL 4 8 The Secret of Master Recipes whats cookingHere’s One: Homemade Cornbread

By Jason Shriner, The Aubergine Chef

Barbecue season is in full swing and what barbecue would be complete without cornbread?

How do you enjoy cornbread? Do you like it with corn kernels throughout? How about with cheddar cheese or jalapenos? Is it better cooked over an open fire in a cast iron skillet? You can have your cornbread anyway you’d like, thanks to my master recipe.

No doubt you’ve heard “master recipe” thrown around a bit, especially thanks to TV chefs. But what exactly is a master recipe? There is no set definition for a master recipe, but there are some major points chefs generally agree upon before upgrading a recipe to master status.

First, the recipe should be easy to customize. Using this cornbread recipe as an example, you can easily swap in and out mix-ins. Don’t have frozen corn? Skip it. Prefer cheddar cheese and jalapenos? Throw those right in.

However, this rule isn’t unlimited. You can’t add jars upon jars of jalapenos and expect the texture to come out exactly the same. The idea of customization is that the chef or cook can easily experiment with the recipe within reason and see a high success rate. Contrast this with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Adding nuts can dramatically affect the dough’s spread and consistency.

A master recipe also produces a dish that goes with an array of other dishes. Master recipes are typically not standalone dishes. For example, try serving this cornbread toasted with ice cream, or cube the cornbread and make bread pudding. You can also use this recipe to make a stuffing, croutons or as a substitute for bread in an open-faced sandwich.

Additionally, a master recipe should be simple, with few steps and uncomplicated directions. This simplicity also allows for experimentation in other forms. You can easily make cornbread muffins, divide the recipe in half and make a loaf, or cook the cornbread over an open fire in a cast iron skillet (but be sure to cover it with a lid or aluminum foil). Recipes that are heavily dependent on specialized equipment rarely become master recipes.

How will you interpret this recipe? Will you make your own secret version? Have fun and remember: You are only limited by your own imagination.

Buttery Cornbread


3 ½ cups     All-Purpose Flour

2 Tbsp.        Baking Powder

½ tsp.          Salt

9 oz.            Unsalted Butter, melted

1 ½ cups     Cornmeal

1 2/3 cups   Granulated Sugar

1 2/3 cups   Water

4                  Whole Eggs



2 cups         Frozen Corn

1 cup           Jarred Jalapenos, Chopped

1 ½ cups     Shredded Cheddar Cheese


  1. Prepare a half-sheet pan with pan release and parchment paper.


  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cornmeal and granulated sugar into an electric bowl.


  1. Warm the water and the butter together. Then whisk in the eggs.


  1. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and, using a paddle, blend the ingredients together until just combined.
  2. Add optional ingredients and blend until just incorporated.


  1. Bake at 370 degrees F for about 22 to 25 minutes.



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