I first tried to make Southern-style cornbread in my twenties, after reading a bunch of recipes from Southern chefs whom I respect. I was surprised by the lack of sugar in the Southern-style cornbread recipes, although this is solely due to my Yankee upbringing and deep-seeded love for the sweetened cornbread of my youth, served with softened butter.
This version includes some cooked bacon in the cornbread mix, along with some bacon fat that is used to cook the cornbread in the preheated cast iron pan to ensure a golden-brown, crispy exterior. You can use 100% cornmeal in this recipe, instead of the mixture of cornmeal and all-purpose flour. Both versions are wonderful.
Try to avoid using a cast iron pan with shallow sides when making this recipe, as the hot bacon fat is likely to spill out from the pan once you add the cornbread mix, which is dangerous.
Cast Iron Southern-Style Cornbread, Cooked in Bacon Fat
- 5 oz thick-cut smoked bacon, finely diced
- 1.5 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 2 Tbsp salted butter, melted
- 1.5 cups fresh buttermilk
- 1 whole egg
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Preheat your cast iron pan in the oven for 30 minutes, or until it is incredibly hot.
- Cook the diced bacon in a saute pan over medium-low heat, until the bacon is cooked and the fat has mostly rendered out.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked bacon bits from the saute pan, and reserve the cooked bacon on paper towels.
- Pour the remaining bacon fat in the saute pan into a heat-safe measuring cup, where you want roughly ¼ cup or more of bacon fat to use in the whole recipe.
- *If you don’t have enough rendered bacon fat, use vegetable oil to make up the difference.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the coarse yellow cornmeal, all-purpose flour, Kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- In a smaller bowl, combine 3 Tbsp of bacon fat with the melted butter, fresh buttermilk, and the whole egg.
- Reserve 1 Tbsp of melted bacon fat to use later in your preheated cast iron pan.
- Add the cooked bacon bits from earlier to the liquid mix with the egg.
- Whisk the liquid mixture together until fully combined.
- Combine the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients, and mix with a rubber spatula until the mixture is homogenous.
- *Try not to overmix your cornbread at this stage.
- Remove the cast iron pan from the oven, and add the remaining 1-2 Tbsp of bacon fat to the hot cast iron skillet.
- Carefully add the cornbread mixture to the roaring hot cast iron skillet.
- Carefully place the cast iron skillet on a sheet tray in the oven, and bake at 425F for roughly 22-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.
- Remove the cornbread from the oven, and allow it to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes before removing from the cast iron and serving.
Some diced jalapenos are nice when added into the cornbread mixture described above.