Sara Bradley designed her bacon fat cornbread to taste exactly like the one her grandmother made for family gatherings during Bradley’s childhood. Although her grandmother Lula never followed a recipe, Bradley developed this cornbread to lighten the bacon fat’s decadence with tangy buttermilk. Pouring the batter into a ripping hot skillet caramelizes the edges before it even begins baking—the key to its crisp exterior and custardy interior. At her restaurant Freight House in Paducah, Kentucky, Bradley serves the bacon fat cornbread with a drizzle of sorghum and big smear of cold butter.
Yields 1 9-inch skillet
1½ cup yellow cornmeal
¾ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup melted bacon fat, divided
1⅓ cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.* Place a cast iron skillet in the oven to heat.
- In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, ½ cup bacon fat, and buttermilk until evenly combined. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, slowly mix wet mixture into the dry until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.
- Transfer hot cast iron skillet from oven to the stove. Over medium-high heat, add ¼ cup bacon fat to skillet, tilting skillet carefully to coat the surface. Pour batter into skillet and cook over heat for 2 to 3 minutes, just until the sides of the cornbread start to pull away from pan. Transfer skillet to oven, and bake until a toothpick inserted into cornbread comes out clean, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes for transferring to a plate.
*Note: Bradley uses a convection oven. If using a standard oven, increase temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.