Photo by Gabriele Stabile

I adored my godmother’s cornbread. My godmother, Kitty Pulley, lived on Whites Creek Pike around the corner from our place on Haynes Meade Circle. I’d go over to play with her daughter Aurelia and she’d serve us wedges of cornbread hot from the pan. There was always this mysterious smoky sweetness to her bread, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. But I loved it.  


When I was creating this recipe, I started with lard, but ran out. There was some bacon fat in the fridge, so I used that instead. After a bite, I screamed, “Oh my God! It’s Mrs. Pulley’s cornbread! Bacon fat!!! It was bacon fat all along!” Like every good Southern cook, including my granny, Mrs. Pulley kept a crock of rendered bacon fat and stirred that secret ingredient into her cornbread. So go out and buy some good bacon. Pour the rendered fat through a sieve and keep that liquid gold in your fridge. It’ll make this the tastiest cornbread you’ve ever had.

12 servings


    • 2 ½ cups fine white stone-ground cornmeal
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 ¾ cups buttermilk
    • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons rendered bacon fat or lard


    1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
    2. Whisk the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and brown sugar in another bowl until smooth.
    3. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
    4. Heat the bacon fat in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet until liquid. Swirl it around to coat the bottom and sides of the skillet, then pour the rest into the batter.
    5. Whisk the batter until smooth, then pour into the hot skillet. Immediately transfer to the oven.
    6. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

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