Cracklin Cornbread

I love cornbread! Well, I love really good cornbread! Bad cornbread isn’t fit for anything. I’d rather not have any cornbread than bad cornbread. You know what I’m talking about: cakey, pale yellow (a sign of too little corn meal), dry and crumbly, and flat tasting.The bad cornbread seems to be much more prevalent than the good stuff. I’m not sure why, cause cornbread was once quite the staple in most home cooks bag of tricks. It has everything going for it: it’s cheap to make, when it’s made correctly it tastes great, it goes with quite a few dishes like chili or beans and rice, or my favorite, Bar-B-Que! It’s also very easy to make and it doesn’t take long to make or bake. So, like I said, great little quick bread in the old bag of tricks! It was, that is, until people got lazy. They started using mixes for cornbread. Most of the box mixes produce something on the wrong side of tasty. They’re flat tasting. There is something missing from them that no amount of fiddling can cure. The exception to this seems to be Jiffy mix. This produces, right out of the box, an acceptable cornbread. Nothing to write home about, to be sure, but not bad. I must confess that when I want cornbread quick I turn to Jiffy mix. Oh, and as a base to start from it works very well. You can tweak this stuff and it’ll come out better. Jiffy mix is almost always on the shelf in my pantry.

This blog, however, isn’t about Jiffy mix. It’s about scratch made cornbread. Made the old-fashioned way: in a cast-iron skillet! Oh, yeah! And if you look closely at the name of this recipe it’s Cracklin Cornbread. Oh, yeah!! Cracklins! Oh, wait! Most of you aren’t steeped in southern cooking culture and so might not know what cracklins are. Southern cooking uses lard in quite a few recipes. Actually, cooks in general used lard in many places before the fat police declared lard bad. Lard, or rendered pig fat, is truly amazing! Do you want the flakey-ist pie dough? Use lard. Want the tenderest biscuits  possible? Use lard! Fried eggs, either sunnyside up or over benefit from cooking in lard. Lard, unlike bacon grease, has a very delicate flavor. So delicate, in fact that some of the best cake frosting used lard.

Okay, you ask, what does lard really have to do with anything? Well, cracklins are whats left over after you render lard. The best fat for lard lies under the skin. So, to render out the lard you cut the fat and skin into fairly small pieces, put them in a heavy pot, turn the heat up, and watch the fat melt off the skin. And you do need to watch it as you don’t want the lard and cracklins to burn.  Now, I know most of you aren’t going to render out your own lard and so aren’t going to have homemade cracklins. I don’t even do that. Well, not very often, anyway. It’s just a lot of trouble. So, Will, what do you use for cracklins for your Cracklin Cornbread? The very next best thing! Right, bacon. Bacon is made from the pork belly, usually has a high fat to meat ratio, and tastes great.  So in our recipe we will use bacon grease and crispy fried bacon pieces.

So, are you ready to tackle Cracklin Cornbread? I was this morning. I made 2 different types of cornbread to have friends evaluate for me. This recipe won. Hands down. Okay, so here it is:

Cracklin Cornbread


6 slices thick cut bacon, chopped into small pieces

1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal, stone ground if you can get it

1/2 cup AP (all-purpose) flour

3 tbsp granulated sugar, or more depending how sweet you like your cornbread

1 tbsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, or 1 3/4 cups for  wetter corn bread

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

leftover bacon grease from cooking bacon


1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees

2. In a cast-iron skillet fry bacon over medium-low heat until very crisp. Using a slotted spoon set bacon aside to drain. Remove all grease but 3 tbsp, or enough to cover the bottom. Keep the skillet warm.

3. In a mixing bowl, stir all of the dry ingredients. Pour in the buttermilk and beaten eggs and mix by hand (I use a fork for this) until lightly blended. Stir in bacon pieces and melted butter. Stir until thoroughly incorporated. There will be some lumps, that’s okay.

4. Pour batter into skillet and put into oven. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cornbread’s edges are brown and the top is golden. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come clean. Serve warm.

So, that’ll make up some great cornbread. Feel free to fiddle with it as much as you like. Add a cup of kernel corn. Or dice fine some jalapenos (I like the ones pickled in brine, but you could use fresh) and make that cornbread zippy. Leave out the bacon. Dice up red bell peppers and mix them in. The possibilities and variations are really only limited by your imagination. Oh, and it’ll work as a side dish for any number of entrees. Again, limited by your own imagination!

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Looks like cracklin cornbread without the cracklins. How much cracklins to use or did you substitute bacon bits?

    • Hi, Carolyn. Good eye. Since most people up North here wouldn’t know a cracklin if it walked up and shook their hand and really wouldn’t want to take the time to make ’em, I substituted crispy fried bacon, cut up in small pieces. Not exactly the same but still makes good cornbread.

    • As far as the amount of cracklins to use, for me it’s a matter of how crunchy/porky I want my cornbread. With bacon I suggest 6 slices of thick bacon. I would start with about the same amount of the genuine article and add or subtract, according to your taste. Does that help?

  2. “Since most people up North here wouldn’t know a cracklin if it walked up and shook their hand and really wouldn’t want to take the time to make ‘em,”

    I’m a Californian transplanted from Ohio (Eastern Euro and Farmer grandmas love to cook with lard!!!). I pulled this article up from a Google search because I’m trying to figure out what to do with this pound of cracklins I have on the counter left from the lard I rendered in my slow cooker over night!

    If you still haven’t rendered your own lard, please, try it! The slow cooker does 95% of the work, and you can easily make a batch overnight! You’ll be happy you did!

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