Bacon Cornbread

The single most vivid taste memory I associate with Thanksgiving is the flavor of crisp turkey skin. I almost always get first dibs on the wing tips and sneak into the kitchen to peel off the crispiest pieces of golden, salt-and-peppery cracklins before the carvers go to work. The intensity of flavor means it doesn’t take a lot of skins to satisfy my craving, but by the end of the meal, I usually find myself yearning for just one more piece.

This bacon cornbread is designed to take the pressure off that yearning, substituting the smoky, salty flavor of crackly bacon for the turkey skin. However, I often make a variation of this, buying a half-pound of chicken or turkey skins from the butcher, laying them out on a sheet pan, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and baking at 350°F (175°C) until they render their fat and become very crisp and crumbly, just like bacon.

The use of sugar, honey, buttermilk, lots of corn kernels, and polenta-grind cornmeal (rather than the usual finely ground cornmeal) gives this corn bread moisture, texture, and sweet yet tart flavor bursts. The bacon (or cracklings) on the top is the final payoff, complementing any Thanksgiving dinner or re-creating Thanksgiving flavor memories throughout the year.

I have an ongoing love affair with good cornbread. By good I mean moist and sweet, with crunch and texture. This recipe is my favorite, and it is the best corn bread I have ever made or eaten. I just don’t think it gets any better than this.–Peter Reinhart

LC Cornbread Caprice Note

There’s cornbread, and then there’s cornbread enhanced with bacon, corn, and ample good ol’ bacon drippings. Just as god intended. If, like us, you swoon to the crusty corner pieces—you know, the ones with ample contrast of crunchy exterior to super duper moist interior—you may wish to consider increasing the exterior surface area of each serving by making muffins with this batter. Just fill a dozen or so buttered muffin cups and bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 30 minutes, until the center of each muffin is springy. You’re welcome.

Bacon Cornbread Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes one 10-inch bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (6 ounces) coarse cornmeal (also packaged as “polenta’)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 8 ounces (approximately 10 slices) bacon
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups (16 ounces) fresh or frozen corn
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings or mild vegetable oil

Directions

  • 1. The night before baking the cornbread, soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk. Cover and leave it at room temperature overnight.
  • 2. The next day, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • 3. Place the bacon on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. Using tongs or a fork, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain the fat from the skillet into a stainless-steel bowl and reserve it. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.
  • 4. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C). Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Stir in the granulated and brown sugars. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey in the melted butter and then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs. Add this to the soaked cornmeal mixture. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or whisk until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is blended and smooth. It should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Stir in the corn kernels until they are evenly distributed.
  • 5. Place 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat into a 10-inch round cake pan (you can also use a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or a 12-inch square pan). Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fat gets quite hot. Using pot holders or oven mitts, remove the pan, and tilt it to coat all the corners and sides. Pour in the cornbread batter, spreading it from the center of the pan to the edges. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the top over the cornbread batter, gently pressing them into the batter.
  • 6. Bake the bacon cornbread for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is firm and springy (the baking time will depend on the size of the pan) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be a medium golden brown. The internal temperature at the center of the bacon cornbread should register at least 185°F (85°C).
  • 7. Allow the bacon cornbread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into squares or wedges. Serve warm.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Emma Rudolph

Aug 09, 2001

This bacon cornbread had a fabulous flavor: smoky bacon, sweet corn, and a not-too-sweet batter. The cornbread was a little too moist for my taste, making it something that would not pair quite as well with chilis and pulled meats as a drier cornbread would. I would suggest baking it in a 10-inch pan or something larger. I used a 9-inch-round baking pan and baked for a total of 1 hour and 5 minutes for a crisp crust. Using a larger pan would create a thinner cornbread, which I think would more evenly distributed the corn kernels and create a crisper result. That said, the texture would work wonderfully if serving the cornbread as a sweet, not savory, dish, almost like corn cake. Some maple whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top would make this cornbread an awesome sweet and salty dessert. Overall, a very taste dish, just with a nontraditional cornbread texture.

Comments
Comments
  1. Tiffany says:

    So disappointed with the gummy texture :( Double checked and my leavening agents were not expired either.

    • Cindi Kruth [LC Recipe Tester] says:

      Tiffany, sorry you had a disappointing result. This recipe has a few unusual twists that suggest a couple of spots where errors could occur that might result in a poor texture.

      The coarse cornmeal needs to be soaked in the buttermilk to properly hydrate and soften. If it doesn’t absorb enough liquid it could conceivably cause a too moist interior. A too short baking time or a too low temperature could leave the bread wet and gummy. A pan of the wrong dimensions could make the loaf too thick. A pan of shiny metal will reflect rather than absorb the heat, effectively lowering baking the temperature. Not fully preheating the pan and the fat would cause the same result.

      If the top was golden brown and the internal temperature 185°F, then cooking temperature was probably not the problem. Sometimes despite being within the expiration period, leaveners do lose strength. You can test them by dissolving a little bit in either hot water (baking powder) or vinegar (baking soda). They should bubble immediately and fiercely. This wet dense batter does require the freshest leaveners.

      Finally, make sure not to cut the cornbread before it cools for at least the 15 minutes suggested. Bread texture is easily ruined by cutting it while it is too hot.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Cindi

  2. Kimberley W says:

    Made this over the weekend to go with the pork spareribs I was cooking (yes, cooking, not grilling!). Unfortunately, I only had a 9″ round pan – none of my local stores had 10″ pans! So… my result was not great. From the edge in about 1.5″, it was baked fine, but from there to the center, it was “creamy.” From the portions that did bake, I was able to get a pretty good sampling, and the recipe is great!! However, in the future, I think I’ll go with the suggested 9 x 13 pan (now that I have one of those, too!), and I’ll bet it comes out just perfect!

    • David Leite says:

      Kimberley, I’m sorry the cornbread didn’t come up perfectly. A smaller pan size would mean the batter was deeper, and therefore needed extra time to bake all the way through. When you make it in the suggested pan, let us know how it turns out.

  3. Barb says:

    My baking powder expired in 2008 (wish they sold it in smaller containers as I never use it all before it expires).

    However, it still bubbles up right away when I put it in hot water, so I assume it is still good?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Seems like it, Barb! It’s heartening to know that some things are still built to last…as opposed to just about everything else nowadays which tend to be viewed as disposable…

  4. Kelly says:

    I’ve made this scrumptious cornbread on four separate occasions. It has come out perfectly delicious every single time. The only thing that could destroy this recipe is the amount of time it takes to cook. Some ovens don’t convey heat like others do. If you take it out of the oven too early, you get a “gummy texture.”

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Thanks for the tip, Kelly! Nothing worse than disappointing cornbread…not when you know just how soul-satisfyingly good it can be.

  5. Philip John says:

    I don’t understand how this corn bread could have bad reviews. Every time I’ve made it, it’s been amazing. It is so good, in fact, that it has ruined all other corn breads for me. I think the corn kernels, especially some poorer brands of frozen corn, could make it chewy. Most corn bread recipes don’t have corn kernels in them so it may also be a shock for some. I think you can leave it out, I can’t remember if I have tried, but you could put a bit more cornmeal in to make up for the lost matter. Anyway, this recipe is a true gift to the world. Every corn bread recipe should soak the corn meal. I actually soak the cornmeal in almost every recipe that calls for cornmeal now.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      We feel the same way, Philip. A true gift. Many thanks for saying it so eloquently….

  6. Alison says:

    The texture of mine was great (I took the temp and it wasn’t done after 30 minutes, so I put it in for another 5). It was sweeter than I prefer my cornbread, but I will probably try it again with much less sugar.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Excellent, Alison. As you’ll see, this basic cornbread recipe is eminently tweakable to personal preference….

  7. This cornbread looks absolutely fabulous. Any input regarding a cast iron pan?

    Love every recipe I’ve tried from the Leite’s site. I am in permanent love.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Lovely beyond words to hear that, Karen, thank you! As for that cast iron skillet, DO IT!

  8. The verdict is in. This one’s a keeper, though coming from Leite’s, why be surprised?

    This is not a typical corn bread. It could hardly be considered gummy or soggy, though if a person is used to dry corn bread that must be served with something to moisten it, the delicate, almost bread pudding-like texture when it first comes out of the oven could be an issue. After it is allowed to cool, the corn bread will firm up. For those who actually prefer less moisture, consider using fresh corn instead of frozen.

    I followed the recipe verbatim, though next time, I will add green chiles. As the bread was baked fresh last night and is leftover today, I can’t wait to cut a piece, split it in half and toss it into the toaster oven for just a little crispiness, leaving room for a dab of butter.

    Baked in a cast iron pan, corn bread doesn’t get any better, though I did reserve a bit of batter for cupcake muffins. Fabulous for those who prefer more crust.

    As usual, I’m in love. Thank you!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Awwww! I’m swooning here, Karen, many thanks for taking the time to let us know how this turned out for you! Can’t wait to hear what recipe enthralls you next….

  9. Jessi Olson says:

    Any advice on the muffin side of it? I want to make this for work and don’t want to screw up.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Jesse, I would use a buttered muffin tin and cups, and bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 30 minutes. The center of each muffin should spring back when done.

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