Cornbread: What I Like to Call “The Right Way”

Cornbread: What I Like to Call “The Right Way”

By Guest Writer Brett C. Tiller

I very much enjoyed this article ) and I am so glad to see someone tell the real story about cornbread and get it right. Like most southerners, I agree wholeheartedly that you should never put sugar in corn bread.

My dad and granddad have raised white dent corn for as long as I can remember. I’m 51 my dad is 76. I used to go with them when they took sacks of shelled corn to the miller to have it ground into meal. After the last old miller died in the area where I grew up (Southwest Virginia), my dad located and purchased a small stone mill and with the help of my granddad, brought it home and set it up.


My dad is still raising his own white dent corn and grinding his own corn meal which he generously shares with me and many other folks in the community. I can tell you that it is nothing like the so-called corn meal that you buy from the store. For the last 2 years, dad has raised a variety called Boone County White. He remembers raising it when he was growing up. The corn grows 15 feet tall and the ears of corn can be as large as 14 inches long. They grow about 8 feet high on the stalk. I had never seen anything like it until 2 years ago when he raised the first patch of it—truly, “corn as high as an elephant’s eye.”

Reaching for an ear of Boone County White. August 2014.

Reaching for an ear of Boone County White. August 2014.

I’ve seen a number of people requesting a recipe for cornbread, so here it is. Like most good things, it is very simple.
If you like the bread about an inch to inch and a half thick, use a #5 cast iron skillet; if you like it thinner, then use a #7 or #8 skillet.
(Your cast iron skillet needs to be well seasoned or the bread will stick.)

Preheat your oven to 475.  When the oven is hot, put about a teaspoon or two of bacon grease in the skillet and slide it into the oven on the top rack to heat up. While the skillet is heating, take a medium-size mixing bowl and blend together:

1 1/2 cups of corn meal
1 tsp of salt
1 to 1 1/2 tsps of baking powder
1/4 tsp of baking soda

Add enough whole buttermilk to the dry ingredients to make a thick paste. If you like your cornbread kind of wet and heavy, add a little extra buttermilk. If you like it dry, then use a little less.

When the skillet is good and hot, (the bacon grease will be starting to smoke), remove it from the oven and pour in the batter. It will sizzle as it hits the grease. Return the cornbread to the top rack of the oven. When the top is golden brown it is ready, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

Editor’s Note: This wonderful little piece was written in response to a recent post on the Serious Eats blog. My husband, usually a man of few words, was inspired to share his delicious cornbread recipe with readers. Here it is, with a few reminiscences and a couple of tips to make sure your cornbread comes out as well as his does. Well–as well as it can without your using my father-in-law’s cornmeal. Look for the coarsest grind you can find, and you’ll come close.       KEH


  1. Jonny Stevenson

    Now THAT is the way I remember cornbread.  My Grandmother in Whitesburg, KY made it like that…what memories.  I love it in the morning crumbled in milk.

    I consider the cornbread most people make…cake.  Too sweet.  Yellow not white.
    Thank you for your declaration.

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