In our home, this is the crème de la crème of breads—a quintessential part of any mountain table. We serve it alongside about any meal, with cabbage, chili, pot roast, my Chicken and Dumplings, and more. You need a cast-iron skillet to make proper cornbread. Although my grandmother was a cornbread purist, every so often I like to break tradition. One of my favorite cornbread variations is to slice a large onion and lay the rings flat in the skillet before pouring in the batter. What you have is a sort of onion upside-down cornbread that pairs grandly with soup or beans. Another option that goes great with chili is to add a cup of whole kernel corn before baking. 

Serves 8

TST-Praisesong book cover Praise Song For The Kitchen Ghosts Crystal Wilkinson


  • ½ cup vegetable oil

  • 1½ cups whole milk

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 cups self-rising cornmeal


Pour the oil into your 9-inch skillet, place it in the oven on the middle rack, and preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add the cornmeal, stirring just until evenly moistened. Your batter will be slightly lumpy. 

When the oven and skillet are fully preheated, carefully pour the hot oil from the skillet into your batter, stirring briefly. Then pour the batter back into the hot skillet and return it to the oven. Bake on the middle rack until golden brown on top and lightly springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks by Crystal Wilkinson copyright Ó 2024. Photographs by Kelly Marshall copyright Ó 2024. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

When you shop using our links, we earn a small commission. It’s a great way to support public media at no extra cost to you!