1/28/22

How to Cook Grits – a Recipe from an Actual Southern Cook

A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.

If you’re not from the South, you probably don’t like grits. Actually, the odds are stacked against you ever liking grits unless you know someone who cooks them the way they’re supposed to be cooked.

Non-Southerners have two things working against them when it comes to trying grits: 1 - grits suck at most restaurants and 2 - the terrible awful lies passing as cooking instructions from major manufacturers.

Every year millions of tourists visit the American South. They come for the beaches, the charm, the mountains and the hospitality (or they stop by on their way to Florida). 

Almost everyone that comes here, at one point or another, thinks to themselves, Self, we are in The South so we should drink some sweet tea and eat grits! So, sometime along their journey, they’ll order grits in a restaurant.

How to Cook Grits Like A Southerner – A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.

And the grits they will be served will most likely be undercooked, under-seasoned and taste about like a bowl of hot water. Unless, of course, they are in a local restaurant with a cook or a chef who can cook good grits but those are getting harder and harder to come by.

Restaurant chains are bad at grits. They don’t cook them long enough and don’t season them much (if at all). I am sad to tell you, some of the local breakfast joints right here in my neck of the woods can’t cook them either.

Side note on that… if you run a BREAKFAST restaurant in the South and serve pre-cooked biscuits or sausage, canned sausage gravy or crappy grits, you shouldn’t run a breakfast restaurant. 

How to Cook Grits Like A Southerner – A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.

So, OK, Terry Tourist tries grits in a restaurant and doesn’t like them. I don’t blame you there, Terry. But on his last day of vacation he buys a few souvenirs, including a box or bag of grits. Because why not, right Terry?

A few months later, he finds the grits and decides to cook them. He’s a good cook so he knows they’ll be better than what he had in the restaurant. He reads the instructions, follows them to a tee, then 10 minutes later sits down to try grits again. And they’re terrible. 

GOOD GRITS CAN’T BE COOKED IN 10 MINUTES – NOT EVEN “QUICK” GRITS

There are basically two kinds of grits: stone-ground and hominy grits. Polenta is not grits. Cornmeal is not grits.

How to Cook Grits Like A Southerner – A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.

WHAT ARE STONE-GROUND GRITS?

Stone-ground grits are made from whole, dried kernels of corn that are ground down in a grist mill (that’s not a typo, that’s what it’s called). A grist mill grinds the whole kernels between two stone wheels.

Stone-ground grits are less processed than hominy grits. Because the entire kernel – including the hull and germ – is used, stone-ground grits are much more flavorful. While very subtle, to me, the taste is somewhere between roasted corn and popcorn.  

Stone-ground grits also have a lot more texture. Even after slowly cooking for hours, the larger pieces of dried corn in the meal will remain al dente which contrasts perfectly with the creamy texture created from the finer bits in the meal.

How to Cook Grits Like A Southerner – A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.

WHAT ARE HOMINY GRITS?

Hominy grits also start with whole, dried kernels of corn. The dried corn is soaked in an alkaline solution (usually lime or lye) to soften the hull. The hull is removed then the kernels (now called hominy) are dried again. Once dried, the dried hominy is finely ground into grits.

Most mass-produced grits sold in grocery stores are hominy grits. They come in three varieties: regular (sometimes called “old-fashioned”), quick and instant. The difference in regular and quick grits is simply how finely they are ground. The finer the meal, the quicker the grits cook. Instant grits are hominy grits that have been cooked then dried (sort of like Minute Rice).

No matter what the instructions say, you cannot cook decent hominy grits in less than 30 minutes (even “quick” grits). The recipe I have below for stone-ground grits can also be used with regular hominy grits. You cannot overcook grits. Mama would put a pot on at 7:00 in the morning and we’d eat them anywhere from an hour later to five hours later.

Obviously, stone-ground grits are my favorite but since I don’t always have an hour or two to cook them, my pantry always has regular hominy grits too.

How to Cook Grits Like A Southerner – A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.

HOW DO YOU EAT GRITS?

There are plenty of savory recipes that feature grits. Shrimp & Grits has become something of a touristy rite of passage and menu staple at high-end restaurants but for the most part, we Southerners are pretty simple with our grits.

Obviously, we eat them with breakfast. Baby Girl likes hers best under a sunny-side-up egg. The Boy uses bacon like a fork to eat his grits. I like to crumble up sausage into mine or just eat them plain. Daddy liked to drizzle a little bacon grease over his instead of butter. Cheese grits are insanely delicious (I prefer American cheese because it melts more smoothly).

Grits are often served with fried fish and salmon patties. When I was pregnant I would pan-fry canned salmon in a little bacon grease (to make sort of a hash) then eat it over grits. My Canadian husband almost left me over it. He would come in and say, my GOD what is that smell??! I craved it so much I had to ask to doctor if it was OK for me to be eating so much canned salmon.

How to Cook Grits Like A Southerner – A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.

DO YOU COOK GRITS IN MILK, WATER OR CREAM?

Growing up, we usually just had hominy grits made with water, salt and butter. So long as you cook them long enough to get nice and creamy, they’re just fine cooked that way.

But if you want something that’s way better than just fine, you really need to use stone-ground grits and cook them with a mixture of water and milk (or some cream). 

My personal opinion is that grits shouldn’t be made with too much milk or cream.  I find that some recipes just taste too “milky”. You still want to taste the corn so I always use at least half water. 

grits, stone-ground, stone ground, hominy, coarse, old-fashioned, regular, best, how to, how long, south, southern, milk, cream, cook, chef, creamy
breakfast, side dish
southern
Yield: 6 Servings
Author: Mandy Rivers | South Your Mouth
How to Cook Grits – A Recipe from an Actual Southern Cook

How to Cook Grits – A Recipe from an Actual Southern Cook

A simple recipe for the best way to cook tender, creamy stone-ground or hominy grits from a Southern cook who knows good grits.
Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 1 HourTotal time: 1 H & 5 M

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup stone-ground grits

Instructions

  1. Combine milk, water, salt, pepper and butter in a saucepan then bring to a boil. Once boiling, add grits then stir well with a whisk.
  2. Bring grits to a slow, soft boil then cook on low heat, covered, for at least an hour (two hours is even better). Stir grits frequently to ensure they’re not sticking to the bottom.
  3. If time allows, let grits rest, covered and off the heat, for about 15 minutes before serving.
  4. Serve with a generous pat of butter.

Notes:

  • Keep an eye on your pot of grits the first 15 minutes of cooking to make sure they’re not going to boil over. Until you get the temperature regulated, the grits are prone to bubble up. 
  • This recipe can also be used to cook regular (“old-fashioned”) hominy grits. When cooking hominy grits, I usually use 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk.
  • Cooking something this long on the stove yields different results depending on how much steam escapes your pot and lid. Add more water if your grits start to get thicker than you’d like. Or, to thicken the grits, increase the heat to medium-low then cook uncovered until the grits have thickened. 
  • We don’t stand by the stove and stir our grits every 10 minutes for two hours. If I need to leave the kitchen for a bit, I turn off the heat, throw a hand towel over the lid and let the grits sit (they will continue to cook). If I screw around and leave them cooking too long without stirring, and feel them stuck to the bottom of the pan, I DO NOT scrape the bottom. Just leave that coating on the bottom of the pan.
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INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup stone-ground grits
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine milk, water, salt, pepper and butter in a saucepan then bring to a boil. Once boiling, add grits then stir well with a whisk.
  2. Bring grits to a slow, soft boil then cook on low heat, covered, for at least an hour (two hours is even better). Stir grits frequently to ensure they’re not sticking to the bottom.
  3. If time allows, let grits rest, covered and off the heat, for about 15 minutes before serving.


4 comments:

  1. I love grits in every way. I'll make them with shrimp, or jusr cheese and then I'll fry some I just love them so much and this is a great recipe for them .....

    ReplyDelete
  2. OMG, Girl!! You are so spot on. When EVER was grits a less than hours long thing?!? Just like collards…NO!! Cook ‘em all day, low and slow, gotta have enough salt at the start and just..let ‘em be. And no such thing as great grits without some milk or cream. Throw in some good melting cheese at the end, and done. 👍🏻

    ReplyDelete
  3. What are your favorite brands of Stone Ground and Old Fashioned Grits?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for saying that cornmeal is not grits!!!! I saw a couple of articles on major cooking sites and both kept talking about how they are basically the same and you can use them interchangeably. I knew at that point that I could no longer trust those sites.

    ReplyDelete

Hi there! While I’m not able to respond to every comment, I try hard to answer any questions that haven’t been addressed in the post, recipe or in other comments.

I can tell you now 1) I have no idea if you can substitute Minute Rice or brown rice in my recipes because I’ve never used them and 2) If I know how to convert a recipe to a Crock Pot version, I will make a note about it (otherwise, I don’t know).

And though I may not respond to them all, I do read each and every comment and I LOVE to hear from you guys! Thanks, y’all! - Mandy