If you do not know, grits are a staple food in the South. Most Southerners will have grits for breakfast at least once per week, some maybe every day. It is a food that is that important. You may already know how to cook grits, but for those who do not, we are going to show you our methods on How To Cook Grits.
What Are Grits?
Grits are a type of comfort food and one of the many iconic Southern Recipes. Additionally, they start out as dried corn on the cob that is then shelled into loose corn. Subsequently, the corn is milled on a grist mill into ground corn, resulting in the creation of grits.
Most Southerners grew up eating grits for breakfast because they are cheap and can feed a lot of people. Corn grew very well in the South and it was plentiful and cheap. People also used corn to feed animals on the homestead, making it a vital grain to have.
Various uses exist for corn as a versatile ingredient, including making cornmeal for cornbread, enjoying corn on the cob, using loose corn in recipes, and more. Among the iconic Southern dishes that feature corn, grits stand out as a true classic.
When Do You Eat Grits?
You can enjoy grits as the main entree for breakfast, or you can serve them as a side dish. While they are typically breakfast food, many people also eat them for supper (dinner).
In addition, people also serve them as a Shrimp and Grits entree dish, which originated in South Carolina. Another way they are served is by allowing the grits to get cold, then they can be fried and served as a side dish. Moreover, they serve cheesy grits as a side dish with blackened fish as well as many other protein sources.
There are many ways to enjoy grits whether it be a simple breakfast meal or some special occasions but the main thing is you have to know how to cook them right.
Corn and grist mills were an important part of Southern life
Southern culture considered corn to be an essential grain since it was used not only to feed their families but also to feed their livestock. Moreover, depending on the purpose of the corn, it was milled differently. As a result, farmers used whole corn and cracked corn to feed their livestock.
Corn was fed into the mill through a shute and made its way between two stones. These two stones have groves cut in them in a special pattern called furrows. One stone is stationary and the other turns. There is a system of pulleys and gears that turn the stone that is usually powered by an animal, tractor, or even water-powered if the grist mill is located near a water source.
The distance between the stones determines how fine the grain is milled. Cracked corn took the least amount of time to mill.
If you wanted grits, the gap was closed between the stones to make finer cracked corn. If you wanted corn meal, the gap was even closer so that it could be milled into a finer powder-like texture.
Creeks, Streams, and rivers were dotted with grits mills. The flowing water was used to power these mills to grind corn for communities.
Southerners grew their own corn and would take the corn to the community grits mill where they would have it ground into cracked corn, grits, and cornmeal.
Not only was going to the grist meal a means to feed your family and livestock, but this also was a community event. Folks would gather around the grits meal and have conversations while their corn was ground.
Types of Grits
Before we learn how to cook grits, you need to know about the different types of Corn. Most corn used for grits is Dent Corn. There are also multiple colors, you have white corn and yellow corn.
This is strictly preference but I mainly grew up eating white corn grits. Yellow grits pretty much taste the same as white grits.
Stone Ground Grits
Next, you have three types of grits that you will find in a grocery store. The first is stone ground grits. These are the grits that our ancestors would have eaten when they took their corn to the community grist mill to have milled into grits.
These are coarsely ground and take longer to cook. Stone ground grits are the most flavorful because the grits contain all the parts of the kernel of corn, called the germ. It is normal to see black or grey specks due to this fact.
Stone ground grits are usually a healthy choice because of that reason. Stone Ground Grits are the least processed of the types of grits you will find. These usually take about 30 to 40 minutes to cook.
The next type of grits you will find in the grocery store is called quick grits. Quick grits are what most people cook these days.
Quick grits are the same as stone-ground grits, but they are finer ground. They also have the germ removed. They are more processed and are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals to add back nutrients and flavor.
The finer grind on quick grits is what makes the cooking time quicker. They usually cook for around 5 to 10 minutes. These are what we mainly eat, but quick grits are not as healthy as stone ground grits.
The last type of grits we will talk about is instant grits. Instant grits are pre-cooked and then dehydrated.
Instant grits usually come in an individual package and will cook in less than a minute. I typically do not like this type of grits unless it is all I have on hand.
How To Make Grits
Since we are here to learn how to cook grits, let’s go over that. I felt like I needed to preface what grits were and why they are so important before we covered how to cook them.
We are going to cover how to cook stone ground grits and quick grits in this article. Later on, we will share how to make Southern Cheese Grits or creamy cheese grits in a later recipe.
Both of these techniques will be very similar, with only the time it takes to cook the grits that will be different.
Also, in our area, we only cook savory grits so this recipe will cover how to cook grits with salt and butter and not sugar.
First, start with a good brand of stone ground grits. Most brands you come across will be smaller local mills from the South.
Sometimes stone ground grits can be found at local grocery stores but if you cannot find a brand, I recommend ordering grits from Palmetto Farms, Marsh Hen Mill, The Old Mill, or Cotton Hills Farm. For this recipe, you will need 1 cup of grits.
For the basic recipe to cook grits, you will need water. The ratio of water to grits is typically 1 to 4 or 1 to 5. 1 cup of grits to 4 to 5 cups of water. If you want to jazz it up a little bit, you can replace the water with chicken broth.
Butter will add a little bit of creaminess to the grits and some savory notes. Add 2 tablespoons of butter.
I prefer to use sea salt when making grits. Table salt or iodized salt can give a chemical or off taste. This recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
I love to add fresh ground black pepper to grits. This is an optional ingredient so season to your liking. I would start with 1/2 teaspoon.
Optional Ingredients: There are various ingredients you can add such as heavy cream, garlic powder, green onions as a garnish, as well as herbs and other seasonings like Cajun Seasonings. Cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes will turn up the heat.
Hot sauce is also another ingredient you can add to the top after they have cooked. If you want to make a cheesy grits recipe, you can just add in some sharp cheddar cheese for a classic southern dish.
Step 1: Start with a medium saucepan or medium stock pot. Add in water and turn the burner on medium-high heat.
Step 2: Add salt and butter to the pot. Bring the water up to a rolling boil.
Step 3: Once the water is up to a rolling boil, add in the grits slowly with one hand while stirring with a whisk with the other hand. Continue to stir until all the grits are in the pot.
Step 4: To get smooth creamy grits, continue to constantly stir the grits. Continue to do this throughout the whole cooking process. This causes the grits to release the starch making for a creamy texture. This is the secret from one of my favorite breakfast restaurants, Joey’s Pancake House, that was told to me by one of the waitresses.
Step 5: Once the grits start to thicken slightly, you can turn the heat down to low heat. Stone ground grits will take about 30 to 40 minutes to cook. Once the grits reach the consistency you like and they do not taste grainy, they will be done.
Note: I like my grits thick so that when you place them on your plate, they do not spread. If you prefer the grits to be thinner, you can add a little water at the end to adjust the texture.
How To Cook Quick Grits
Quick Gits will have the same ingredients as the recipe above and you will cook them the same way. The exception with cooking quick grits is you will only cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
After you have cooked them, you will plate them in a bowl or plate. I like to top mine with lots of butter and cheese.
What Can You Eat Grits With?
- Eggs (fried egg or scrambled), Bacon, or Sausage make the perfect breakfast with a side of grits.
- Grits and Fish is a classic Southern favorite.
- Pork Chops
- Poached egg
- Homemade Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
- Shrimp and Grits
What is the ratio of grits to water?
The ratio of grits to water is 1 to 4 or 1 to 5. This depends on how thick you want the end result.
What are Grits made from?
Grits are made from ground Dent corn.
What can I do if my grits are lumpy?
If your grits are lumpy you can add a little water and use a whisk to try to even the lumps out. You could also try using a colander as a sieve to try to get the lumps out.
Do Southerners put sugar on grits?
Most Southerners do not put sugar on grits, at least not in the area I grew up in.
What is the secret to cooking good grits?
The secret to cooking good grits is cooking the grits slowly and stirring often.
Why do my grits taste grainy?
If the grits taste grainy, they need to cook longer. If they are thick, add in a little water, stir, and continue to cook until they are no longer grainy.
- 1 cup of Stone Ground Grits (can also use Quick Grits)
- 4-5 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of Butter
- 1 teaspoon of Sea salt
- Black Pepper to taste
1. Start with a medium saucepan or medium stock pot. Add in water and turn the burner on medium-high heat. Add in butter and salt.
2. Add salt and butter to the pot. Bring the water up to a rolling boil.
3. Once the water is up to a rolling boil, add in the grits slowly with one hand while stirring with a whisk with the other hand. Continue to stir until all the grits are in the pot.
4. To get smooth creamy grits, continue to constantly stir the grits. Continue to do this throughout the whole cooking process. This causes the grits to release the starch making for a creamy texture. This is the secret from one of my favorite breakfast restaurants, Joey's Pancake House, that was told to me by one of the waitresses.
5. Once the grits start to thicken slightly, you can turn the heat down to low heat. Stone ground grits will take about 30 to 40 minutes to cook. If you are using quick grits, they will cook in 5-10 minutes.
Once the grits reach the consistency you like and you taste them and they do not taste grainy, they will be done.
- If you are using quick grits, the recipe will be the same except for the time. Quick grits will cook in 5-10 minutes.
- I like my grits thick and when you place them on your plate, they do not spread. If you prefer the grits to be thinner, you can add a little water at the end to adjust the texture.