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How to Make Grits Without a Recipe

By • March 24, 2014 • 21 Comments

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Virginia Willis, Southern cooking pro and author of the Short Stack book on Grits, shows us how to make the creamiest, best grits around -- without a recipe.

How to Make Grits Without a Recipe from Food52

Grits, much like porridge, are the ultimate comfort food. Most Southerners love grits, and I am no exception. The keys to a savory and delicious bowl of grits are simple: use whole grain grits that taste like corn; use plenty of liquid to ensure the grains cook until they are smooth; and lastly, slowly cook grits for a long period of time -- 45 to 60 minutes.

More: Turn 1 pot of goat cheese grits into 5 dinners.

The best grits are made from stone-ground whole grain corn kernels -- including the outside husk (the bran), the nutritious tissue within the kernel (the endosperm), and the oily embryo of the seed kernel where good fats and flavor reside (the germ). Shelf-stable grits, quick grits, and instant grits have had their bran and germ removed, and their flavor suffers for it.

Stone-ground grits are found online and in gourmet markets. Bob’s Red Mill is a perfectly acceptable, high-quality substitution -- its germ is still intact, and it's readily available nation-wide.

How to Make Grits Without a Recipe

1. The ratio you need to remember for stone-ground grits is 4:1. It's 4 cups of liquid to 1 cup of stone-ground grits. You can use all water, or a combination of stock, water, and milk.

Use all water when you want the flavor of the corn to dominate. Use stock when you want to amp up the savory profile. If serving the grits with a dish that contains beef, chicken, or seafood, it's nice to layer the flavors by using the corresponding stock. My preferred combination is half milk, half water to let the corn shine through.

How to Make Grits Without a Recipe from Food52

2. Start by bringing your liquids and 1 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt per cup of grits to a boil over high heat -- it's best to use a heavy-bottomed pot to prevent scorching.

How to Make Grits Without a Recipe from Food52

 

3. Whisk in the grits, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, making sure to whisk occasionally, until the grits are creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes.

How to Make Grits Without a Recipe from Food52


4. To finish grits, a bit of butter may be added. You may also add a bit of heavy cream or grated cheese to add to the luxurious mouthfeel.

How to Make Grits Without a Recipe from Food52

 

5. Always taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper, then serve warm.

How to Make Grits Without a Recipe from Food52

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you could make in your sleep, without a recipe. Check out what we've already covered.

Photos by James Ransom

Jump to Comments (21)

Tags: how-to & diy, grits, Southern food, grains, corn, everyday cooking, gluten-free, special diets

Comments (21)

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6 months ago Hugo S LaVia

Don't look now, but that's a recipe.

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7 months ago glutwin

I loved grits when we had the pleasure of living in Birmingham, Alabama (second son born there!!)….Has anyone heard of "Dirty Grits"….with coffee as an ingredient?! I would love to know …as it seems I remember having this version and loving it!

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7 months ago Luvtocook

I never ever liked grits until I moved to Florida and my Georgian next door neighbor's cheese grits tempted me. Divine! I love cheese grits made with a quality sharp cheddar! Without cheese, grits are kinda blah, but I grew up in Missouri so maybe you have to be a Southerner to really love all grits.

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7 months ago Katherine

My mother always cooked them in milk in a double boiler. I grew up in Memphis and sampled lots of grits. Hers were by far the best!

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7 months ago Susan Greene

I am a southerner and I have been raised eating grits with my eggs for breakfast. I use organic grits (no GMO) and cook them for 1 or a crowd in my microwave or you can simmer on the stove top. I prefer to cook them in the microwave. I use a large bowl to allow room for the grits to not boil over. I use a coffee measure spoon of grits to 1/2 cup of water per serving. 3 minutes is all it takes to cook 1 serving, longer for more serving. easy peasy

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7 months ago Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis is a chef, food writer, culinary TV producer, professional recipe developer, and author. Her latest book, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Companywas rated as one of the top rated cookbooks of 2011.

That's great Susan -- my mama eats grits every morning for breakfast. I will have to tell her your easy peasy technique! Thanks so much for reading! Bon Appetit, Y'all! VA

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7 months ago xmascarol

Grits are not just ground whole corn. They are made from Hominy, which is a process done to corn, taking the hush off . I don't know how it's done commercially but back home we did it using lye or pickling lime. After you soak the corn, you cook the corn in the lime and that removes the corn skin. Then you dry the hominy and use it as is or grind it into grits! If you ask me, there's not much whole grain nutrients left in grits, but they're downright good! It's the equivalent of cream of wheat or cream of rice,really .

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7 months ago Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis is a chef, food writer, culinary TV producer, professional recipe developer, and author. Her latest book, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Companywas rated as one of the top rated cookbooks of 2011.

xmas carol - you are correct, there are hominy grits, but there are also whole grain/kernel stone ground grits, and grits. Hominy is made from corn kernels soaked in an alkaline solution of water and lye to remove the corn kernel’s outer hull. When hominy is dried and coarsely ground the result is hominy grits. Stone ground grits are made when whole kernels are ground on two stones just like they did centuries ago. Shelf stable grits, quick grits, and instant grits have had the bran and germ removed. They have little flavor. Stone-ground grits are found online and in gourmet markets. Thanks so much for reading!

Stringio

7 months ago Kathleen Tyler

I've tried to make grits in a slow-cooker so they'd be ready in the morning when I got up, with little success. Anyone know how to do this?

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7 months ago Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis is a chef, food writer, culinary TV producer, professional recipe developer, and author. Her latest book, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Companywas rated as one of the top rated cookbooks of 2011.

Kathleen - alter the ration to 6:1 and only use water. (Dairy will scorch.) Then, cook them overnight and add butter or heavy cream or cheese once they are cooked completely. I always do this for Christmas morning and it works like a charm! Thanks for reading! Bon Appetit, Y'all - VA

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7 months ago Jaye

I've never eaten grits I think because I'm a little intimidated by them. every time I'm in the cereal aisle I see them, stop , stare at the boxes then move on out without a box sitting in my cart.. I don't live in the South.. I live in Northern California and maybe I think it's a southern delicacy only. What am I missing? Are grits really that delicious?

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7 months ago Baker1961

Well, the flavored ones in the little packets aren't very good. If you want to try grits, get some stone ground ones and make them yourself like this recipe.

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7 months ago Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis is a chef, food writer, culinary TV producer, professional recipe developer, and author. Her latest book, Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Companywas rated as one of the top rated cookbooks of 2011.

Oh Jaye - yes! If you get really good grits they taste like corn. You can order good ones online if you can't find in NoCA - try Anson Mills or Hoppin' John. Thanks for reading! Best VA

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7 months ago M White

I go about 6:1 with water. But I just boil the water (with salt and some butter in it) and then whisk in the grits, and when it's boiling again I take it off the heat & put a lid on it and let it sit until the rest of breakfast is done. If it's too thick when we're ready to eat, I add a little hot water to thin it. -- Am I doing this all wrong? ...

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7 months ago yermalove

Only that grits expand to their very best after a long slow simmer. If you like how they taste the way you are making them, then you are doing nothing "wrong". :)

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7 months ago yermalove

Love grits. I like mine on the runny side, so up the ratio to 6:1, with extra liquid (kept hot) to thin the grits during the cooking process, if need be.

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7 months ago Stephanie Dietz

I use heavy cream and butter to finish grits. and cheese, white cheddar to be exact.

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7 months ago fffalcon

I've found that at high altitude it works better to bring the grits and water to a boil at the same time.

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7 months ago Woodekf

Toss in some Cajun style shrimp and YEA!

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7 months ago MJLawe

I spent many summers at my father's family home in Alabama. As a result, grits is my first food love. My New York friends don't get it, but they need to. There's nothing more insanely good than grits with that pat of butter on top waiting for you every morning.

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7 months ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Damn! I have a bag of grits in my pantry that's calling my name.