How to Make Perfectly Flaky Biscuits

May 10, 2014

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: It's brunch season, which means only one thing -- it's time to perfect your biscuit game.

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The days are growing longer, and with them, the opportunities for lazy, lingering meals -- greater. For the first time in a long time, we're waking up to the hum of a distant lawn mower instead of a snow plow, and our DVRs are getting a rest as we venture out for marathon walks instead of marathon programming. 

This time of year, the simplest foods seem to taste the best: bright spring salads, veggie-packed pastaselegantly dressed fish, and of course, light, flaky biscuits -- smothered in butter, coated in jam, or drizzled with honey. But, as good as we are at devouring them, mastering the art of biscuit making is trickier. With brunch season fast approaching, Atlanticgull asked our community for tips on making perfectly flaky biscuits from scratch -- and they delivered

  • Don't break up the butter too finely when you work it into the flour, Maedl instructs: "Just like with pie dough, small chunks of butter help make flaky layers."
  • SexyLAMBCHOPx swears by substituting leaf lard in place of butter to achieve the ideal biscuit texture. 
  • Try using crème fraîche instead of buttermilk, says boulangere -- its higher fat content helps enhance other fragances and flavors that are incorporated into the dough.
  • According to sfmiller, the wetter the better: The dough should be "so wet that it sticks easily to your hands and the board or counter, unless you flour them first. Don't use too much bench flour -- just enough to keep the dough from sticking." 
  • Sfmiller's last piece of advice? Check the expiration date on your baking powder, if the recipe calls for it. Leavener loses its strength over time, and you don't want to waste your breakfast on a stale box.
  • When in doubt, aobenour follows Julia Child's advice: "Pat the dough out into a rectangle and give it a couple turns like you are making puff pastry. Then, I usually make a rectangle, fold it in thirds, pat it out again, fold it in thirds again, pat it out one last time, and cut my biscuits. The turns will make your biscuits flakier and rise higher."
  • DrCrankyPants insists it's all about the flour. For the tenderest biscuits, use low-protein ("Southern") flour. If you can't find it, or don't want to buy it, you can reduce the protein content of regular all-purpose flour by adding some cake flour to it. 

What's your trick for making perfectly flaky biscuits? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Donna Giardina
    Donna Giardina
  • paula bolton
    paula bolton
  • Benny Vaughn
    Benny Vaughn
  • Lee Ann
    Lee Ann
  • Chef Willard
    Chef Willard
Julie Myers

Written by: Julie Myers

Perpetually hungry. Will travel for food.


Donna G. October 15, 2014
I also love my biscuits, White Lily is so much lighter. I agree that whether you are using cold butter or lard, it always depends on the method. Everyone has their own method and if that method produces great biscuit then it's a winner. I prefer using White Lily flour, buttermilk and the lard. I let my dough set once mixed and then knead gently. I pat out the dough, cutting with a biscuit cutter and also not twisting. I find after placing the biscuits on the baking sheet and resting a bit and then baking in a oven (450 degrees) makes a fantastic biscuit. My mother of 89 yrs. old loves my biscuits and so do many others. Practice makes great biscuits.
paula B. October 15, 2014
The less you knead the flaker the biscut. I started cooking biscuts at the age if 5 yep 5 years old I can make the perfect biscut. DO NIOT OVER KNEAD

Benny V. October 11, 2014
My mothers biscuits were the lightest and flakiest i have ever eaten.I would ask her how long do you knead the dough ? her answer was always the same. Just as long as it is needed. She never had a Kitchen Aid so she did hers by hand. Now i use a Kitchen Aid and only 3 ingredients, self rising flour (Gold metal Or White Lily), pure lard & buttermilk. Put 2 1/2 C. flour into mixer bowl, add 1/4 c. lard. Put speed to 2nd setting, let it blend until it looks like cornmeal, slowly add buttermilk until ball is formed and it seperates from sides. Add 1more Tbs. of buttermilk to wet dough. turn out onto a well floured board or counter. Dough is already mostly kneaded so just fold it together to create a large ball. With flour hands push down on dough with palm of hand until it is all about 1/2". With a sharp biscuit cutter dip into flour and push straight down on dough DO NOT TWIST CUTTER. Put onto a greased & floured baking sheet invert each one and have them touching. Bake at 450 Deg. for 13 minutes. Enjoy !
Lee A. August 30, 2014
Someone mentioned using "leaf lard." What is that? If it is animal lard, warn anyone who is a vegetarian prior to serving.
Nancy M. October 31, 2014
Leaf lard is the highest grade of lard (lard is pork fat, the term is usually used to refer to rendered pork fat suitable for cooking). Leaf lard is particularly prized by bakers for use in producing moist, flaky pie crusts and biscuits.
Chef W. August 15, 2014
To make best biscuits you should always need the doe with your hands for at least 20 min. Best to buy a good mixer with a doe hook. I have tried making biscuits all kinds different ways but the secrete is in the mixing. Good also to make up biscuit doe nite before and keep in refrigerator. To make doe lose for drop biscuits you still need to mix well.
Chef W. August 15, 2014
Sorry for miss spelled words. I see no place to edit. Doe should be dough. I am a better cook than a speller hehe
Cameron H. September 23, 2014
Wow, Cutthroat, you are well named. I suspect your first name should be viscious. Do you feel better for having taken Chef Willard down a few notches? I bet you have very few friends. Peopke who delight in correcting other's shortcomings usually live in the hell they so richly deserve.
Doreen November 28, 2014
Chef Willard, so what about the spelling, it is your message we want to see. The best way to make biscuits! My mom made them and I have never been able to repeat her methods. Thanks for your info!
jslade May 29, 2014
Don't twist your biscuit cutter.
trvlnsandy May 29, 2014
Shirley Corriher's batter was wet enough you scooped rather than rolled and cut (and I would cut in squares, anyway). Her recipe is the best I've had.
Georgie May 21, 2014
My mother was famous for her biscuits. Her secret was to refrigerate the prepared biscuits for an hour before baking.
boulangere May 11, 2014
You are so kind to mention Thank you from a serious biscuit person!
trvlnsandy May 11, 2014
I took a class from Shirley Corriher ('Cookwise' and 'Bakewise') at which she demonstrated biscuits. Her secret - White Lily self rising flour (her comment was that it was their business to promote good biscuits) and a wet batter.
Doreen November 28, 2014
Shirley is on Good Eats with Alton Brown! I would believe anything she said. Where did you take her class? In Atlanta? Darn, I am in SoCal...
technicolor G. May 10, 2014
I love biscuits! I like the suggestions.
VICKY May 10, 2014