Serves a Crowd

Sean Brock’s Southern Grits

February  4, 2015
3 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

This recipe is from Sean Brock’s Heritage. He calls for fancy grits (and recommends Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Grits), but I’ve used whatever I’ve had in my pantry, and his method still works magic. The important part is that you soak the grits and season with a light hand -- and if you can find them, use fresh bay. —Kenzi Wilbur

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups best-quality corn grits
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves (fresh is best)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • Butter, to taste
  • Hot sauce (optional, for serving)
  1. Put the grits in a bowl and cover with the water. (Brock will ask you to use spring water — and you can — but I’ve used tap with good results.) Let them soak for at least 6 hours or overnight; you’re starting the hydration process in advance of the cooking, which will help them both cook faster later, and retain more of their corn flavor.
  2. Quickly skim any hulls or chaff that have risen to the top of the water, and then pour everything — water and grits — into a large pot over high heat. With a silicone spatula (you can use a wooden spoon if you like, but humor him if you can — this tool is actually perfect for the job), stir like mad until the mixture comes to a boil.
  3. As soon as it boils, cover the pot and take it off the heat to “relax” for about ten minutes.
  4. After they’ve rested, put them back over low heat, uncovered, and add the bay. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring often, until the grits are tender and have lost their harsh bite. (According to Brock, you’ll feel a textural change.)
  5. When the grits are done and you’re ready to serve, remove the bay leaves and season to taste with salt, lemon juice, and butter. (I started with 2 tablespoons for the whole batch, and didn’t add much more.) Don’t go overboard — you want just enough of each to bring out the corn flavor of the grits. Serve with additional butter and hot sauce, if you like.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • David Hawes
    David Hawes
  • Marian Bull
    Marian Bull
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • SpoonGood
  • Candide Thirtythree
    Candide Thirtythree

14 Reviews

Gchilders June 15, 2022
For someone paraphrasing a recipe they didn’t develop, you’re a jerk for ripping on it. Grow up and honor the originator.
Jef December 29, 2016
Just made these per the directions. I like the overnight soak, but the really long cook process didn't do much for me in terms of flavor or consistency.
Richard February 28, 2015
My mom, from Mississippi, made grits for breakfast for me (born and raised in CA) when I was a kid. She used the box of quick-grits on the cereal aisle. This 5-10 minutes seemed to take forever as I waited for them to cook and cool so I could eat them served with salt, pepper and butter. As an adult, I have ventured from the package directions to cook them with chicken broth, experimenting with many different herbs and cheeses. This morning I got up early to cook up a "mess of grits" from this recipe, after soaking them all night. Wow! I actually taste the corn. The silky texture and simple taste is like nothing I have ever tried. I loved it. I will still make grits using my other additives; depending on what I am make them to go with, but this version, authentic Southern version or not, is definitely worth the time and trouble. Just be sure to plan ahead because of the time factor. When I reheat the leftovers, I'll probably stir in a little crumbled bacon...hey, maybe breakfast for dinner tonight!!!
David H. February 20, 2015
mix 1:4 grits:water in microwaveable bowl. Nuke 3:2:1 min with stir each ":". enjoy with whatever, butter, cheese, red eye gravy, etc. Dont save leftover they are cheaper than dirt.
Marian B. February 10, 2015
Also, I will say: Hate on, haters.
Marian B. February 10, 2015
Can't wait to make this. Any tips for reheating?
SpoonGood February 12, 2015
I reheated mine the same way I reheat other starches (mashed potatotes and rice). Put it in a covered casserole with a couple of tablespoons of water and reheat in the microwave at 50% power for 2-3 minutes. Stir, and if they aren't hot enough put in for another minute at 50% power.
LeBec F. February 9, 2015
Love Anson Mills; there's nothing like the toothsomeness of their grits. I prefer grits made w/ milk-cream and stock 50/50, minced garlic and chili flakes plus cheese. Since this recipe calls for 8 c. water, way more than will be absorbed by the soaking grits, I would use 4 cups water or stock to soak, and then add cream or milk before cooking. The pre-soaking does intrique me but I can't see that it shortens the cooking time, given how long mine usually take.
Maybe mine cook faster than yours because i whisk them into a boiling liquid base.
SpoonGood February 8, 2015
I was skeptical about this recipe really being that much better than traditional grits preparation. I was really wrong, these grits were great! I used Weisenberger Mill white corn grits and served them with shrimp and wilted good even my husband asked what I did differently.
Barbara M. February 8, 2015
I've been using Anson Mills grits, oatmeal, and rice for years now. They are the BEST!
Candide T. February 8, 2015
Not a single word of that is anything even close to 'southern' grits, he made that up whole cloth.

Soozie February 8, 2015
Would all "cream of" grains (rice, wheat) benefit from this cooking method or is this something special pertaining to corn and it's rehydration?
jaime February 7, 2015
I cooked this up with yellow corn grits. I was totally skeptical about the length of the cooking process (especially since after the 10-minute period of rest, the grits were already quite thick), but I'm glad I stuck it out; they turned so creamy and smooth. I loved the consistency. The bay leaves in my pantry are crazy strong and gave the grits this mouth-numbing, slippery, leafy taste, though, so next time I'll skip the bay and add some garlic for some not-Southern but delicious 'merica-style yellow corn grits of gritty powah.
jaime February 10, 2015
I just checked the Spice Islands website and confirmed that yes, my bay leaves are from California. Even half a leaf overwhelmed a half batch of this recipe. Thanks for the tip about Turkish bay leaves.