How to cook: Grits

How to cook: Grits

Ben @ Ben to Table

Grits are a wonderful — and versatile — ingredient, but cooking with an heirloom ingredient like the stone-ground grits from Geechie Boy Mill can definitely be a bit intimidating. Even if you grew up with grits, chances are good you didn't grow up with stone-ground grits like this.

There are three main ways I like to use grits:

  1. Fried into a cake as a crispy and corn-y underlayer for something gooey or runny -- especially fried eggs at brunch, but also a stew, sauce, or gravy work really well
  2. Soft and smooth at brunch, under an egg and maybe some shrimp
  3. Soft and smooth at dinner, treated like a soft polenta, underneath a hearty stew -- could be a chili, sausage and pepper sauce, or really anything you can conjure. Below is an example of me topping "soft and smooth" grits with sauteed mushrooms and greens.

    Topping soft and smooth grits with sauteed mushrooms and greens

In all of those cases, you begin by cooking the grits, which can happen in one of two ways:

  1. Stirring low-and-slow in a pot on the stove: with 4 parts water (some of which can be broth or milk) to 1 part grits and a little salt, bring to a boil, then bring down to a simmer and stir regularly until it comes together in about 35-45 minutes.
  2. In a pressure cooker/Instant Pot: With the same proportions, I do 11 minutes at pressure followed by 15 minutes of natural release. Then quick release -- it'll look like there's a fair bit of liquid left, but when you stir it up, it'll come together perfectly.

There's not actually a huge amount of time difference between the two, but the pressure cooker option let's you ignore the grits while you do other stuff.

For a "soft and smooth" use case, you're then ready to roll -- just pour them out into your serving dish and get to it with whatever toppings you have in mind.

Poring out grits from the Instant Pot

if you want to fry them, you should pour out into a pan, and leave in the fridge overnight (so it requires some planning, or just a great use case for leftovers if you make too much!). Once they've set, you can cut into whatever shape you want, dip in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and whatever strikes your fancy (you won't go wrong with smoked paprika, or you can just add that while frying), fry in a high-heat oil, and then drain on a cookie sheet or paper towel while you do the rest.

Here's me cutting set grits into shapes for frying:
cutting set grits into shapes for frying:

Here's the grits frying:
Frying grits cakes

Draining fried grits

And then here's the final product, topped with a fried egg:
Fried grits topped with a sunny-side up egg


A couple of additional notes:

  1. I'm often tempted to load grits up with tons of extras -- butter, cheese, flavorful stock as cooking broth, etc. And while that's certainly necessary with regular grits, for the special stone-ground varietals we're working with, I find it actually detracts. There might be more flavor overall, but it loses the full and impressive corn flavor that sets these apart.  So obviously branch out however you want, but I've gone back to simplicity as the best method for Geechie Boy Mill grits.
  2. Grits will set, or solidify, over time. You can always add liquid or heat them back up in a skillet if you want to get back to that softer feel.

 Happy cooking!




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