How to cook grits — just the way you like them

Groats are loved, holy. They possess the duality of pleasure and pain, whether as a bowl of comforting nourishment or as a weapon against infidelity. They are a continuous line that connects the Native Americans, the enslaved, the Southerners, and the descendants of these groups today.

Aside from their historical and cultural significance, groats contain a variety of ways in which they can be consumed. They can be eaten as part of the breakfast plate with eggs, bacon or sausage and a piece of toast, or eaten on their own in a bowl with butter. Mix them with cheese if you like and use them as a canvas for seafood (most famously shrimp), stew, or whatever else your heart desires. And if you don’t feel like porridge, you can let the grits cool and set before frying them as a cake. Put simply, grits are delicious.

A guide to cornmeal, grits, and polenta—and how to know when to use them

The term grits can refer to both the ingredient—which falls under the umbrella term cornmeal, also known as ground, dried corn—and the dish made from it. “The method of making grits, which is as simple as grinding and cooking cornmeal or other ground vegetables like wild rice or squash, is a technique historically found in almost every indigenous community around the world,” Erin Byers Murray writes in Grits. Indigenous peoples then introduced grits to the colonizers who settled North America, who later made it a staple of slavery. “Generations of enslaved people were the primary processors, manufacturers, cooks, and eaters of grits — but they also introduced and fed grits to generations of white Americans.” While grits can be found on brunch menus across the country, it’s one of the staple dishes , which sits at the complex intersection of southern and black cuisine.

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The ingredient is typically made from dent corn, a variety known for its robust corn flavor, and can come in a variety of colors. Groats are most commonly available in white and yellow – white corn has a more delicate flavor compared to yellow – but blue and red groats can also be found. But if you mix them with cheese or serve them under a ladleful of heavily spiced stew, the difference in flavor is negligible.

Aside from color, groats are classified by degree of grind and cooking time (old-fashioned, quick, and instant), and whether it’s whole grain. The difference between old-fashioned semolina and quick semolina is simply the size of the semolina, with quick semolina being finer ground for faster cooking time. “Instant grits also have the germ and skins removed and are cooked; then the paste is spread in large sheets. These are then dried and ground again,” writes cookbook author Virginia Willis. “They’re practically a pot of starch with no flavor. You have no soul. That’s zombie grits.” Whole grain semolina has more flavor and nutritional value, and is usually stone ground (and labeled as such), but the downside is that they’re perishable. While all cornmeals should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, be sure to place stone-ground grits in the fridge or freezer for maximum flavor and longevity.

This hearty crab stew on coconut grits is a touch of Afrofuturism

When it comes to preparing grits, the recommended method may vary by cook, but my method is as follows: Bring 4 cups water and a pinch of salt to a boil, slowly stir in 1 cup grits, reduce to a gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring frequently, until desired texture is achieved. Add water if needed. At every step, this simple formula is filled with decisions that may affect the finished product.

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Before turning on the stove, artisan grain producer Anson Mills recommends soaking the semolina overnight for a “superior” texture. This step also reduces cooking time by about 50 percent, which can take anywhere from about 20 minutes to 1 hour or more, depending on the type of grits and the consistency you want. For stone-ground grits, the company and Gullah Geechee matriarch and cookbook author Emily Meggett instruct chefs to first mix the water and grits in a saucepan, skim off any bits that float to the top, and then begin cooking the grain. this “also reduces the cooking time of the groats,” Meggett says, because it skims off the bits that take longer to cook,” writes CJ Lotz in Garden & Gun. For those who haven’t been thinking ahead, you can do a quick soak “by bringing the grits and water to a boil, removing them from the heat, covering the pot and letting it sit for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour,” Meghan writes Splawn the kitchen before continuing to cook it on the stove.

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As for the liquid, chef and food writer Amethyst Ganaway suggests increasing the amount of water to 5 cups for grits beginners. “It doesn’t hurt to start with a little more water (worst case, you may have to boil it for a few more minutes to thicken it),” writes Ganaway in Serious Eats. “This guarantees – even for a total grits novice – a pot that cooks silky and creamy.” Some ardent grits fans scoff at the idea of ​​just using water to cook grits and replacing all or part of it with broth, milk to replace cream or half and half. However, for the best semolina quality, water works best to bring out the corn flavor. Also, with grits that require longer cooking times, the sugar in dairy products tends to burn without constant stirring, so I recommend holding off adding butter or cream until just before serving.

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Frequent stirring is a must during the cooking process so you don’t end up with lumpy grits and face the harsh judgment of the porridge group. Cooks also need to be wary of volcanic eruptions that can burn, so it’s a good idea to cover the pot with a lid between stirs to protect against spills. Groat doneness is a very personal matter based on texture and consistency. If the semolina gets very thick at any point and is still too flavorful for your liking, simply add more liquid and continue cooking. To control the consistency, simply simmer longer to thicken, or add more liquid to thin it (remember, butter you choose to add will further affect flowability). Finally, season to taste with salt, pepper and/or cheese, to name just a few options.

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