The Southern History Of Biscuits

Recipe: Our Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits

We love serving up soft biscuits with melted butter at almost every Southern meal. But, biscuits haven't always been the flaky layers that we're used to. Biscuits were so revered and celebrated in the pre-Civil War South that they were usually reserved for Sundays. Early Southerners actually considered the biscuit a delicacy. Join Test Kitchen Robby Melvin as he goes through the history of this must-have Southern side, from its British origins to our best-ever buttermilk biscuit recipe.


The term biscuit was originally coined by the British which referred to their thin cookie and cracker like biscuit. Much different from what it evolved into once it got into the hands of southern cooks. [MUSIC] In the pre Civil War south the biscuit was regarded as a delicacy and usually reserved for Sunday lunch. Or dinner. Now the cathead biscuit was born out of necessity, they had to get things done quickly, do it simply, make your biscuit dough, and then pull and drop huge clumps of the buttery dough onto your baking sheet. Then you have the sweet potato biscuit. Sweet potatoes were abundant in the south. they were often used as a flower substitute because flour was really hard to come by. Then you had the beaten biscuit. Biscuit that was sorta built to last all day in your lunch pail. You could put it in your overall pocket. Is not nice and layered and fluffy like the others, cuz it had to be durable. [MUSIC] Soft winter wheat flour was really hard to come by for southern biscuit makers. They had to rely on the port cities on Mobile, and New Orleans, to bring in this product. But when WHile Lily started making white winter wheat self rising flour in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1983 It was very much a game changer for biscuit makers. Here in the south you know, we kind of kept our biscuits really close to home. It wasn't until the good Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame took our biscuits out of the south in 1952 when he opened his first franchise, in Utah of all places. Thus bringing the southern biscuit nationwide. Now, the key to any great biscuit is to not overwork your dough. You'll see here I'm just folding it over. And then I can put a little roll on to it. Just very gently. Another great tip, keep your cutter floured. And one mistake a lot of biscuit makers make is they twist the cutter. You don't wanna do that. You work very hard To create these layers. With improvements made on cooking ingredients and techniques, biscuits are one of the easiest things to whip up. They were and always will be a Southern delicacy. And you can find them on any table for any meal of the day. [MUSIC]
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