Brian Woodcock

To protect you from some serious “bless your heart” moments, here are five things to never say to a serious Southern cook. 

Patricia S. York

The South is full of great cooks, talented home chefs whose ability to roll out pastry dough, prepare chicken for frying, and whip up a batch of cornbread dressing without referring to a recipe comes as natural as breathing. Wait…Is this not you? You either never learned to cook, or you simply don’t like to? Do you use your oven for storage space rather than baking? No worries, we all have different talents and gifts. But just to keep you protected from some serious “bless your heart” moments, here are five things to never say to a serious Southern cook. You can, however, turn it around into a polite question, because that is the only way to learn!  

Don’t you think you have too many casserole dishes?
Well, no. There are as many different reasons for needing a casserole dish as there are dish sizes. You need a large one for the casserole you're taking for the after-the-funeral dinner (be sure your name is on the bottom so you will get it back), and a smaller one for the make-ahead breakfast casserole you are going to stick in the fridge tonight, and that pretty oval dish will do nicely for the cheesy meatball and pasta bake you are fixing for dinner. No, you can never have too many. Try these comforting casserole recipes.

Related: Best Casserole Recipes

Why don’t you save time and use instant grits?
Because you want your grits to have taste and texture, that’s why. Here is a quick Grits 101: Grits are ground, dried corn. When the hull and germ have been removed from dried corn kernels, it is called hominy. When dried hominy is ground, it’s called hominy grits. Grits are available in three grinds: Coarse, or stone-ground grits, medium, or regular and quick-cooking grits, and fine, or instant. Instant grits have been precooked and dehydrated; just add boiling water and go. Passable for college students, but a true Southern cook would rather do without than serve instant grits.

Just put that cast-iron skillet in the dishwasher!
Never! Unless you have a piece of the new rust-resistant cookware from Lodge, you know better than to put your heirloom cast iron in the dishwasher. To keep cast-iron cookware in top form, clean it under hot water (never use soap) and pat it dry.  For stubborn spots, a plastic scrubber will do the trick. Here are our favorite cast-iron recipes.

Becky Luigart Stayner

I just picked up this cake at the grocery store on the way
As it happens so often, you are informed at the last minute that it’s your turn to supply your child’s classroom with a dessert. Go ahead and pick up a store bought cake – everyone understands! But don’t ever make this comment at a church potluck or family reunion. Your efforts to contribute to the meal will surely be appreciated by most, but be prepared for a few eye rolls and whispers. Next time, try one of these bake-and-take sheet cakes.  They are so easy, even a novice baker will be successful.

You are still baking with real butter these days? 
Of course! We all like to save a few calories when we can, but when it comes to baking, go ahead and use real butter instead of margarine or other alternatives, which often contain high amounts of water.  Butter’s fat content yields the best results, such as tenderness and flakiness in cakes, biscuits and pastries. Learn the art of biscuit-making from the Southern Living Test Kitchen pros.

The moral of the story is, never insult a Southern cook. You could learn a thing or two from them that will come in handy at the next pot luck or family gathering. Trust us–the last think you want to do is bring a burnt casserole to the family gathering. They will whisper.