Know Your Grits: Stone-Ground, Speckled, Instant, and More
Before you can master making a perfect pot of grits, you've got to choose the right ground corn for the job. Read on for the most commonly found varieties of grits, from artisanal stone-ground to "get the job done" instant grits.
Stone-ground grits are made from whole dried corn kernels that have been coarsely ground the old-fashioned way: between the two stones of a grist mill. Because the entire kernel is ground, including the germ, stone-ground grits often have a speckled appearance, and a more toothsome texture and rich corn flavor. Stone-ground grits are less processed, which makes them more perishable, so store them in the freezer not the pantry.
Quick or Regular Grits
The only difference between these types is in granulation. Quick grits are ground fine and cook in 5 minutes; regular grits are medium grind and cook in 10 minutes.
Otherwise known as "grits from a packet." These fine-textured grits have been precooked and dehydrated so that all you need is boiling water. They're fast, but they're also not as naturally flavorful.
Hominy is made from corn kernels that have been soaked in a lime or lye solution which softens the tough outer hulls. Then, the kernels are rinsed to remove the outer hulls. Hominy is sold dried, ready-to-eat in cans (delicious in soups and stews), or dried and coarsely ground into hominy grits.
More Tips for Good Grits:
Don't confuse grits with cornmeal. Like grits, cornmeal is made from "dent" corn (the kernels are softer with a slight dent in the top), but it has a finely ground texture that works well in baked goods like cornbread and as a breading for fish.
Salt your water well. Grits absorb more salt before they are cooked, rather than after.
Unless you're making grits in your slow cooker, the cooking process is hands-on, and can take some time, especially if you're using stone-ground grits, which can take 45 minutes to an hour to prepare. The most important thing is to use a whisk and whisk often. This will help release more starch, for the smoothest, creamiest results.
If you don't want to stand over the stovetop stirring, you can still make lusciously creamy grits. Try baking them in the oven, which only requires a few minutes of hands-on cooking time.
Yellow, white, and blue grits are simply made from different types of corn. Some say that yellow grits have more robust corn flavor than white grits, which are more delicate.
Are Grits Healthy?
We know what you're thinking: How could grits possibly could be healthy? Southerners are known for stewing our grits with plenty of butter. But if you're looking for a health-conscious option, certain types of grits can be healthier than others. Stone-ground grits, which are made from whole corn kernels, contain more vitamins and minerals than regular, highly processed grits. This is because, in processing quick, instant, or regular grits, the corn kernel pericarp and germ are removed, leaving just the starch. Without this processing, stone ground grits contain more fiber and nutrients than regular grits.