Menu
Search
Menu
Close

April​/May 2012

Grits

If you're just going to slather them with butter and cheese, does it really matter what brand of grits you buy?

How We Tested

Many people see corn grits, a dish that’s strongly identified with the American South, as merely a vehicle, a neutral-tasting base that gets all its flavor from the lavish amounts of butter and cheese that are typically stirred in. So does it matter which brand you buy? To find out, we gathered four brands and called 21 editors and test cooks to the tasting table. We sampled each cooked in water with just a dash of salt and in our recipe for Creamy Cheese Grits.

Some Definitions

Just what are corn grits? Corn grits are ground-up corn, period. But to confuse matters, that’s also what Italian polenta is made from and that’s the definition of cornmeal, too. So is there any difference among these three? Cornmeal is usually (but not always) a finer grind. Corn grits are usually (but not always) cooked more quickly than polenta. Also, grits are typically prepared with milk and cheddar cheese while, classically, polenta is more likely to be cooked in stock or water and flavored with Parmesan cheese. Many brands of grits include a recipe for polenta on their packaging.

The term “hominy grits” adds to the confusion. It can simply mean corn grits. But if you’re visiting the region around Charleston, South Carolina, “hominy grits” will probably mean freshly milled corn grits (which you must store in the refrigerator or freezer). Finally, the term can refer to grits that are made from actual hominy. What’s hominy, you ask? Hominy is corn kernels that have been soaked in an alkali solution before grinding so that their coarse outer shells slip off (this is the part that gets stuck in your teeth when you’re eating popcorn.) Got all this straight?

In our lineup, we include two brands that call themselves grits, one that’s labeled hominy grits (but is really just ordinary grits) and one freshly milled brand. We narrowed our scope to old-fashioned and standard grits, and we excluded any brands labeled “quick” or “five-minute” grits, which are often precooked to speed up the process of cooking.

Enough Already. So Who Won?

In the plain tasting, one brand stood out from the rest, proving that grits are no mere carrier for butter and cheese. This brand had a “sweet, complex corn flavor somewhere between corn on the cob and lightly buttered popcorn.” The delicious flavor improved the Creamy Cheese Grits, too: “Deep corn flavor adds dimension that others don’t have.” Our top brand is not for cooks who are short on time (or money). These grits require an overnight soak and take 45 to 90 minutes on the stove. (And did we mention you have to mail-order them?) According to the company, the overnight soak improves both texture and flavor (and makes the nutrients more available). Unlike mass-produced corn products, these grits are decidedly not uniform; for our tasting, for instance, we received one batch with a notably coarse grind. While the company assured us this was a traditional interpretation of grits, a few tasters preferred a creamier texture.

These beautiful heirloom grains are well worth the price and time. But like most Americans in 2012, our lives are hectic and overscheduled, and we’re usually pressed for time. That’s when we reach for our best buy. This brand also scored very well, and its smaller grains cook in just five minutes (although longer cooking improves them). These grits have a “lovely soft texture” and pack “potent” corn flavor, plus you can find them in your supermarket.

Try CooksCountry.com FREE for 14 Days

START YOUR 14-DAY FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP

Every Recipe, Every Rating, Every Video from Every Magazine & Every Episode!

  • 10+ years of Cook's Country Foolproof Recipes
  • Complete Cook's Country TV Video Library
  • 3,800+ Equipment Reviews and Ingredient Taste Tests
  • Step-by-Step Technique Photos
  • Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists

Dear Home Cook,

If we were new to CooksCountry.com, we might think, “It’s easy to get free recipes on the Internet. What makes your recipes different?” Well, unlike recipes from blogs, message boards, and other recipe sites, our recipes are exhaustively tested by our team of full-time test cooks until they offer consistently great results. That means fried chicken with a crunchy coating and moist meat, a low-fat recipe makeover for macaroni and cheese that’s as creamy and cheesy as the full-fat version, and fork-tender slow cooker pot roast.

We’re obsessive in our quest to find and foolproof the best of American home cooking, from fuss-free weeknight dinners, to updated, simplified versions of regional specialties, to slow cooker and make ahead meals. CooksCountry.com is the only place you can find every foolproof recipe published in Cook’s Country magazine since 2005, plus objective ratings and test results from both Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated for cookware and supermarket ingredients.

Let us make a simple, no-nonsense offer. Try out our website FREE for a 14-Day, No-Hassle Trial Offer. We’re pretty confident that CooksCountry.com will quickly become an invaluable resource for everything from a quick Tuesday supper to your next get-together with family and friends.

Thanks for your consideration,

The Editors of Cook’s Country

The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.