Grits are an iconic southern dish that dates back as far as the 16th century. They were originally made by drying corn kernels and boiling them to create a mush. Grits were introduced into southern cooking when the Native Americans served grits to Sir Walter Raleigh's men and the subsequent Jamestown colonists. Understandably, grits don't sound super appetizing on paper. If you grew up outside the south and are wondering, "what are grits?" this article will give you the ins and outs of this hearty meal that can be eaten any time of the day. 

What Are Grits?

Grits are an easy stove top to table meal that consists simply of dried corn (either yellow or white) that's been crushed into a fine or coarse meal. The granules are then paired with either hot water or milk and cooked on the stove until they're a thick, creamy consistency (similar to that of porridge). Grits can be served sweet with butter and sugar, or savory with cheese and bacon. They can serve as either a component of breakfast, or a side dish at dinner. 

#SpoonTip: Cheese should be added during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking with the pot removed from direct heat. This will help avoid clumping.

Types of Grits

Ask any southerner and they'll tell you that not all grits are made equal. Depending on the kind of grits you buy, you'll be looking at various cooking times and methods.

Stone-ground grits are coarsely ground and cooked on the stovetop, which can take anywhere between 30-60 minutes, or longer. These are somewhat of a challenge to find in stores outside of the southern states, but they can be ordered online in bulk for pretty cheap.

Hominy grits (not to be confused with plain hominy) are made by removing the hull and germ of the dried corn. Hominy grits are made on the stovetop, which can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on how much you make.

Quick Grits are ground finely and can be cooked on the stovetop or microwave (Quaker quick grits recommend 5-7 minutes on the stovetop or 3-4 minutes on high in the microwave). 

Instant grits are the the quickest to make and are primarily made in the microwave or mixed with boiling water for those in a rush. Instant grits have been precooked and dehydrated so consumers can "just add water," and whatever topping suits their fancy. These generally take about 1-2 minutes to prepare.

How to Eat Grits

Growing up, my mother prepared grits on the stove in large quantities and usually served them up with sugar and butter, but these are just humble beginnings of the many ways you can enjoy grits. For a truly decadent grits experience, make this cheesy bacon shrimp grits recipe If you're looking to go the sweeter route, these honey nut breakfast grits are a great way to jumpstart your morning.

Learn from my mistakes, though. It's easy to make way too much grits. When you make too many grits in the morning, whip up a batch of these innovative grit cakes to utilize the leftovers. 

Whether you're team savory or team sweet, there are endless possibilities on how you can eat grits. Now that you know what makes this southern staple so good, don't be afraid to experiment with toppings and mix-ins when making grits.