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What's wrong with instant grits?

Consensus seems to be instant grits are a crime against nature. That's all they seem to sell at the 5 or so grocery stores I frequent. I'm willing to go out of my way to find slow-cooking grits but I'd like to know if it's worth it.

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  1. I'm not a grits expert...but I purchase the Quaker Oats Brand grits that cook in about 20 minutes. I rarely have them with eggs for breakfast, but I use them for making Shrimp & Grits. They're only about $2 when on sale...maybe $3 when not.

    1. I use both and the instant are fine, especially if you are going to add stuff to them. Try both and see which you prefer.

      1. My dad grew up eating grits and he doesn't care for the instant. The regular Quaker Oats grits are only available in our area at the commissary at the Air Force base. Every grocery store in our area only carries the Quaker Oats instant grits, the only other option is Bob's Red Mill, which is labeled as grits/polenta, but I find the texture to be a bit coarse.
        I came across some bags of Sam Mills yellow grits at Grocery Outlet last year that were very good, but haven't seen them since.

        1. Are you asking about instant or quick? Instructions for 'quick' are cook for 5 minutes, though I prefer to cook them longer, more like 20 minutes. They are fine.

          I haven't bought instant in a long time, so can't give a good description of how they taste or look.

          There is a difference between grits (or any other ground grain) that cooks faster because it is ground more finely, and one that has been precooked and dried.

          In general, to give any version a fair shake, cook it longer than specified on the package, adding more water if needed.

          1. Are you talking about instant or quick-cooking grits. These are two different things. Instant grits come in individual packets (like instant oatmeal) and you ad boiling water to the bowl. Quick-cooking are actually cooked over heat in a pot and take 5 minutes (package directions) or longer as others here have said if you want a thicker, richer consistency. Quick-cooking grits are absolutely fine to use, while instant are horrible. I have attached pictures for clarification.

            edit: sorry for the almost duplicate post @paulj.

            1. Yes, it is worth it. The instant ones are gummy and insipid. I don't eat grits all that often so when I do, I go for a coarse, stone ground variety. I'm still working on a big bag I got at the Charleston Farmers Market.

              1. <What's wrong with instant grits?>

                Nothing, if you are looking for a School Glue substitute, or maybe wall paper paste.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Uncle Bob

                  When was the last time you cooked instant grits?

                  1. re: paulj

                    I would still like to know what people are considering "instant grits." To me, it is an individual package that you mix with hot water in a bowl; like the photo of the package I posted up above. There is no "cooking" involved with "instant grits" as I know them.

                    1. re: paulj

                      It's been many years. I suppose you're gonna suggest they are New & Improved, and I should try them again? Don't waste your time. ;)

                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        I concur. About six months ago I was in an office at breakfast and a fellow had the Instant Grits red Eye gravy pack. He offered one and I tool it out of curiosity and not to offend him. It wasn't worth shooting, as I suspected. The Quick Grits, as has been pointed out, can work but it is really a diluent and not an enhancement. The real thing, with coarse consistency, cooked slowly (with milk if you like) holds up to anything. Quick grits is never stiff enough to make the little volcano into the caldera of which you pour red eye gravy and can then make little rivulets so the lava runs onto the biscuits and ham below. Also, leftover real grits makes excellent fried grits which Modern Chefs will sell you as a "grit cake."

                  2. I believe the definitive case against instant grits was made by Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinnie. For myself, grits just are not as interesting as mashed potato or properly made tofu. Cheese grits just may be an exception.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kagemusha49

                      Cheese grits with an over easy egg are heaven on earth. I just recently started making long cook grits in my rice cooker and am now a grit lover.

                      1. re: kagemusha49

                        I always found that line to be peculiar. I think anyone who has never cooked grits would think that the 'can' Joe Pesci was referring to was a metal can, like a can of soup. But when and where I grew up in the south, I think there was only one choice for grits in the store and it came in a can, but a cardboard can, ie, the cylindrical one with the Quaker oats guy on it. So in my mind, not only did self-respecting southerners eat grits from a can, that was pretty much all there was to the best of my memory!

                      2. It's akin to Uncle Ben's converted rice. It's a simulant but a flawed one. Where "real" rice or grits can have a depth of flavor of their respective rice and corn, the "instant" versions don't have much other than mass.

                        So it's not so much "wrong" as "not right."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ferret

                          Uncle Ben's is not Minute Rice. It's parboiled rice; parboiled rice is actually a centuries-old traditional product as such.

                          Anyway, I have no love of instant oatmeal, instant farina, instant grits: all are too insipid. I prefer long-cooked oats, farina and grits. Much more character and better flavor.

                        2. No self-respecting Southerner would be caught dead with instant (or quick-cooking) Grits in his kitchen!!

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                            I was just thinking this!
                            I am a NYer I know little of grits but for the 20 times I watched this movie

                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                              Sorry, PotatoHouse, but I guess all those friends of ours in Nashville and thereabouts must respect themselves for all the wrong reasons, because they all use the Quaker (or store-brand) quick-cooking variety. As did I, and still do (Albers, out here on the Coast). I do have several jars of CORN grits still left from the ten-pound bag I bought through Amazon a while back, but that's what I use for polenta. Thing is, I don't cook ANYTHING for breakfast that takes more than ten minutes, max. Today's garlic cheese grits took exactly that.

                              The INSTANT grits, though, are an abomination.

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                That's the biggest problem with today's world...too many people with no self respect.

                              2. re: PotatoHouse

                                PotatoHouse I thought you were a new Englander. Like Will Owen I grew up down south and my mother made grits with a pat of butter and a fried egg for breakfast on many occasions before I left for school. Quick grits from the cardboard tube was used regularly and there is no shame in it. Too many people have come to rely upon joe pesci's line without knowing anything. That said I can't say that I have ever tried or even tasted instant grits. Don't plan on starting now.

                                1. re: Bkeats

                                  Isn't "the line" actually that of the witness in response to Pesci?

                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                    Yah got me. I stand corrected. I still stand by my statement that quick grits are widely used though. When mother is trying to get the kids fed and out the door to catch the bus to school, quick cooking grits are her friend.

                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                      Well as I remarked elsewhere, I've used them and done OK..not the Real Thing but you can get away with it. I have had luck with them as fried grots but I admit to putting lots of butter, garlic, mushrooms on it so it's not hard to wolf down

                                2. re: PotatoHouse

                                  We all have different views and differing experiences.

                                  As a life-long Southerner, I don't know any "native" that uses stone-ground grits. Growing up, and to this day, I only know people who use "quick" grits.

                                  I cook quick grits, but I usually cook them for 45 minutes to over an hour.

                                  Instant grits...had some when I was a kid. Still remember and don't want to do that again.

                                  I hear of people on the internet using stone ground grits, but I don't know of anyone personally.

                                  The only other thing I can confess to is using Bob's Red Mill Yellow Grits. When making polenta this is what I use.

                                  1. re: JayL

                                    Sounds like you and I had the same upbringing ex the trying instant grits part. Instant oatmeal yes, instant grits never had'em.

                                3. What's wrong with instant grits?

                                  Nothing in particular beyond the fact that they have no texture, little flavor, and end up a gluey mess.

                                  Quick grits are less of an abomination, but only less...

                                  As for how long ago did I have some instant grits?
                                  My son made a couple of packages of them early last Friday morning before we went hunting wild pigs.
                                  While the grits tasted like mush, my son cooked them, so they were great.

                                  Also asking a Southerner a question like that is like asking a Yankee from New York or Chicago what's wrong with the pizza from outside of their precious cities.
                                  Down here you'll receive a fair share of raised eyebrows, and a few bless your heart's..

                                  Go out of your way to find some, but make sure that they are hominy grits, and not corn meal (it will say on the package). Serve them plain with butter and salt, don't add sugar. Treat them like mashed potatoes, minus the sour cream.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: deet13

                                    "Down here you'll receive a fair share of raised eyebrows, and a few bless your heart's.."

                                    And don't forget more than a few "boy, you ain't right"s.

                                    1. re: deet13

                                      What are hominy grits?

                                      Look at the label of the label of the quick box.

                                      Mostly about Italian v Southern ways with corn. Last paragraph talks about hominy and the arcain term 'hominy grits'.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Oh Lord, spare us from the fury of the hominy discussion.

                                        As for hominy being an arcane term; it ain't that arcane in my neck of the woods.

                                        Especially considering that you can pick up both colors of hominy, canned or dried, nixtamalized and non-nixtamalized, grits and masa at most of our local shopping centers and the box stores.

                                        1. re: deet13

                                          I quote the Anson Mills page
                                          "This next definition of hominy is arcane: hominy grist (not “grits”) is any fresh-milled corn grits that comes out of a stone mill. "

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            With all due respect to the arguably admirable Anson Mills folks, I find their labelling of what they call "Hominy Grits" to be deceptive, and the quoted statement but a lame attempt to justify it. I'll admit that my Southern exposure was limited to 27 years in Nashville and environs, with regular trips to Kentucky and Georgia, and every plate or bowl of grits I had carried that alkaline "whang" of hominy. In that part of the world "hominy " MEANS nixtamalized corn, hominy itself being a common and well-liked food. From that standpoint, Anson Mills' description of their "hominy grits" as simply ground from "hominy corn" is just weasel talk.

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              The only grits that I've cooked that were specifically labeled as 'hominy grits' have been Quaker and Albers. I've never had occasion to do a blind taste test to compare these with grits/polenta. It's hard to separate texture (due to grind) and color (yellow v white) differences from taste ones.

                                              I am also familiar with hominy, but in Mexican and Andean dishes, as opposed to Southern.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                Hominy is more "Northern Southern," i.e. the northern reaches of the old Confederacy. Plain buttered canned hominy with just salt and pepper was common on my (Wichita, KS) paternal grandparents' table, unknown on my (Northern Illinois) maternal ones'. But it's a standard item in any grocery in Kentucky or Tennessee, usually both yellow and white. If the dry product is available it would be due to the burgeoning Latino population, and probably found only in their stores.

                                    2. It is worth it.
                                      Real Grits have texture and flavor both of which are lacking in quick and instant Grits.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: chefj

                                        Thanks everyone. Anyone have a brand they like?

                                        1. re: iheartcooking

                                          Anson Mills is the brand that 'chefs' like to buy, but with shipping their prices are unrealistic for most of us. I wonder what 'self respecting Southerns' find when they go to the grocery. Or do they all shop as specialty shops and historic mills?

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            Mine are called Carolina Creole from Lequire Family Foods. They are long cook and are wonderful.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              What 'Southerns' find depends on where they are. Grocery stores carry different brands but there's lots of disgusting instant/quick white grits brands here too (in SC, NC, GA) Crappy, tasteless wallpaper paste and convenience sells everywhere. But there are good yellow grits here and many stores carry some milled nearby. And more stores willl carry them if people ask for them. And any smart local business group discovers that a local product from a local mill can draw attention. There are lots of local mills and people have been seeking them out. I give bags from Adluh and Boykin Mill as presents, both are in/near Columbia SC and both have web sites. Anson Mill is located here too but i can count of at least 10-12 mills in SC and more in NC and GA. Good stoneground grits need lots of water and slow cooking for minimum 30 minutes - I go at least 45-an hour. And just a little milk, no damn cream, salt and butter to finish.

                                              What passes for breakfast shrimp and grits in fancy restaurants and cooked in places like SF is just sad - maybe inevitable but miserable and embarassing. I made the old style for friends from Chicago area: very simple, slow cooked stone ground yellow grits, quick stock from shrimp shells and reduced, lots of small creek-size shrimp up from the coast sauteed in butter and bacon drippings, grits in a bowl, shrimp and stock quick blended, poured over shrimp. Hot strong coffee, citrus sections and homemade buttermilk biscuits w/muscadine jam.

                                              You just don't need all that other crap, but it impresses the tourists I guess and lets you charge high dollar. Makes me sad sometimes.

                                        2. Since I was unclear, I mean instant grits, though those I've bought don't come in little packets they sure don't say "quick," they say instant.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: iheartcooking

                                            Can you find corn meal or polenta?

                                              1. re: chefj

                                                To wit, from Anson Mills on this subject:

                                                "GRITS AND POLENTA

                                                Many folks ask us to define the differences between grits and polenta. As we noted, most grits, in the American South, are traditionally made from dent corn. In Italy, most polenta is made from flint corn. Italians began to cultivate flints from the Caribbean around 1500 and developed a then new European foodway, polenta di mais, or cornmeal mush.

                                                When milled and cooked to similar forms, flint holds its particle texture longer than dent. Hence the famous beading texture and palate “grip” of properly made polenta. Flints also have different basic flavor profiles when compared in similar cookery to dents. Flints possess more mineral and floral notes, dents more “corn” flavor upfront, followed by supporting floral and mineral notes.

                                                This contrast begets a broader discussion of polenta, grits, cornmeal, and mush. Are they just different forms of the same basic food idea? Yes and no, depending upon whom you ask. According to many food historians and the USDA, all forms of milled dry corn are some iteration of cornmeal, and all foods cooked from any of these forms are an iteration of mush.

                                                Polenta, according to historians and the USDA, can be made from any corn and milled to any state using any milling equipment and technique from coarse “grits-like” texture to fine flour. But all of us at Anson Mills know something about 17th and 18th century European reduction milling techniques—and how that changes the game. At its introduction to Italian farming, polenta di mais was regarded as animal feed and milled in any fashion. Yes, the original forms of cooked polenta were no more than congealed porridge. But a century later, the reduction milling techniques used by Italians to make polenta di mais—when resources were available—determined polenta’s unique characteristics. In this process, corn was milled slowly to large pieces, then those large particles were passed though the mill again to make them smaller, and again to make them smaller still, until the desired uniform particle size was achieved. Reduction milling yields grist of extremely uniform particles for even cooking. And because reduction milling produces less milling heat, the flavor and texture in hard flint corn is preserved.

                                                At the hand of Italian artisans and their quest for precision, polenta di mais evolved from multiple-pass reduction milling. American cornmeal and grits, in contrast, evolved as a contest to mill corn easily and get it into the pot with utmost speed. Nearly all corn milling in pre-industrial America was single pass, yielding grist with a wide range of particle sizes. American millers were derided in Europe for being impatient “single pass” technicians. Ultimately, when one compares polenta di mais to grits, cornmeal, or corn flour, it is reduction milling that sets polenta apart visually, texturally, and even in terms of flavor. Predominantly made from otto file, or eight-row flint over the last few centuries, polenta di mais in Italy (and at Anson Mills) has a different flavor profile, a different finished mouthfeel, and a different textural makeup than mush made from Southern heirloom dent, coarse cornmeal, or grits. Simply, we grow Italian heirloom corns and mill them with 17th and 18th century European artisan techniques to achieve the various heritage forms of polenta di mais.

                                                So if you were wondering whether at Anson Mills polenta, grits, cornmeal, or corn flour are all the same thing, the answer is an emphatic NO. Elsewhere, with the exception of the best farms and mills in Italy, all bets are off."

                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                  I'd love to have been around when they were ginning up that copy. reminds me of "Cigar Afficianado"'s flights.

                                                  To the original question, though I posted up thread, the answer as to what's wrong is "everything." The man who invented it should have ben drowned in his crib.

                                                  As an experiment I used some quick grits after this post came out, trying to improve it . It works, as I noted, as a diluent. It is not a contribution to flavor (or "profilels" as I now know to say.)

                                                2. re: chefj

                                                  I read this thread earlier today. I was intrigued, because I have only ever had grits someplace like Shoney's, for breakfast. I don't know, but I would guess that such a place might use the "quick" kind, or some other shortcut. So I want to try the real thing. Later in the day, I was in our local grocery store (local being in NE Ohio). I thought I'd look for grits. The cereal aisle only had Quaker, both the instant and quick varieties. I chose to check out the baking aisle next, where I found a bag from Bob's Red Mill. That package was labeled

                                                  "CORN GRITS
                                                  also known as

                                                  I immediately recalled this discussion, and especially "Those are not Grits."
                                                  So now I am wondering - grits, or not? I'd like to try the real thing, to see if it as good as so many above have claimed. But I doubt that I am going to order online or some such. So do I try the Bob's stuff, or do I wait until my next trip to the South and then buy some there?

                                                  If it helps, here is a link to the Bob's product. The package on the paged linked says only "Corn Grits", but there is a video further down the page, and it shows a package with the label I saw today. Anyone, please tell me what you think!

                                                  1. re: Cheez62

                                                    BRM now sells white corn grits, also labeled as 'southern style'. I've not seem them in a store yet. Cooking instructions are the same as for the yellow ones.

                                                    Are they grits? Some would say yes, others no. For some the distinction between yellow and white corn is paramount. For others it's the grind. American stone ground produces a mix of fine and coarse particles. Anson mills talks about the Italians perfecting a multipass milling that produces a uniform grind. Part of what 'purists' don't like about Quick grits (whether Quaker or Albers), is the uniformity. Some distinguish between using flint or dent corn. Others say it a matter of how you flavor them.

                                                    I like to use these BRM 'grits or polenta'. I don't really care whether the resulting product is called grits or polenta. They may be the best corn many of us outside of the South can buy in a grocery.

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      Thank you for your opinion. I may have to try the BRM grits then. But I must also now add that I was in a different grocery store today, and they had "regular" Quaker white corn grits. Now which one should choose?

                                            1. Real stone ground grits are a whole different food than instant or quick grits.
                                              Think about the difference in texture and flavor between instant oatmeal and steel-cut oats. Just not the same food.

                                              Living in Georgia, I have access to various types of stone ground grits - one of our local farmers grinds theirs from dent corn. You have to float the bits of husk off before cooking them, and it still takes a couple of hours. But the flavor is so corn-ish, the texture is chewable but not chewy...you know you're eating corn, not Cream of Wheat.

                                              1. Not intentionally meaning to be crabby, but

                                                what's right with instant grits?

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                  When you are on public assistance and shop at food pantries and instant grits is all they have to offer.

                                                  That's what's right about them.

                                                2. I was surprised to find, at my neighborhood grocery (nothing upscale), 2 new types of grits (besides the usual Albers quick) - Quaker Old Fashioned and Bobs Red Mill White Southern style.

                                                  I've used Bobs Red Mill yellow grits/polenta before, and the white stoneground grits that Trader Joes carried for short while.

                                                  I made a small batch of the Quaker for supper (with sausage and fried eggs). The package recommends 20 minutes cooking with a 4:1 ratio. Taste was basically the same as other grits that I've had. Texture was like the stoneground, due to a mix of grain sizes, and some bits of hull.

                                                  I enjoy a smooth creamy texture (e.g. Quick) just as much as coarser texture of stoneground and OF. I enjoy a similar variety in oat or wheat porridges (smooth Scottish oats, coarse cut and whole groats, smooth Cream of Wheat and coarse cracked wheat).