The Real Difference Between Regular Grits And Stone-Ground Grits

Buttermilk grits, cheesy grits, shrimp n' grits – there is no shortage of classic Southern recipes revolving around a bowl of comforting ground corn cooked to creamy perfection. Before you embark on whipping up your own rendition of any of these classics, it's helpful to know the difference between stone-ground and regular grits.

Both begin as corn – dent corn to be more precise (via Mama Gourmand). Named for the dimples or flattened "dents” on the individual kernels, dent corn is the most widely produced type of corn in the U.S. (via Foodprint). It is used as livestock feed and milled for tortilla chips, taco shells, corn flakes, and good ol' grits.

The milling process is what ultimately differentiates one category of grits from another. Stone-ground grits, as their name implies, are ground between the stones of a grist mill (via Southern Living). The entire kernel, including the germ, is cranked through the mill and the resulting meal is coarse and often speckled. These old-fashioned grits boast a strong corn flavor and a chewy texture. Regular grits, by contrast, are ground to a smoother finish.

The grind of your grits impacts cooking time

Which grits you ultimately choose may depend on how much time you want to spend in the kitchen. Stone-ground grits take longer to cook. Your pot of buttery old-fashioned grits can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, according to Real Simple. That's a whole lot of whisking. Stone-ground grits require near-constant stirring – which helps release the corn's starches – for a silky, lump-free texture. Of course, you can always cook them in a slow cooker or even your oven if you want the full earthy corn flavor without the extra work.

The finer the grits are ground, the more quickly they will cook. Accordingly, the medium grind of regular grits shaves off time spent on the stovetop. Southern Living says that regular grits are ready in ten minutes. Though they may take as long as 15 to 20 minutes, according to Mama Gourmand. These quicker-cooking grits are a good go-to for weeknight or breakfast recipes when you're crunched for time.

For authentic Southern-style grits, stick to stone-ground. The Kitchn gleaned a pro tip from Southern chef Sean Brock: soak your old-fashioned grits overnight. This trick will not only decrease your cooking time but also help your grits achieve that much sought-after melt-in-your-mouth texture.