Grits, Polenta and Hominy

Inspired by a discussion of grits last night, I decided to write a quick primer on the difference between grits, polenta and hominy.

First, they are all corn-based foods. Dried, ground corn. Second, as such they are a form of cornmeal. Third, I prefer grits, and they are an essential part of shrimp and grits. In 2002, my home state of Georgia declared grits the official prepared food.

Grits came to us from native Americans, which isn’t too surprising given that corn originated in the Americas. Unlike grits or polenta, hominy is made from alkali-treated (lye water) corn.

Polenta “happened” because Columbus came to America and introduced corn to Europe. The primary difference between polenta and grits is the grind. (Cornmeal is more finely ground than either polenta or grits.)

The best grits are stone-ground from white corn. (Polenta is usually yellow corn.)

What you don’t want are quick grits! (Just say no.)

According to Alton Brown:

Now most stone-ground meals are whole grain and as such, contain the fatty germ of the kernel, which will eventually go rancid unless used quickly or wrapped and frozen. So look for an expiration date that is at least 6 months after the date of purchase.

Which is why we keep ours sealed in the fridge.

Sources of grits


More: Alton Brown on Grits (Show 117, Season 8, Episode 10 – transcript)

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