Sauteed grits with poached egg and sausage, photo by Donna

Over the weekend I was working on a recipe based on the traditional low country dish, shrimp and grits.  I’d found excellent grits from this company at my grocery store, I tapped my friend and former instructor Eve Felder for her recollections of growing up in Charleston, and I made shrimp and grits for Donna, a late dinner after seeing the amazing Jeff Bridges performance in Crazy Heart.

I’d made extra grits so in cleaning up after dinner, I poured the leftovers into a springform pan and refrigerated them.  By morning they were solid and sliceable.

Donna happened to be setting up to shoot wine braised short ribs and semolina egg noodles.  I happened to be hungry.  I also happened to have some duck sausage and chicken sausage (from Charcuterie) on hand, a gift for helping a friend make them, as well as some eggs from Plum Creek Farm.

“Donna,” I asked, “can I give you this plate when I’m finished and you can shoot it for practice before the beef ribs?”   She said sure.

I sautéed the sausage, and then fried the grit wedges in butter.  I was going to fry the eggs in the same pan to save a pan, but I really felt like a clean egg flavor, what with all the sausage fat and butter already happening on the plate.

“You ready for me?” I asked, and Donna said, “You bet.”

I plated the sausage and grits, took the egg from the water in a slotted spoon, drained it on some paper towel, slid the jiggly creature between them, and handed it off to Donna, who shot the above photo.

The best part: while Donna photographed, I made an identical plate and ate it while Donna worked.  The viscous egg yolk works as the perfect sauce for the grits and the sausage brings salty juiciness to it all.  No better breakfast—set the tone for productivity for the rest of the day. Winter weekend breakfasts are the best.

How to make grits:

Everyone should make grits now and then and if you are a cook and have never made them, you know who you are, you owe it to yourself and your family. Grits are traditionally corn soaked in lye to get their skins off, which turns them into hominy.  (Get awesome hominy from Rancho Gordo.)  This corn is then ground into grits.  Polenta/cornmeal is simply ground dry corn.

Make them plain first, with just water, salt and butter, then move on to adding other stuff.  It’s very simple: simmer them in loads of water (usually about six cups per cup of grits, more as needed depending on how long you want to cook them).  Finish them with butter.

The key to grits, according to chef Felder, is a long long cook so that they completely hydrate and become creamy, almost like risotto.

Be sure to find good grits, not instant grits or any grits in a box from a big food company.

If you can’t find good grits at a store near you, they’re worth ordering.

Most chefs I know swear by Anson Mills, for good reason.  Great company and products.

These Delta Grind grits have also been recommended via a friend on Twitter, look trust worthy to me.

Cook according to instructions.

For the long cook, per chef Felder, put them in a slow cooker on low, or put them in a 200 degree or lower oven, covered, or on very very low stove top for up to 12 hours.  Just make sure there’s enough liquid to hydrate the grains.  Add a goodly amount of salt, a teaspoon or more for a cup of grits, late in the cooking.  Serve with plenty of butter.  Grits love butter.

Grits set up, like polenta, and they can be sliced and fried in butter, as the above grits were.  I also started the grits in a pan with diced bacon and onion.  That did not hurt.

PS 2/25: I’m working on the RSS feed issue!  Sorry for the inconvenience!


84 Wonderful responses to “How To Make Grits
(Sauteed Grits with Sausage and Poached Egg)”

  • Christie H

    If you ever see Logan Turnpike Mill grits give them a try…they are the best stone ground grits I’ve had.

  • rob

    oh, you are making us break out of our feed readers now? The RSS feed only has a teaser!

    If this wasn’t intentional then ignore the rest of this comment. If this is what it takes for you to justify the time spent on your blog by forcing us to view your ads… fine. I enjoy the site very much and I wouldn’t be opposed to having the ads come through RSS.

    RSS is just sooo convenient.

    • Emily Lauren

      I agree with rob on this one – I’d rather see ads in RSS than have to click over to the site. I read a lot of blogs during the day and unless it’s really spectacular (grits, sausage, poached egg qualify!) then I am less likely to take that time.

    • AO

      I whole heartedly recomend google reader, with the better google reader plugin. No need to exit your reader to see the post, just click it’s header to preview.

    • picky picky

      Please return the full feeds to the RSS reader. Even the NYT has figured out how to include the ads with their feed, if that’s the issue.

  • Lori Lange @ RecipeGirl

    In my defense, you actually *never* see grits around here… either in stores or on menus. I’d be willing to bet that I have a whole lot of friends who’ve never sampled them either. I’ll save your post for when the grits-making mood strikes for sure! Sounds like it’s worth it to order a good brand online. I sure wouldn’t find anything good around here in Southern California.

    We’re driving across country this summer… from San Diego all the way to Boston. We’ll be headed through Texas and then up through Tennessee. I’ll plan to sample grits then and ask a lot of questions about strategy 🙂

    • Stephanie - Wasabimon

      Really? We have grits all over the Bay Area. major brands like Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill makes them for sale in Whole Foods, etc. I’d be shocked if they didn’t have them in San Diego too.

    • amanda

      stephanie’s right, lori! you can get arrowheat mills and bob’s red mill grits in pretty much every store here… also, henry’s carries them in their bulk section , which is where i always get mine. no need to go online!

  • Walker Lawrence

    Looks tantalizing. I love a poached egg. The yolks elegance makes a dish sing. Compliments virtually anything, from buttered grits, to sauteed spinach to a simple slice of toast.

    I need to convince my wife to try grits and/or polenta. I love the stuff. She grew up eating a russian breakfast food (like cream of wheat) and hates anything that reminds her of it. She refuses to eat oatmeal and polenta.

    I have a feeling that if I made this for breakfast that just might do the trick. After it sets it won’t have the same texture. From there maybe I can get her to try the creamy goodness.

    I would love an explanation on how you poach an egg. I got a glimpse of it on twitter (sans vinegar). I would be curious. I think it might spawn a lively discussion. To me poaching an egg is one of those kitchen techniques that is so simple (literally dropping an egg into hot water) but to achieve something as elegant as captured by Donna is supremely difficult.

  • David

    I am curious because I have been searching around a bit about the difference between grits and polenta. It appears that some sites just say they are the same thing and others don’t want to broach the subject. You appear to indicate that they are like polenta but not identical, and I was curious if it is the way the corn is processed or the cooking method that is different?

  • Dan

    yeah, what ARE (or is?) grits? can you give equivalents in other languages, if they exist? Italian, french… my dad was making something that looked like what’s in your photo, but he made it from semolina…

  • MyCommunalTable

    I forget to make corncakes, grits, etc. for breakfast. I have been making it a lot for meatless Mondays with sauted mushrooms on top.

    I noticed in Jacque and Julia’s cookbook, they debated vinegar in the water for eggs. Julia says no, Jacque yes. I am with Jacque on this one. Let the debate continue…. Elizabeth

  • Abigail Blake @ Sugar Apple

    This Southern girl loves grits! I bring back a supply whenever I get to the States. I usually get mine from the Old Guilford Mill in NC, not too far from my parents’ house. They’ll do mail order but you have to call or write, no email orders. The mill is over 200 years old so I guess they’re not quite up-to-date with 21st century technology, though they do have a website. Anson Mill grits are great too.

    I’ve found the best way to introduce grits to non-Southerners is to really tart ’em up a lot. Grits and greens casserole, cheesy grits, grits souffle…that kind of thing. Hide the sugar bowl or Cream of Wheat eaters will reach for that.

    To answer David’s question, grits and polenta are kissing cousins but there are differences. Traditionally, grits were made from corn that had been soaked in a lye solution and then dried and ground to make what were originally called hominy grits (and grits are often still referred to in the lowcountry as hominy, confusing many). I don’t think all grits these days are made using the lye but the good brands are I believe. Polenta is basically cornmeal – ground dried corn. I’d say grits are more closely related to masa harina than to polenta.

    Whatever they are, they’re good and I couldn’t live without them. The oven method is interesting, never tried it. You can use a Charleston rice cooker if you have one, but most people don’t. And substitute a little milk or cream for some of the water for really rich, creamy grits.

    • Walker Lawrence

      Love your explanation about grits v. polenta.

      Grits and lye. I think that makes it right up Michael’s alley. We all know he likes using lye.

    • Paul Kobulnicky

      Hey Abigale … tell us more about using a rice cooker. Just do it on a basic white rice setting? Water to grits ration is?

      • Abigail Blake @ Sugar Apple

        It’s not an Asian-style electric rice cooker. A Charleston rice pot is kind of a cross between a double boiler and a steamer. It’s used in the lowcountry for cooking rice (and grits, or so I’ve heard). I bought mine from a company in Charleston but the packaging says it was made in Italy and it’s for steaming risotto, though I certainly can’t imagine using it for that purpose! It makes soft, fluffy rice and they eat a LOT of rice in the lowcountry. I honestly don’t use it much but now that I’ve been reminded I think I’ll have to dust it off and put it to use.

        I don’t think I’d try grits in a regular electric rice cooker, I imagine the heat would be too high.

    • The gold digger

      Oh Abigail you are so right! The first time I had grits was in high school at my best friend Julie’s house. We lived in the Panama Canal Zone – our dads were in the air force. She made grits and I put sugar on them. Wrong!

      The next time I tried was 20 years later at her wedding breakfast in Atlanta. They were on the buffet, doctored up with butter, cream, cream cheese and cheddar cheese.

      Lord. Have. Mercy.

      They were sooooooo good.

      I have been a convert ever since.

  • David

    Thanks for the explanation Abigail, it certainly didn’t help me that the local store sells a bag marked as Corn Grits (aka Polenta).

    I’m guessing that your explanation is the traditional difference and that some mass market distributors have decided to split the difference and hope to double sales, now I just have to find some authentic grits and polenta.

  • Jeff Berkowitz

    This is one of my favorite ways to serve grits, either sautéed or grilled.

    Made slow cooked polenta with Cheddar cheese the other night and served it along side some Osso Bucco made over the weekend. Need to make a double batch next time so there are left-overs.


    I love polenta but I’m confessing that I’ve never had grits either BUT am heading to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival this next week and am looking forward to eating some. I’ll make sure to look for the brands mentioned in this post!

    • Theresa

      Since you will be in Charleston (lucky you) go get grits at the Piggly Wiggly on East Bay Street. Its just a few blocks up from Marion Square where the festival is usually held. I really like Charleston Favorites brand but they also have Anson Mills and several others to choose from. Check the local section, or just ask, everyone in Charleston is friendly and helpful. If you want to try Shrimp and Grits (you really should) go to Hominy Grill because its the best.

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    Just had Shrimp and Grits

    I just came back from a long weekend cycling in SE South Carolina. On one of the days we pulled into Walterboro at lunch time. We asked an antiques dealer where to eat in town and he suggested the nearby Irish Pub. Irish? In Low Country? OK … so at least we get a pint of Guiness. But, this is Low Country so there on the menu was Shrimp and Grits … and they were terrific Shrimp and Grits. The Shrimp popped from being quickly cooked, the Creole sauce was intense and the grits were creamy and cheesy. It more than made up for riding past the BBQ place on the edge of town. Oh … and did I say that the food went really well with Guiness on tap … and what doesn’t?

  • John V

    Michael, I’m a huge fan (I in fact own ALL your books, not just the cooking ones). I even bought the Ratio app for my iPhone! But you WILL lose readers if you don’t put the full post in your RSS feed. Do you get more value from the <50% that will click through to the full site compared to the 100% that used to read your full posts in their feed reader? How many readers will drop you from their feed reader over time b/c it's just too much of a pain to click over? I don't know what the numbers will actually look like for you and I do know that it sounds like a minor thing, but don't underestimate what a pain it is for readers to navigate to the site to read the full posts. If lost advertising is the key issue, add some ads into your RSS feed using feedburner or something like it. I really, really doubt it will be worth it in the long run to make it MORE DIFFICULT for people to read your content, learn what you're up to, and follow the Michael Ruhlman brand. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to follow you – that's why you have a blog and are so active on twitter and facebook! Would you make people go to to read your tweets? Of course not! So don't add an extra step for us to read your blog. Just my two cents…

    • erik

      I forgot to mention that Bradley’s also sells great fresh and smoked sausage. They will ship the smoked sausage, so order some of that along with your grits.

  • Laurence

    I made soft polenta with sausage sauce a few weeks ago, and did what you did with the extra. For me though, the best part is when the soft polenta is firming up on the plate as you’re eating. It gets a custardy texture that’s just awesome. It’s on the menu again this weekend now for sure.

    The set-up remainder (I can’t call it leftovers) was fried the next day and served with a shrimp sauce. Another addition to the repertoire.

  • Katie

    I agree with the recommendations for grits from Bradley’s and Logan Turnpike Mill – I stock up every time I visit family in Florida or Georgia.

  • The Rowdy Chowgirl

    Looks delicious. It’s been a long time since I’ve had grits, and I’m afraid they were the quick-cooking kind from the grocery store. I don’t think Seattle is an ideal place to find the fancy grits!

  • Bob

    Sounds mighty tasty!

    If you’re in the Berkeley, California area, check out Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen (on Shattuck bet. Kittredge & Bancroft). They have a fried cheese grits w/ crawfish etouffe appetizer. Yummy.

  • BobY

    Re your question on the use of the right side of the new site (a marked improvement over the former), I’d love to see more recipes as well as links and rants that you find interesting.

  • Debbie

    I have some posole from Rancho Gordo. Can I grind that in the food processor or blender, and make grits?

    • ruhlman

      maybe if you had grinder. or a mill.

      otherwise cook it first, then chop in processor or blender, almost the same thing

  • Dana

    Michael, another vote here for returning the full feeds to the RSS reader. It’s much easier for me to read your posts there, including Donna’s amazing photographs, than for me to jump over here to read them.


  • tbs

    “Yaller” grits! That’s wonderful. All they have around here in Virginia is the insipid white grits. Back in Texas it was yellow grits.

    • james

      Dont know where you are in Virginia – but I am in the Commonwealth and I can get true yella grits any where at any time.

  • Matthew Stein

    The most memorable shrimp and grits I had were in Charlston, SC. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant unfortunately, this was years ago.

    The chef had a stone mill and ground his own grits every day. That was one time where the grits out-shone the shrimp. They were very simply prepared, just added the shrimp into the grits at the last minute to finish cooking, and topped with grated cheese.

  • Kanani

    Breakfast isn’t complete without grits. And life without grits is rather unthinkable. But we tend to eat them while they’re soft and creamy right from the pot. There’s nothing like curling up on a sofa with a bowl of hot grits, a little cheese (and bacon) mixed in with them.

  • Michelle

    Love how you “just happened to have some duck sausage and chicken sausage on hand,” we all have that! Right! Donna is a lucky gal.

  • Aubrey

    We call refrigerated grits that are then fried “gritters” at our house. They are also excellent with shrimp. And I’m glad to see you served grits the best way – along with a runny egg and some sausage. Yum. Anson Mill grits are great, but I also like the kind of I get from a local mill here in SC. I can’t think of the name right now.

    When I make shrimp and grits, I love to add some of the bousin cheese – the kind of garlic and spices, to give it an extra kick.

  • Brooke @ Food Woolf

    Well, the dish looked as good as it read on Twitter. You’re right, it’s time all of us made some grits. I’ve made plenty of polenta, but surely that doesn’t count. Thanks for the push.

  • Natalie Sztern

    A lesson in how you poached that glorious egg would be a delight. I use a ‘poacher’ but they never come out bursting with yolk the way your’s did…

    However you are dead on with baked polenta and a soft egg…in fact a soft egg goes great on anything: pasta, meatloaf, even the ol Austrian Wiener Schnitzel…

    • luis

      Natalie if you put the egg in a bain Marie, that is contain the egg in some butttered ramikin and slowly poach it in a bain Marie… you got it. Where you will find such a fresh egg is another issue alltogether. Micky is connected… I suspect.

      The microwave thing can do it… and my nu-wave oven can totally do it too. Did it this morning. As with everything practice makes perfect. But you know if it’s just a question of practice or is a no can do thing. I can do a more even sausage link than that in a convection oven. That sausage has the tell tale signs of some type of sautee pan thing.

      Endless variations….for the grits.. I am almost thinking of getting them from one of Michael’s preffered providers and doing them in my small crockpot. I feel totally confortable with leaving crockpots on and going to work or just not minding them overnight. Low ,, warm… its all around two hundred degrees…and everything you crockpot comes out great any way.

  • Karen Downie Makley

    My sister, who lives in the south was JUST talking about an amazing breakfast with grits she just had. I ribbed her that it’s her Yankee sibling who seems to dig the Southern food best. I love grits with gobs of melted, smoked gouda…but won’t turn them away even if they are wearing nothing more than a pat of sweet butter.

  • JR Prospal

    OK, so while people are asking about the difference between polenta and grits, what’s the difference, if any, between fried grits and cornmeal mush? Mush certainly isn’t a foreign food in Ohio…I grew up on it in Cleveland. Fried golden and crispy served with warm Maple syrup is awesome.

  • Chef Mike B 93

    Sadly i have always shun grits like a red headed step child. I went to college in virginia and our cafeteria often had what they called “grits” instead of grits i called it ” gross”. It harmed me emotionally those grits, they left a scar in my memory that i have never been able to get rid of , but i believe it is time. Im going to try my own style grits and see what happens and Mr Ruhlman , ill let you know what happens.

  • luis

    Just perfect… I am drooling over that picture as usual. Don’t you hate having dishes ready to go up in the air cause…you just haven’t quite got all the stuff you need? Beautifull picture beautifull breakfast. I am on a quest to make gourmaid grits now. Thank you Michael for all the great links.

  • Sal Speights

    You have missed a point on the grits production that you only hinted upon. When you referred to grits as liking to polenta you forgo the fat to water ratio, that being using milk or cream as a partial or complete subsution to water to affect there firmness. This is important to creating solid state grits like your day old, or creamy fluid grits, or in a preparation for a grit suffle which is wonderful for shrimp and cheese as a classic low country Christmas morning prep.

  • flutter

    Another person whining about the RSS feed…I’d much rather see ads in a fully functional RSS than have to click through.

  • Tinky

    Between you and Abigail I am ready to try grits, northern girl that I am. The slow cooker idea is inspired. Thanks!

  • Romona

    Donna, I want to comment on how appetizing your shoot is.

    Thank you so much for the info on cooking polenta/grits. I have tried several recipes for Polenta. It always comes out either too dry or too mushy. I am going to try your method on Saturday…my family loves polenta.

  • rose

    great photo of ‘out back’ “Peasant Simplicity”: products of animal flesh, grain plants and chickies! all perfectly prepared; yes, the ‘clean’ egg made for another depth on the dish! Donna, the photo is almost edible!

  • Mark Boxshus

    Great article. Like so many here in the Boston area, I’ve experienced great grits only when I’ve travelled down south. You usually don’t see them in the average Stop n Shop, Shaw’s, Hannafords or other chain stores in this area, and I haven’t encountered them lately while dining out. But, now you’ve got me thinking about grits big time, so it’s time to track some down and get to work. Thanks for the inspiration to create something else great to substitute the usual potatoes, rice or noodles.

  • ohiofarmgirl

    Great post – I’m a polenta gal and I love this breakfast. Normally I have polenta and veggies (usually greens)..with an egg, of course.

  • Stephanie Manley

    Love that you wrote about grits. Before moving to Texas, I never ate such a thing, come on I thought, this is animal feed. Lord, now I like to have grits fairly often. I like them cooked plain with salt, pepper, and a slab of butter melting all through those creamy grits. More folks should get turned onto grits.

    Abigail, thanks for the explanation between what the difference between grits and polenta is. I have been guilty of using them interchangeably. My thought is when you doctor them up with some butter and Parmesean cheese, well it is all good.

    The photo looks devine. We should all have such a lovely breakfast!

  • Betty

    I started following this blog for the food. And while I still love reading the posts, I find that I now follow the blog more for Donna’s photos. Amazing work, amazing talent, Donna. Rock on.

  • cleek

    man, it’s hard to find a place in NC that doesn’t have shrimp and grits on the menu.

    all my southern friends make their grits with lots of cheese, lots of hot pepper and lots of milk/cream.

  • Nancy Singleton Hachisu

    Donna–I love that the focus of that shot is on the egg and the drippy yolk. I’m anxious to get back to our egg farm. Leaving tomorrow. Funny, I haven’t made a poached egg in a million years–not since I last made eggs benedict. But my poached eggs never looked so plump and gorgeous. Guess I need a lesson.

    So, I’ve never eaten grits in my life, but I love the idea of the bite of lye to slake the corn. I forgot to get my Rancho Gordo beans (damn), maybe I can order up some grits as well and get them all sent over to Japan. I love that your readers have so many suggestions about small mills in the South. And I love that this is a new (old) food for me to explore. Thanks for putting this out there, Michael.


  • Craig

    Michael anyway you can post your method for making the shrimp and grits?


  • Jesse

    Grits are *so* good! I had not even thought about them in years, but a few weeks ago I bought a box of Albers instant grits: the ones that I remembered eating as a child. No, they aren’t “of noble birth”, and nowhere near so pretty as Mr. Ruhlman’s suggestions (just look at the pictures– wow!), but what I’m getting at is that, if like me you haven’t had grits in a long while, go for it! Even the cheapest grits are… well, they’re just a wonderful thing to eat! Eggs are the perfect companion, and I’m entirely jealous of the picture above.

  • Helene

    My husband was born and raised in Charleston and we live here/there and shrimp and grits is one of the first thing his mom taught me how to make (with tasso ham). Then I made it for my parents and they were hooked. I must make it for the whole family now when we gather. Pretty hilarious for a French expat to now be in charge of making that….
    I do fried grit cakes, wilted spinach and poached eggs with leftovers, splash of vinegar. Perfection.

  • Jim-49

    I was looking around on the net,and found this about the grits.I knew much of this,I’m 61 years old,and here in the south,My great ,great grandfather,homesteaded the land,and built the first water driven griss mill,here.It was gone,when I was growing up,but it got reworked,not as it once was but workable.You sure brought back some memories,on the stories,I’ve heard growing up!! My,grandmother,sisters and brothers,used to tell me all about it,and I grew up around the mill site,and all the land that was homesteaded.If you trace your hertiage,and think,it wasn’t very long ago.Thanks!!

  • marla {family fresh cooking}

    My first experience with grits was in Charleston at the Hominy Grill. Great place to try ’em. Yes, they are delicious. Loving the new site, shows off this photo wonderfully. Great choice to cook up the egg separate to retain it’s unique flavor profile.

  • Joe


    Confess that I have never made grits. Had too many tours in the south not to like then though. Now, after reading your blog, I will. By the way, I really enjoy and value your blog. And, Donna’s phots are just absolutely incredible. Thank you both for what you do.

  • Liz C.

    Let me just say, I read this post right after getting my braces tightened (yes, I’m almost 30 and have braces), and immediately had to make cheese grits w/poached eggs. It sounded both delicious, as well as something that didn’t require a great deal of chewing. =) I had some thin-slicedVirginia baked ham in the fridge that I tore up and sprinkled over the top. Like you said, perfect winter food. Though in NC, winter should be over by now, but alas, it is not.

  • Susan

    I tried them soft with poached boysenberries. I’ve been taken to task for it by every southerner I know, but..I like what I like! It tastes like cornbread when it firms up, so why not jam?

  • Mark Boxshus

    Hey guys………..
    This system has a slight flaw. I keep getting quoted using other people’s quotes….LOL. Had a couple of friends ask me why I made certain statements? I checked, and sure enough I’m “putting other people’s words in my mouth”….LOL

    Just thought you should know.


  • Jeanne

    Sounds delicious – need some grits soon. I prefer what we call “dinner grits” though – with scallions and cheddar, topped with a fried egg or some grilled shrimp.

    • J.B.

      Hey, Michael, what’s the name of the grocery store where you found your grits? I’ve been to a couple on the east side of Cleveland looking for them, but had no luck. Thanks much.


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