Taste test: Instant grits

Even though we all know from the movie My Cousin Vinny that "no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits," somebody must be eating them because grocery store shelves have plenty in stock. Like the movie's Mr. Tipton, most of the Taster's Choice judges said they "take pride in their grits" and slow-cook them in boiling water. One even orders a special brand from her favorite lodge in Georgia. But of the six brands we sampled, some of the "magic" grits could pass for the real deal. We prepared all of the grits as directed on the packaging and added one pat of butter to each serving except for the one brand that came with butter already in the blend.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score

(out of 100)

Winn-Dixie/67

Dixie Lilly/66

Great Value/65

Jim Dandy/65

How'd it look? Shiny and whiteChampagne-coloredLike Cream of WheatBeachlike
Judges' comments Judges described the store brand as creamy and long-grained, comparing the texture to sugar crystals. One said the serving reminded him of polenta. Another said they would be perfect alongside a plate of eggs. "They are fresh and snappy," said a judge who loved this brand. "This and a slice of Emeril Lagasse's lobster cheesecake and what more would you need?"These had butter flavor added to the mixture and it was plenty for our judges. They also liked the strong salty flavor of the grits, calling the dish "inviting." One of the judges said the color and texture reminded him of movie theater popcorn from the days of his childhood. Another described the grits as "smooth as Crystal Gayle singing 'Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue'! "Who knew Wal-Mart sold such good grits? These held together well without turning into a pastelike consistency. They also were tasty with plenty of salt. The grains were shiny and classic. "Delicious!" said another judge. "They are like sitting at a campsite on the Withlacoochee River. Yum! They are ready for more butter and some pork fat.""These are perfect," said one judge. "They taste like the Dade City grits I grew up on!" Another said they reminded him of the first time he ever ate grits — at a Georgia diner while his family drove to their new home in Florida. "These bring a good comfort whispering in my mouth," said one judge.
Would they buy? Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three judges said yes and one said maybe.
Shopping information$2.29 for a box of 12 packets.$1.35 for a 16-ounce package from Wal-Mart.$1.63 for a box of 2 packets from Wal-Mart.$.99 for a 32-ounce bag from Publix.
Product/Score

(out of 100)

Winn-Dixie/67

Dixie Lilly/66

Great Value/65

Jim Dandy/65

How'd it look? Shiny and whiteChampagne-coloredLike Cream of WheatBeachlike
Judges' comments Judges described the store brand as creamy and long-grained, comparing the texture to sugar crystals. One said the serving reminded him of polenta. Another said they would be perfect alongside a plate of eggs. "They are fresh and snappy," said a judge who loved this brand. "This and a slice of Emeril Lagasse's lobster cheesecake and what more would you need?"These had butter flavor added to the mixture and it was plenty for our judges. They also liked the strong salty flavor of the grits, calling the dish "inviting." One of the judges said the color and texture reminded him of movie theater popcorn from the days of his childhood. Another described the grits as "smooth as Crystal Gayle singing 'Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue'! "Who knew Wal-Mart sold such good grits? These held together well without turning into a pastelike consistency. They also were tasty with plenty of salt. The grains were shiny and classic. "Delicious!" said another judge. "They are like sitting at a campsite on the Withlacoochee River. Yum! They are ready for more butter and some pork fat.""These are perfect," said one judge. "They taste like the Dade City grits I grew up on!" Another said they reminded him of the first time he ever ate grits — at a Georgia diner while his family drove to their new home in Florida. "These bring a good comfort whispering in my mouth," said one judge.
Would they buy? Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three judges said yes and one said maybe.
Shopping information$2.29 for a box of 12 packets.$1.35 for a 16-ounce package from Wal-Mart.$1.63 for a box of 2 packets from Wal-Mart.$.99 for a 32-ounce bag from Publix.
Also sampled: Quaker ($1.19 for a box of 12 from Publix, 57 points) and Millville ($1.69 for a 16-ounce variety pack from Aldi, 48 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietician with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL, 33731 or e-mail them to jkeeler@sptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

Taste test: Instant grits 10/27/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 1:39pm]

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