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Simple Buttered Pencil Cob Grits

Quick-cooking Pencil Cob grits say “corn” more persuasively than any grits we produce.

About 4 cups


25 minutes following an overnight soak; 45 minutes without an overnight soak


The archetypal 100 percent Southern dent corn, Pencil Cob is an old frontier and famous whiskey corn that has hung on to its popularity and reputation among farmers and bootleggers over the centuries. Grown on the frontier because it was hardy and easily harvested, Pencil Cob corn produces more kernels per ear (an 18- to 30-row count of long, meaty kernels!) than most dent corns. Easy to mill and quick to hydrate because the kernels are so soft, milled Pencil Cob cooks differently and with less heat than other dents. Pencil Cob grits express themselves in the language of sweet, roasted, and creamed corn flavors.

Cooking Remarks

It would be remiss of us not to mention that Anson Mills grits benefit enormously from soaking overnight in water before being cooked. Not only is the cooking time shorter for soaked versus unsoaked grits, but the finished texture is also superior because the corn particles experience less trauma during cooking and better hold their shape.

Because Pencil Cob grits are so soft, we cook them uncovered. They neither like nor need high heat.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (ideally, one with gently flared sides called a Windsor saucepan), a small saucepan, a fine tea strainer, and a wooden spoon.


    Place the grits in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (preferably a Windsor saucepan) and cover them with 2 cups water. Stir once. Allow the grits to settle a full minute, tilt the pan, and skim off and discard the chaff and hulls with a fine tea strainer. Cover and let the grits soak overnight at room temperature. If you are not soaking the grits, proceed directly to the next step.


    Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and keep hot. Watch the grits carefully as they cook. Each time you find them thick enough to hold the spoon upright, stir in about ¼ cup hot water, adding a total of about ¾ cup water (or more) in 3 additions. Cook until the grits are creamy and tender throughout, but not mushy, and hold their shape on a spoon, about 25 minutes if the grits were soaked or about 45 minutes if they weren’t. Add 1 teaspoon of salt halfway through the cooking time. To finish, stir in the butter with vigorous strokes. Add more salt, if desired, and the pepper.