What is the difference between polenta and grits?
Some say polenta is only made from yellow corn and it is ground more coarsely than grits. And they say there is a minor difference between corn varieties used in Italy and the US South. But lean in and lend an ear: New hybrids are grown in each country every year as farmers seek higher yields and different flavors. The kernel of truth is that either white or yellow corn, hominy (corn treated with lye) or untreated corn, can be used to make both polenta and grits, and when you buy a bag labeled “grits” or “polenta,” it could become either dish. Sorry purists: polenta and grits are both cornmeal porridge made only slightly differently in each country. Do they taste different? Not dramatically. So when you find a bag of grits or polenta, feel free to use them interchangeably. Below’s how to make polenta and how to grill it. Click here for how to make grits.
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup polenta or grits
- 1 tablespoon butter (salted or unsalted)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff)
- ¼ teaspoon Morton coarse kosher salt
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page
- Cook. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the polenta slowly so each grain gets hit with hot water, stirring as you go.
- Immediately turn the heat down to medium and let it blurp and gurgle for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to the lowest setting, add the butter and let it go for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.
- Add the olive oil, salt, and cheese, optional fresh herbs, and stir them all in thoroughly. Serve, and if you wish, put fresh olive oil on the table for drizzling.
For Grilled Polenta
- Chill. Grease the inside of an 8-inch square baking pan with olive oil. When the polenta has cooled a bit, scrape it into the pan. Refrigerate the pan of polenta for 6 hours or overnight, uncovered, so it can dry and get firm.
- The next day, cut the chilled polenta into rectangles.
- Fire up. Set up your grill for 2-zone cooking and get the direct-heat side moderately hot.
- Cook. Paint the polenta rectangles with a light coating of olive oil or melted butter and warm them over indirect heat for about 10 minutes, then move them to the direct-heat side, lid open, and grill them until golden.
- Serve. Sprinkle the polenta rectangles with salt and pepper at the table and dress them with a pat of butter.