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Old 06-28-2015, 08:49 AM   #1
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Question Polenta vs Grits vs Corn Meal

Hello food lovers,

I've got a question and I hope someone has some insight.
I enjoy polenta at restaurants, but the bags of it at grocery stores is ridiculously expensive. I know polenta is corn meal with a very coarse grind, but can you make polenta using yellow corn meal (the kind you'd find next to flour in the store?) how about grits?
I'm not going to shell out 5-6 bucks for a half-pound bag of the exact same thing if I can avoid it.

Thanks in advance!

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Old 06-28-2015, 09:17 AM   #2
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Polenta and cooked cornmeal are the same thing. Grits are a different creature and are not interchangable with cornmeal.
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Old 06-28-2015, 09:37 AM   #3
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Welcome to D.C.!
I would direct you to the Food Network show Good Eats. The episode called is called True Grits.
Basically grits and polenta are the same thing....ground corn.
Most of the confusion comes from the fact that, particularly in the south, the food "grits" is actually hominy grits.
Hominy is corn that has been treated with lye, which modifies the structure of the corn causing it to expand in size. Then it is rinsed, dried, and ground resulting in hominy grits, which is not quite the same thing as simple ground corn which can be called grits or polenta.
It's a mite confusing but if you purchase ground corn that does not say hominy on the label, you can safely substitute "grits" for polenta in most recipes.
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Old 06-29-2015, 12:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TremontRhino View Post
Hello food lovers,

I've got a question and I hope someone has some insight.
I enjoy polenta at restaurants, but the bags of it at grocery stores is ridiculously expensive. I know polenta is corn meal with a very coarse grind, but can you make polenta using yellow corn meal (the kind you'd find next to flour in the store?) how about grits?
I'm not going to shell out 5-6 bucks for a half-pound bag of the exact same thing if I can avoid it.

Thanks in advance!
Cutting to the chase of your question..no you don't have to buy expensive Polenta. Use regular cornmeal instead if you wish. The texture will be a little different, but if that's not important to you, you've saved some $$.
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Old 06-29-2015, 02:53 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoot View Post
Welcome to D.C.!
I would direct you to the Food Network show Good Eats. The episode called is called True Grits.
Basically grits and polenta are the same thing....ground corn.
Most of the confusion comes from the fact that, particularly in the south, the food "grits" is actually hominy grits.
Hominy is corn that has been treated with lye, which modifies the structure of the corn causing it to expand in size. Then it is rinsed, dried, and ground resulting in hominy grits, which is not quite the same thing as simple ground corn which can be called grits or polenta.
It's a mite confusing but if you purchase ground corn that does not say hominy on the label, you can safely substitute "grits" for polenta in most recipes.
That lye process is called nixtamalization. It makes the niacin in the corn bio-available. I doubt that is very important for people who occasionally eat polenta or corn bread, but it is very important for people who use corn as their main staple food.

And I have always looked at those expensive, plastic bags/tubes/"sausages" of polenta and thought, "You gotta be kidding."
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Old 06-29-2015, 03:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by TremontRhino View Post
...I enjoy polenta at restaurants, but the bags of it at grocery stores is ridiculously expensive. I know polenta is corn meal with a very coarse grind, but can you make polenta using yellow corn meal (the kind you'd find next to flour in the store?) how about grits?...
Hi Tremont, and welcome to DC. Basically, "cornmeal" is finely ground corn kernels, used for baking things like cornbread. ~ "Grits" are coarser ground kernels of corn. If the package says "coarse-ground cornmeal", it should work for grits. Generally, the corn used in the U.S. for grits is "dent corn". ~ "Polenta", also ground corn kernels, uses a corn variety common in Italy called "flint corn".

Per an article on "TheKitchn", flint corn holds its texture better, so it isn't prone to becoming mushy.

Finally, as a wise chef has been known to say, the difference between grits and polenta is about $10 per serving.
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Old 06-29-2015, 03:56 PM   #7
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Grits is ground hominy (corn treated with lye) and is NOT the same thing as cornmeal! That would be like saying milk and butter are the same thing - not true. Grits undergoes a basic chemical treatment and transformation.
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Old 06-29-2015, 04:32 PM   #8
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Selkie, it is my understanding that there is a difference between "grits" and "hominy grits". Any coarse-ground corn can be used for "grits", but the corn needs to be treated with a lye wash to be "hominy grits".

Anson Mills, a fine purveyor of pricey ground corn products (and, therefore, not found in my pantry* ), has a great article describing ALL the differences between corns and grinds. A good read.

I'm happy cooking up a pot of "Bob's Red Mill". Label says "Corn Grits, also known as Polenta". Not a word about hominy.
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Old 06-29-2015, 05:03 PM   #9
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I don't care what Anson Mills has to say. I challenge anyone to go to any restaurant in North America that has grits on their menu, or go to any market and ask the manager to show you where the grits are. I dare say that 99.9% will refer to hominy grits. What >1% call grits vs what 99%+ say they are... well, grits are ground hominy. Tradition and marketing win.
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Old 06-29-2015, 06:31 PM   #10
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Welcome to DC! We buy medium ground corn meal for recipes that require polenta.
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