Whether you decide to pair them with creamy butter, homemade jam or a bowl of sausage gravy, few things accompany a hearty breakfast better than warm, flaky biscuits right out of the oven. They are one of the most iconic breakfast foods, after all. But if your homemade biscuits are coming out like hockey pucks and you’re looking to make something you’ll find at America’s best soul food restaurants, you need to have one integral ingredient: cold, grated butter.
According to America’s Test Kitchen, all biscuits essentially have the same four ingredients: flour, fat, leavener and dairy. For the fat element, margarine or other shortening just won’t do. Shortening doesn’t have water in it, while butter does, and you want water in your fat element in order to create steam so your biscuits can rise and take on that signature fluffy texture.
Put simply, you can’t make a flaky biscuit without cold butter. In order to achieve this, freeze your butter before baking. After you prepare your flour mixture (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt), remove your butter from the freezer, quickly coat it in the flour mixture (for ease of handling) and use a cheese grater to grate your butter. This gives you even pieces of butter distributed throughout the biscuits.
Of course, making flaky biscuits also requires you to know certain baking hacks when rolling them out that will only come from years of experience. But using ice-cold butter and incorporating it evenly into your dough will help you nail one of the Southern dishes everyone should know how to make.