The Basics of Homemade Biscuits: Everything You Need To Know
If you have flour, buttermilk, and salt, you can make a basic homemade biscuit—or you can opt for a biscuit that goes beyond.
Biscuits are a community thing—they bring people together for breakfast, brunch with friends, weddings, holidays, and beyond. And despite what many people still believe, they are incredibly forgiving even for the most novice of home cooks. Homemade biscuits can be as simple as three ingredients—flour, buttermilk, salt—or super whomped up with cheese, vegetables, chocolate or fruit.
No matter your biscuit preference—tall, tiny, flaky, crispy or even square—everyone should master at least one homemade biscuit recipe to feel good about making again and again with great success. This biscuit recipe is my go-to because it’s easy and uses Greek yogurt, rather than buttermilk or cream, which pretty much everyone these days has on hand.
To get you started, here are a few sage pieces of advice I have picked up that will serve you well:
- Biscuits are forgiving. And so are the people you bake them for. No matter what kind of biscuits you make, they will almost assuredly turn out, even if they don’t look exactly like the picture in the recipe.
- Use quality ingredients. Because biscuits use very few ingredients, the quality of flour, fat and liquid matters more. Choose a premium flour, and a good, flavorful buttermilk, cream or yogurt. And for certain, use a great tasting, high quality butter or shortening.
- Cold, cold butter is key. The colder the butter, the flakier the biscuit. Always make sure your butter or whatever fat you’re using is well-chilled right before using. I sometimes freeze my butter and grate it.
- Don’t overwork/over mix. Work the dough just enough to bring it together. You want pockets of butter or shortening in your dough, so your biscuits will be high and flaky. Cut biscuits from the dough no more than twice. And then bake.
- Get your oven HOT. A hot oven with cold butter or shortening creates biscuit magic. 400°F-450°F is optimal for biscuits tender on the inside and a bit crispy and golden on the outside.
- Brush with butter (or cream). I like a little butter brushed on top. It gives a great shine and helps biscuits brown evenly. A swath of cream gives a golden touch, too.
There are a few key tools and ingredients, too, I highly recommend for biscuit making:
- A set of 5 stainless steel, round biscuit cutters, ranging from 1½”-3”
- High-quality flour: I like White Lily or King Arthur brands
- Whole buttermilk, milk or cream – fat is your friend with biscuits; low-fat versions result in flat biscuits
- A solid wood rolling pin – I prefer the dowel rod kind for easier maneuverability
- A 12” cast iron skillet and a heavy duty rimmed half baking sheet
- Parchment paper
There are many cookbooks that share and showcase biscuit recipes, but there are a handful of books written by women I admire and have learned quite a bit from when it comes to biscuits. and creatively inspires:
- Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart
- Biscuits: A Savor the South Cookbook by Belinda Ellis
- Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions by Carrie Morey
Of all things, though, with biscuits, here’s the bottom line: Have fun! And don’t take yourself too seriously. The most important ingredient of all with biscuits is the love you put into them.