Whether you eat grits for breakfast or serve them for a family dinner, knowing the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s about the storage conditions and shelf life of this product is important.
How long do grits last? Uncooked grits last over 12 months if stored in a cool dry place, in a tightly sealed container. Cooked grits are a different story. This porridge-like dish should be refrigerated as soon as it cools down. Cooked grits should be eaten within a week.
In this article, you will learn not only about the storage rules that apply to grits but also whether or not freezing grits is an option if you have a few bags of uncooked grits you won’t be using in near future or leftover cooked grits that you would like to save for another dinner.
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While the word grits refers to any type of grain that is coarsely ground, for the most part, it refers to ground corn kernels. There are a few varieties of grits, the most widespread ones being instant and stone-ground grits. Once cooked, grits turn into a porridge and are served with fried seafood, eggs, sausage, etc.
Whether grits are cooked or not, they will go bad if not stored properly.
The storage conditions for cooked and uncooked grits are obviously very different. If you are someone that always stocks up on grits and makes use of this very affordable and extremely versatile food, you should certainly know how to make them last longer whether it is leftover grits or a few packages you have bought when the grits at your local supermarket were on sale.
Here is how to store uncooked and cooked grits.
Uncooked grits should be stored following a few simple rules that apply to such dry products as grains, flour, sugar, etc.
Firstly, keep the grits in a cool area. The pantry is a great storage place for grits but a kitchen cabinet will work too. But make sure it is away from the oven or the stove as the heat and steam from cooking will certainly affect the grits.
Secondly, make sure to not leave the grits where it is humid. Also, don’t keep the grits somewhere where you are running the risk of getting water into the package. A dry environment is the key to making the uncooked grits keep well for months.
Lastly, make sure that the container you keep the grits in seals tightly. If the original packaging of the grits is resealable, you can keep the girts in it after opening the bag or container too. But if it is a paper or plastic packaging that cannot be tightly closed after opening, transfer the grits into a container with a tight-sealing lid.
Another thing to be mindful of is that keeping grits in paper or cardboard packaging is not very safe as they easily absorb moisture. So, if you have bought grits that come in this kind of packaging and you still haven’t opened it, put the package with grits into a plastic bag as an extra layer of protection against moisture as well as weevils.
You should keep leftover cooked grits refrigerated. The key thing to keep in mind is that you should never put the grits in the fridge while they are still hot or even warm.
Let the grits cool down and only then transfer the leftovers into an airtight container. You can spray the container with a non-stick spray to be able to easily transfer the grits into a pot when you try to reheat the porridge.
Leaving grits at room temperature for longer than 2 hours is not recommended. There is a high risk of bacterial growth in cooked food sitting at room temperature.
So, it is important to put the grits in the fridge as soon as they cool off. If you need to cool off the grits quickly, spread the porridge on a shallow plate.
Grits always come with a ‘Best by’ date. While this date is simply an estimation of how long the product will maintain its best qualities, it is always good to take it into consideration when buying the grits or when you have already opened the package.
Instant grits, as they are more processed, last longer than stone-ground grits. You can keep them for up to 6 more months past the printed date. In the case of stone-ground grits, it is better to stick to the date on the packaging for safety reasons. In general, stone-ground grits have a shelf life of around 12 months.
Cooked grits properly stored in the fridge will keep well for around a week.
You can freeze both cooked and uncooked grits. Doing this will ensure the quality of uncooked grits and extend the shelf life of cooked grits.
Uncooked grits, especially the stone-ground ones, are recommended to be stored in the freezer if you don’t use them regularly.
Not only does the freezer provide all the necessary conditions for uncooked grits but it also kills any eggs that may be in the bag you have just purchased.
Freeze grits in an airtight freezer bag or container.
To use frozen grits, take the container with grits out and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes. During this time, don’t open the container as it will expose the product to drastic temperature changes causing it to clump up.
Uncooked stone-ground grits stored in the freezer have a shelf life of around 6 months past the printed date.
You can also freeze bags or containers of grits before opening them and only then transfer them into the pantry for regular use. This way you will ensure that there are no weevils in the grits.
Freezing cooked grits is also an option if you have leftovers or want to prepare a make-ahead dish Freeze grits in a freezer-friendly baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray for an almost-ready make-ahead meal. For smaller portions of leftover cooked grits food wrap will come in handy. All you need to do is to wrap the porridge in a piece of plastic wrap. For an extra layer of protection, wrap the plastic-wrapped portions of grits in aluminum foil.
You can reheat cooked grits in the pan you have originally frozen it in. To do so, put the grits in the oven preheated to 350 degrees. Keep the pan covered while reheating the grits.
Much quicker methods are reheating the grits in a saucepan or in the microwave. In these cases, add a small amount of liquid. You can use water, milk, or broth.
Cooked grits will keep well in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.
For uncooked grits, the general signs of spoilage include mold and bug contamination. Grits may get moldy if water has got into the bag or container with grits. As a result of water getting into the grits, the latter may also get clumpy.
Bugs may get into the container with grits if it has a loose-fitting lid. But it is worth mentioning that it is also possible to buy grits already contaminated with bugs. Thus, closely inspect the product before using it.
If you inspect the grits and notice dark specs in them that haven’t been there before, discard them. Additionally, keep in mind that grits that have been sitting in your pantry for too long will eventually develop an off-odor and undergo color changes. If these changes have severely affected the grits, it is high time to toss them out.
As for cooked grits, deciding whether they are good or not is easy. If you have had the porridge in the fridge for less than a week, and it smells, looks, and tastes good, you can go ahead eat it.