Secrets of Southern cooking

Dec 20, 2012 at 4:15 p.m. ET

When you think of Southern food, immediately you think warm, hearty meals and buttery biscuits shared with family around the dinner table.

Pulled pork and collard greens

"Heavenly" and "divine" are just a few words that come to mind when thinking of Southern food. Southern cooking has been made popular by the likes of Paula Deen, Trisha Yearwood and even Emeril. All three have shows on Food Network with an emphasis on Southern cooking. So what is it that makes Southern cooking different and so much better than ours?

Did you know it's common in the South to save bacon grease and add it to other foods — like biscuits? Now that's good cookin'!


There's no doubt about it, Southern food is fattening. The more butter, grease and oil, the tastier the dish will be. Southerners can make a seemingly healthy dish unhealthy in the blink of an eye — simply by adding butter. This secret is also what makes you dream about how good the food is and keeps you coming back for more. Even green beans are no match for Southern cooking — as they're transformed from drab to fab by simply adding a few tablespoons of butter.


Along with added butters and oils comes the deep-fryer. Whether it's a meat, a vegetable or even a sweet treat, throw it in the fryer to make it that much better. Along the coast you'll find deep-fried chicken, deep-fried seafood, and deep-fried vegetables such as zucchini and okra that will make even the healthiest of eaters cave.

Check out Trisha Yearwood's Southern Kitchen >>


You'll find most Southern meals begin preparation in the early afternoons. Most meals are rather easy to prepare, but cook for hours upon hours before being served. The longer it cooks, the better the meal will taste. True Southern grits can take up to 30 minutes to cook. In a culture as fast-paced as America, we could all slow down a bit and learn a thing or two from those in the South. Smoked barbecue, gumbo and hot-water cornbread are all cooked slowly to perfection.

cajun spicesSpices

Southerner's know how to season their food. The go-to seasoning is that of Cajun spices. Meats and veggies all taste better with a Cajun kick to them. Cayenne pepper is another common ingredient used in meats. It gives it a little extra bite, making you come back for more time and time again.


The last secret of Southern cooking is to use as many colors in your meals as possible. You'll never see a Southerner serve peas and green beans in the same meal, or sweet potatoes and carrots. Most meals contain one meat, one starch and up to three veggies. The best veggies are locally grown for maximum freshness. The fresher and more colorful the plate, the better the meal is.

A recipe for sweet potato pie — a Southern favorite >>

Fun Southern phrases

"Well butter my behind and call me a biscuit" — Southern saying

"Don't name a pig, chicken or cow you plan to eat" — Southern saying

"You think I don't have culture just because I'm from down in Georgia. Believe me, we've got culture there. We've always had sushi. We just called it bait." — Ben Jones

"I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage." — Erma Bombeck

More Southern recipes

Classic Southern cornbread recipe
Southern comfort recipes: Macaroni and cheese
Southern-style pork shoulder rub