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11 Southern Cooking Tips from Country Kitchens

Enjoy this down-home wisdom, plus a heaping helping of tips and tricks for country cooking recipes.

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Senior woman chopping veggiesuzhursky/Shutterstock

Southerners take a special pride in their cooking, with almost-sacred recipes handed down generation after generation. But that pride also extends to helping out those northerners who are trying their hand at Southern dishes. Call it Southern hospitality, with cooks reveal cooking tips, tricks and secrets from Southern kitchens. Here are some to consider.

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Chicken frying in old cast iron skillet on modern electric range with some on paper towels ready to serve.Warren Price Photography/Shutterstock

They make their cast-iron skillets last more than a lifetime

For Southern cooks, handing down their prized cast-iron skillet is a rite of passage. Seasoned over generations of cooking, the skillets are positively treasured.

But what if Memaw didn’t take great care of it? Here’s how to make a skillet good as new.

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Close-up of peasElenaGaak/Shutterstock

They make use of anything available

Summer is high time to make fresh-from-the-vine legume recipes. But what about the rest of the year? Fresh butter beans or black-eyed peas freeze for up to six months. First, shell and wash them. Then, the trick: Blanch them for two minutes in boiling water. Transfer the drained beans into freezer bags, push out the air, close and freeze. Use them straight from the freezer in recipes calling for canned peas or beans, like black-eyed pea sausage stew.

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collard greens, smoked chicken and fried green tomatoes;Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Presentation is key

When planning meals, ensure you’ll have a variety of colors on the plate. Southern cooks would never pair green beans with another green vegetable.

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Delicious crispy fried chicken with coleslaw and corn on the cob.; Shutterstock ID 1145667110; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHFoodio/Shutterstock

They can keep any fried food from getting mushy

If you’re frying veggies with high water content, like zucchini, give them a quick dip in flour to absorb some of the moisture before running them through the batter. They won’t come out mushy then.

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Bacon on SkilletAnna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

They always save bacon grease

Let the grease cool in the pan. It’ll harden into a cloudy mass. Then simply use a spatula to scrape up the puttylike fat into an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to a month. Alternately, you could carefully drain the fat while it’s still warm, running it through a sieve. But then you wouldn’t get all those tiny, crumbly bacon bits. When cooking side dishes like Southern okra, simply add a dollop of the fat to the pan for a smoky, bacony flavor.

Here are other ideas of how to make use of bacon grease.

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Orange-glazed hamTaste of Home

They save ham bones, too

If you’re making a holiday ham dinner, save the bone and reuse it when making bean dishes. Simply drop the bone in a simmering pot of beans to give them a richer flavor.

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Woman stirring pot of custardCKP1001/Shutterstock

They have a low-tech secret for making banana pudding.

No thermometers here! According to Southern cooks, nothing beats a simple wooden spoon when it comes to determining the right consistency of custards. Coat the spoon with the mixture, then run your finger across the back of the spoon. If it leaves a clean trail with a very thin film underneath, your custard is at the right thickness.

Make your own banana pudding with this step-by-step tutorial.

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Refreshing Bubbly Soda Pop with Ice Cubes. Cold soda iced drink in a glasses - Selective focus, shallow DOFVintage Tone/Shutterstock

For Southern cooks, Coca-Cola is more than just a beverage

Add a splash to your gumbo when it’s simmering to add a touch of sweetness to that thick stew. Or pour it into cake batter for an extra fluffy dessert.

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Deli-Style Potato SaladTaste of Home

They’ve turned potato salad into a make-ahead dish. 

Turns out, you can keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Still, it tends to dry out, so you can spoon in a bit of mayonnaise or yogurt to bring it back to the right consistency.

Try this trick on our best potato salads.

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Basket of freshly baked biscuits with orange juice and tableware in background.Marie C Fields/Shutterstock

They’ve mastered the biscuit

Use cold dough to ensure that biscuits are light and fluffy. Also, after kneading the dough, make it a rectangle and fold it over toward the middle. Flatten it into a rectangle and fold it over again. Repeat a few times to get flaky biscuits.

Here’s another reason Southern biscuits are just plain better.

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Double corn breadTaste of Home

They take butter above and beyond.

Elevate cornbread by substituting Cajun butter on top. It provides a sweet heat to the flavor of cornbread and complements the savory aspects of Southern cuisine.

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