Whether you’re ready to venture away from the can for the first time or you’re just looking to jazz up your tried and true buttermilk biscuit recipe, this is the guide for you.

By Tiffany Stevens
June 24, 2020
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A good biscuit is a work of art. Whether they’re flakey, buttery, or made with a hefty dose of a tangy buttermilk, there’s nothing like biting into a fluffy biscuit, especially freshly baked. In some families, especially those with enthusiastic cooks, homemade biscuits can also take on a bit of a mythos, turning family meals into competitions to see who has the best recipe. But with plenty of pre-made canned and frozen biscuits to choose from, it’s easy enough for biscuit enthusiasts to make these doughy delights a regular feature of home-cooked meals without ever making them from-scratch.

While we absolutely love the convenience of a canned biscuit, we think everyone should try to whip up their own at least once. The process admittedly takes more time than popping open a can, but the results are well worth it. And the good news is that biscuits are one of the easiest bread products to make at home; it only takes a few ingredients, and you don’t even have to bust out a rolling pin if you don’t want to (more on that later). Use our guide to make your very first from-scratch batch, or to perfect the biscuits you plan to serve at your next brunch.

Jennifer Causey

Step One: Make A Basic Dough

To make a good biscuit dough, you need just a few different elements: flour, a leavener, fat, and a liquid element (preferably containing some more fat) to bring the dough together. That means that if you’re just making your first biscuits, you can throw a batch together using nothing more than self rising flour, shortening and milk, as seen in the Homemade Biscuits recipe above. 

However, if you’re looking for a more flavorful biscuit, or one with a more specific texture, you may need to change up your dough formula a bit. Exchanging buttermilk for the milk, and adding in a bit of honey, will take your biscuits to the next level. If you’re looking for extra flaky biscuits, you can cut cold butter into your dough using a pastry cutter (or your fingertips!). You’ll also want to chill the flour after you’ve cut in the butter to better preserve the small butter clumps of you’ve created. Those little pebbles will give your biscuit the classic texture you’re looking for.

As with other baking projects, remember to keep your solid and liquid components separate until you’re ready to bring the dough together. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to stick strictly to commercial white or wheat flour. You can make biscuits incorporating cornmeal, bran, gluten-free flour—really any flour type you like. Feel free to experiment and find out what works best for you.

Victor Protasio

Step Two: Add Your Mix-Ins

Now that you have your base biscuit dough down, you’re ready to play around a bit with the flavors. Adding herbs into your dough is a simple way to give a new life to your go-to recipe, but you can also add cheese, nuts or even bits of meat. Sweet ingredients are also welcome additions to biscuits; fresh strawberry biscuits, for example, make for an excellent strawberry shortcake base. 

While you can add just about anything to your biscuit dough, some ingredients in your base recipe may need to be increased or eliminated to compensate for the new additions. The addition of a wet ingredient, like pickle juice or sweet potato puree, may require adding more flour, for example. If you’re trying out a new variation on your favorite biscuit dough, it may be helpful to take notes on the changes made so that you can adjust and improve future batches. 

Photo: Victor Protasio; Propr Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Step Three: Cut Out Your Biscuits

If you’re making drop biscuits, then feel free to skip this bit. But if you’re looking for more uniform, picturesque baked goods, then rolling and cutting out your biscuits is your best bet. For this step, find a clean counter or surface and sprinkle it with flour. Place your dough on the counter, roll it out and then fold it over onto itself. Flatten and fold it a couple more times, turning the dough each time. Finally, flatten it once more, grab your biscuit cutter and go to town. 

No biscuit cutter? No problem. Grab a clean glass or jar, dip the mouth in flour and you’re ready to proceed. Press your cutter straight down and lift straight up—no twisting!

Of course, if you’re looking for mind-blowing flakiness in your biscuits, don’t stop with folding and flattening; you’ll want to make sure a thin sheet of butter is folded into every layer of your biscuits during the kneading stage. You can read more about that technique, called lamination, here.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Step Four: Bake Your Biscuits

Get the Recipe: Crunchy Bottomed Biscuits

Most biscuit recipes, if you’re baking them by themselves, will ask you to line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cook the biscuits in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, usually at either 450° or 475°. If you’d like biscuits with more crisp on the bottom and sides, however, you could always use a buttered cast-iron pan instead of a baking sheet. That will give your biscuits even more texture than the usual cooking method.

Additional Biscuit Styles

Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Tina Bell Stamos

How to Make Drop Biscuits

Of all the steps in making biscuits, rolling and cutting the dough is definitely the one that takes the most time. So if you’re in a rush, you can skip it altogether. For drop biscuits, you’ll simply make up a dough with a slightly looser consistency, and drop even spoonfuls an inch apart on a baking sheet when you’re ready to cook. The biscuits won’t be uniform, but they will look (and taste) delicious, and that’s the important thing.

How to Make Spiral Biscuits

If you’re looking to try something a little different from layered biscuits, then spiral biscuits can definitely be a fun challenge. These biscuit-variations are made like jelly or cinnamon rolls, in that a jam, marmalade or spice is usually added to the flattened dough before the dough is rolled up and cut up into rounds. Cooks who use biscuits to top casseroles and cobblers will especially want to keep this variation in mind, as it can make for a particularly stunning presentation style once baked.

Victor Protasio

How to Freeze Biscuits for Later

Get the Recipes: Basic Buttery Biscuits 

Just because it’s easy to make homemade biscuits doesn’t mean you should have to do it every time. Freezing a few of your biscuits can be a great way to cut down on cooking time in the future. To freeze your biscuits, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet until they are frozen solid, and then place them in a freezer bag. They’ll keep for three months, assuming you don’t devour them before then.

Photo: Aaron Kirk; Prop Styling: Christina Daley; Food Styling: Sarah Epperson

How to Glaze Your Biscuits 

Gravy isn’t the only thing worth pouring over your biscuits once they’re done baking. If you’re making a sweet biscuit especially, it’s worth considering making a glaze to go with them. Powdered sugar and milk or orange juice can be mixed to make a simple glaze but you can also use fruit glazes to top your biscuits. Of course, if you’re going the more savory route, no need to feel left out. Garlic or herbed butter can be basted over the top for a decidedly less-sweet, but still delicious, finish.