Beaten biscuit

Beaten biscuits are a Southern food from the United States, dating from the 19th century. They differ from regular American soft-dough biscuits in that they are more like hardtack. In New England they are called "sea biscuits",[1] as they were staples aboard whaling ships.[2] Beaten biscuits are also historically associated with Maryland cuisine.[3]

Beaten biscuit
Alternative namesSea biscuits
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateSouthern United States
Main ingredientsFlour, salt, sugar, lard, cold water

Characteristics and preparation

The dough was originally made from flour, salt, sugar, lard, and cold water, and beaten with a hard object or against a hard surface. It is pricked with a fork prior to baking and cut smaller than a regular biscuit.[4] The prepared dough is baked at 325 °F (163 °C) for 20 minutes until tops are golden brown, but some bakers prefer a crisp, white biscuit that is baked with no browning.[5]

How long the biscuits are beaten varies from one recipe to the next, from "at least 15 minutes"[1] to "30 to 45 minutes."[4] The beating these biscuits undergo is severe: they are banged with a "rolling pin, hammer, or side of an axe";[1] or they are "pounded with a blunt instrument...[even] a tire iron will do...Granny used to beat 'em with a musket";[6] one book "instructs the cook to 'use boys to do it'"—that is, beat the biscuits vigorously "at least 200 times."[7] Besides ensuring the proper texture for the biscuit, "this beating also serves to vent the cook's weekly accumulation of pent-up frustrations."[6]


These biscuits were traditionally used in "ham biscuits", a traditional Southern canapé, where they are sliced horizontally and spread with butter, jelly, mustard and filled with pieces of country ham, or used to sop up gravy or syrup.[6][7] They are sometimes considered "Sunday biscuits" and can be stored for several months in an airtight container.[6] Beaten biscuits were once so popular that special machines, called biscuits brakes, were manufactured to knead the dough in home kitchens.[6] A biscuit brake typically consists of a pair of steel rollers geared together and operated by a crank, mounted on a small table with a marble top and cast iron legs.

Due to the amount of work required to make them, beaten biscuits are no longer popular.[8] Ham biscuits are still widely found in the United States but are made with standard biscuits or dinner rolls.[9]

See also


  1. Villas, James (2004). Biscuit bliss: 101 foolproof recipes for fresh and fluffy biscuits in just minutes. Harvard Common Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-55832-223-3.
  2. Biscuit bliss By James Villas page 14
  3. "Maryland Beaten Biscuits". 22 October 2015.
  4. "Beaten Biscuit". Encyclopedia. Food Network. Archived from the original on 2003-06-23. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  5. "Beaten Biscuits". Atlanta Magazine. March 29, 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  6. Alvey, R. Gerald (1992). Kentucky Bluegrass country. UP of Mississippi. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-87805-544-9.
  7. Claiborne, Craig; John T. Edge; Georgeanna Milam (2007). Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking. Athens: U of Georgia P. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-8203-2992-5.
  8. Andrew Smith, Bruce Kraig, ed. (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Volume 1 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0199734962.
  9. McWilliams, Mark (2012). The Story Behind the Dish: Classic American Foods. Greenwood. pp. 117, 118. ISBN 978-0313385094.
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