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

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]

Characteristics and preparation

The dough was originally made from flour, salt, sugar, lard, and cold water. Modern recipes may add baking powder. [4] They are 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.[5] 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.[6]

How long the biscuits are beaten varies from one recipe to the next, from "at least 15 minutes"[1] to "30 to 45 minutes."[5] 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";[7] one book "instructs the cook to 'use boys to do it'"—that is, beat the biscuits vigorously "at least 200 times."[8] Besides ensuring the proper texture for the biscuit, "this beating also serves to vent the cook's weekly accumulation of pent-up frustrations."[7]


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.[7][8] They are sometimes considered "Sunday biscuits" and can be stored for several months in an airtight container.[7] Beaten biscuits were once so popular that special machines, called biscuits brakes, were manufactured to knead the dough in home kitchens.[7] 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.[9] Ham biscuits are still widely found in the United States but are made with standard biscuits or dinner rolls.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c 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. ^ Kevin Ryan (April 3, 2023). "Beaten Biscuits". Allrecipes. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Beaten Biscuit". Encyclopedia. Food Network. Archived from the original on 2003-06-23. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  6. ^ "Beaten Biscuits". Atlanta Magazine. March 29, 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  7. ^ a b c d e Alvey, R. Gerald (1992). Kentucky Bluegrass country. UP of Mississippi. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-87805-544-9.
  8. ^ a b 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ McWilliams, Mark (2012). The Story Behind the Dish: Classic American Foods. Greenwood. pp. 117, 118. ISBN 978-0313385094.