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What Causes Tough, Heavy, or Crumbly Biscuits? (and How to Fix Them)

Ruby is an experienced cook who grows much of her food in the backyard, and loves to share her experiences gardening and perfecting recipes.

Biscuits are perfect quick bread for many dishes, including shrimp and grits (above).

Biscuits are perfect quick bread for many dishes, including shrimp and grits (above).

Why Are My Biscuits Heavy or Tough?

Trying to master biscuits?

Biscuits are a quick bread that is a perfect accompaniment to many meals. They are leavened with baking powder, and they generally contain a fat—such as shortening, lard, or butter—that is cut into the flour.

Whether savory or sweet, biscuits are supposed to be light, fluffy, and moist. If your biscuits are turning out tough and heavy, then a few things could have gone wrong. Here are several reasons why your biscuits may be tough or heavy, as well as ways to fix them.

Causes of Heavy or Tough Biscuits (Plus How to Fix It)

Not enough fat: Biscuits need to have a good fat/flour ratio. Recipes that have too little fat will end up being very heavy.

  • Fix: Increase fat in the recipe.

Not enough leavening: Without baking powder, or a baking soda/buttermilk combination, the biscuits will fail to rise.

  • Fix: Check the expiration date on the canister to ensure a fresh leavening agent before making the biscuits.

Oven too cold: If the oven is too cold when the biscuits are put inside, they will not have a chance to rise in the oven, and by the time the biscuits cook the dough will be tough or very heavy.

  • Fix: Always preheat the oven before the biscuits are placed in the oven for baking.

Dough was overworked: Biscuits are not like yeast bread where long kneading times are required.

  • Fix: Once the liquid is added, knead the dough just enough to make it into a ball and roll it out. If scraps are being kneaded together, knead very lightly to mix the dough without overworking.

Not enough liquid: Some biscuit recipes call for a range of liquid amounts (such as 2/3 to 3/4 cup milk). Generally, if the recipe has been tested then the first amount will be for dryer biscuits and the second amount will be for moister biscuits.

  • Fix: In this instance, begin with the smaller amount and add in more when needed. But don’t add in the liquid after the dough has already been made into a ball—add it after stirring a couple of strokes and if the flour looks like it won’t come be incorporated it with the amount inside.