What You Need To Know About Bisquick

According to Bisquick manufacturer General Mills, the idea for their ageless buttermilk premix was born during a ride on a Southern Pacific railroad train from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco in 1930 (via Taste). Company executive Carl Smith was hungry and ordered biscuits. He might have been expecting cold lumps, but instead got hot piping pastries — which the chef informed him was made with a premix of lard, flour, baking powder, and salt and then stored in a freezer. Because General Mills (which also owns the Betty Crocker brand) hadn't yet considered making baking all-in-one boxes, Smith decided it was time to speak to the company's chief chemist. 

They didn't know it yet, but their discussions would make General Mills the pioneer of the premix market.

It took a year to iron out Bisquick's production kinks

As with many things, the road to Bisquick had its challenges. General Mills needed to work out kinks like how to keep keep the leavening agent in the mix from expiring, how to keep shortening fresh so it could sit on the shelf without spoiling, and what kind of ingredients they could use to make boxed Bisquick biscuits just as good as homemade. Once those kinks were ironed out, which the company managed to do just a year later, Bisquick could be launched. The year was 1931. 

In case you're wondering whether competitors tried to go head-to-head against the new product, they did. The Daily Meal says that within a year after Bisquick hit the market, as much as 95 other biscuit mixes tried to compete. At the end of that year, only six remained standing.

The other issue surrounding Bisquick's origin story didn't come to light until much later, when a 1954 book entitled Business Without Boundary: The Story of General Mills notes that the chef who came up with the premixed dough idea was black. That chef remains unnamed and uncredited to this day.

Bisquick was so versatile it offered 'A World of Baking in a Box'

Bisquick was especially popular because it did just what it said it would, which is to offer "A World of Baking in a Box." It was a lifeline for suburban American moms who might otherwise not have had time to make biscuits from scratch. Its first ads highlighted the speed at which biscuits could be produced (90 seconds). An ad in Ladies Home Journal called the mix, "Science's most thrilling food invention. Makes anybody a perfect biscuit maker" (Orlando Sentinel).

It was only a matter of time before homemakers discovered the mix could be used to create just about anything, from coffee cakes to pancakes, dumplings, cookies, and meat pies. Fun fact: The Daily Meal says many of the recipes that made Bisquick a wartime staple in the 1940s are still being used today.

Bisquick's recipe has changed several times

Bisquick may have always been a bestseller for General Mills, but that doesn't mean the company hasn't tweaked the original recipe — it first changed in the 1960s so the mix could yield the lighter, fluffier biscuits for which the South is known best. Since then, several versions of Bisquick have emerged. There's a heart-healthy Bisquick for those who need to keep an eye on their cholesterol levels. There is gluten-free Bisquick which contains rice flour and modified potato starch. For the really truly lazy there is even a Bisquick Shake n' Pour, to which you only add water because it already contains dried egg white, soy flour, and buttermilk (via Mental Floss).

Our love for Bisquick transcends time

While some chefs may not want to touch Bisquick with a 10-foot pole, others will admit to having a sentimental attachment to the yellow and blue box. "We used the s**t out of Bisquick growing up," Houston chef Chris Shepherd tells Taste. "My dad can't cook, but the one thing he made was breakfast. My room was right above the kitchen, so on Saturday mornings I'd wake up smelling biscuits, pancakes, and waffles." Bisquick chicken and dumplings were also a staple in the Shepherd household. "There are two forms of dumplings people grow up with," Shepherd adds. "One is more rolled out and the other is where you drop spoonfuls of dough into the broth. I still make drop biscuit dumplings with Bisquick. I love it." Can't we all relate?

Bisquick may deliver on flavors and nostalgia, but don't count on the premix to deliver on savings, at least where pancakes are concerned. When HuffPost did the math, they found out that homemade pancakes come out cheaper than using Bisquick. Go figure!