How to make high-rising biscuits: look sharp!

How to make high-rising biscuits has been many a baker’s challenge down the years. After all, biscuits are an enormous cultural touchstone in the American South, where cooks are often judged by their biscuit prowess. Even north of the Mason-Dixon line, there’s no denying most of us love a tender, flaky biscuit: stuffed with country ham, ladled with sausage gravy, or simply spread with butter.

For such a basic bread, though, biscuits can be tricky. This simple combination of flour, salt, fat, leavening, and liquid can result in biscuits ranging from light and tender to heavy and tough, depending on what specific ingredients you use, and how you put them together.

And while article after article addresses nuances of ingredients and technique (milk vs. buttermilk; patting vs. rolling), few concentrate on the penultimate step to high-rising biscuits: how you cut the dough.

OK, Grandma always used a drinking glass to cut her biscuits, and they were JUST FINE.

But Grandma had also been baking biscuits for years, and knew the perfect amount of buttermilk to splash into the flour, how to mix the dough without toughening it, and how to gently pat it to the ideal thickness. No matter what cutting implement she used, those biscuits were going to be pretty darned good.

Want to know how to make high-rising biscuits? The secret's right there in your hands. Click To Tweet

Many of us today, though, make biscuits infrequently and our skills may not be the greatest. We need all the help we can get every step of the way — and that includes learning how to make high-rising biscuits by using the proper cutter.

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflour

Here’s the dough from our Baking Powder Biscuits recipe, patted out, gently rolled to even thickness, and ready to cut.

We’ll try two cutting implements: a drinking glass, and a biscuit cutter.

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflour

How to make high-rising biscuits? Choose the right cutter

The biscuit cutter, with its sharp edges, slices through the dough easily, simply by pushing straight down. No need to twist; in fact, twisting will help prevent a clean cut — so don’t do it!

The drinking glass is more of a struggle; I have to twist it and push hard to get it through the dough.

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflour

You can see the difference reflected in the cut dough: that’s a hole from the drinking glass on the left, from the biscuit cutter on the right. See the ragged edges left by the drinking glass? Those are the hallmarks of a rough (rather than clean) cut.

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflour

A sharp cutter leaves clean edges

Look at the difference in the actual biscuits, too. The drinking glass biscuit (left) shows obvious signs of its edges being compressed, while the biscuit cutter biscuit (right) shows a clean cut, with very little compression.

Why is this important? A biscuit whose edges are squashed together has a harder time rising than one with cleanly cut edges.

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflourClean edges = high-rising biscuits

The proof’s in the pudding — er, biscuit! On the left, the drinking glass biscuit; see how much shorter it is than the biscuit cut with a sharp cutter? A good set of biscuit cutters is inexpensive and will last you a lifetime.

Still, if you don’t have biscuit cutters you can easily make high-rising biscuits using a sharp knife or pizza wheel.

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflour

Don’t have a round cutter? Cut squares

Instead of patting the biscuit dough into a circle, shape it into a square. Use a sharp knife to trim a thin strip of dough all around the edges of the square; then cut the square into smaller squares or diamonds. Bake as directed.

It may seem wasteful, but don’t neglect to trim those edges of the dough before cutting the biscuits. (The trimmings can be baked right along with the biscuits; they’re perfect for nibbling.)

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflour

On the left, a biscuit whose untrimmed right edge prevented it from rising evenly.

See what happens if you don’t trim the dough square’s outside edges? Any biscuits including an edge will be misshapen, sloping down towards their untrimmed side.

Still delicious; just not ready for any beauty shots!

You know what the best part about testing biscuit techniques is?

How to make high-rising biscuits via @kingarthurflour

Ending up with LOTS of biscuits!

Luckily, the day I did this testing I also helped prepare dinner at a local homeless shelter; thank you, King Arthur Flour, for providing every employee-owner with 40 paid hours per year to volunteer. Trust me, all of these biscuits ended up in a good place.

Want to read more about biscuits? See these posts:
Tips for better biscuits
Fats and liquids in biscuits
Easy gluten-free biscuits

Do you have any favorite biscuit-baking tips — something special Grandma shared with you, or you discovered on your own? Please share in comments, below.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Florine Lee

    Use a cold rolling pin when rolling out dough. I put mine in the fridge for a couple of hours before use.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can, Liz, but it’s not ideal. With so much additional protein in the flour, it’s very easy for the dough to become overworked and dense instead of flaky and fluffy. Kat@KAF

  2. Don Herman

    Test your oven temperature. It’s amazing how far off it can be from what your setting says – especially at high temps, like biscuits. It takes my oven a good 20 minutes to stabilize at temp, and I have to add 15 to 20 degrees to the setting to reach the called-for temp.

    Thanks for all your helpful articles.

  3. Linda Sharrow

    Thank you for sharing your divine recipe and expertise with us that Love to Bake. Yes that is me, I Love to Bake, my husband loves what I do for him and is very pleased with Baking Results, Yes. I always purchase King Arthur Flour, The Very Best Flour is King Arthur Flour. Thank You again.

  4. Jo Anne Gessell

    The glass my Grandma used had a much thinner rim than the one pictured. I think that made for a sharper cut.

  5. Billie Vanderburg

    Thank you PJ for bringing this technique to light. As a southern biscuit baker for many decades, I still cringe (and shake my head) when I see a biscuit recipe that says you can use a drinking glass to cut biscuits. I actually have several biscuit cutters, in varying sizes depending on what my biscuits are for, but they all have sharp edges for a clean cut.

  6. Lynn weeks

    My momma always told me to mix your biscuits fast. She used her fingers so I assume the heat from her hands would make the biscuits tough. All I know is that if you try to make your dough perfect and smooth your biscuits will be tough! I speak from experience.

  7. Helen

    I have used all your tips. And do use King Arthur flour. However my biscuits do not come out of the oven soft. I’ve even covered them with a towel to let them cool a little bit and hopefully soften up. Any tips about this would be greatly appreciated. Helen in Ark.

    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Helen. There are a couple of things you can do to get softer biscuits. First is to add a couple more tablespoons of milk than the recipe is asking for; biscuit dough should feel pretty damp to the touch, but not sticky. Second is to place the biscuits closer to each other; about 1/2″ apart. They’ll expand toward each other, which will keep them straighter as they rise and the sides from getting too crisp. Lastly, if your oven is a convection one, turn off the fan; the motion of the air moving around can dry your biscuits out. Hope this helps. Susan

    2. Helen

      I am going to try your suggestions now. And yes, I am one of these ‘grandma made them every morning’ and they were high and soft and wonderful. I will get there… Thank you Susan Reid. Helen in Ark.

      P. S. Which of your good biscuit recipes do you suggests?

    3. Janet L Harrison

      Your oven may be too hot, so they are overcooking. I’ve had to adjust oven temp and time to get just the right settings through practice. I like using bread flour, though not recommended. I prefer using glass to bake in over other choices. Just my $.02

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