Steel Cut Oats: Worth the Time?

Oatmeal has always been a favorite breakfast food in my house. Not the instant, which always tastes as if it had been made in the Play-Doh factory, the old-fashioned. Yes, they took a little longer to cook, but it could be done in five minutes. I cook oatmeal in milk, it gives a much richer taste. But milk means you have to stir, so 5 minutes is about all I could handle.

steel-cut oatsMy niece introduced me to steel-cut oats. I was astonished to find that they were not flat or flaked. These oats are still grain-shaped.  (You can see both flakes and steel-cut in the photo.)

The taste was completely different–sort of nutty, like wheat berries, and an incredible taste treat. They also filled me up completely for three hours, making it easy to pass up the donuts, eclairs and other breakfast goodies in my clients’ kitchens.

Steel-cut oats take forever to cook. The package I have said “about 10 minutes.” Only if you need to break out a few annoying molars. It takes a full 20 minutes to cook steel-cut oats. If you are cooking more than one serving, you can count on 30. I just don’t have 30 extra minutes in the morning, so I began to experiment with shortcuts.

Here are two that work really well:

1. Stir and run method. Put the milk (or water) into a deep saucepan, add the oats (follow directions on the can) and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once they have boiled for 30 seconds, you can turn the burner to warm (if you have an annoying electric stove) or the lowest gas setting. Then go take a shower or get dressed. Do not desert the oats. Check in once in a while to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot. You probably will have to add more. I add water, even when cooking with milk, give it a quick stir, and go put on my makeup. By the time I’m ready for breakfast, the oats are done perfectly.

2. Cook two servings at once, following the instructions above. Eat one serving, and put the other one in a covered container. If you are covering the container with plastic wrap, make sure the wrap touches the top of the oatmeal to prevent milk skin from forming. The next morning, you simply pour a little milk or water into a pan and warm up the oatmeal. You cannot tell the difference in taste or texture.

Update: There are more than 95 comments so far with excellent suggestions, please browse them to learn so much more!

From the comment sent in by Jan: Before you got to bed, put a half cup of steel cut oats and cover with water. The next morning, drain the water, add milk (or cook in water) and bring to a gentle boil. Takes about 5 minutes to cook. Best suggestion yet!

Don’t reheat in the microwave, you will be eating dense, chewy little rubber bullets. Mix in dried cherries, fresh raspberries, or cut up crystalized ginger. Add sugar, honey, or syrup. Or just eat it plain.

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–Image: Quinn McDonald.

Quinn is a writer and certified creativity coach.
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