Steel Cut Oatmeal

Steel Cut Oatmeal

Oatmeal.  It’s not the most glamorous subject, is it?

I grew up eating oatmeal for breakfast on a fairly regular basis.  My Dad would often make it for us on cold, winter mornings before school.  Sometimes it would be plain and I would eat it with butter and a bit of brown sugar.  That wasn’t so bad.  Some mornings, he would add chopped dried apricots, my favorite way to eat oatmeal.  But more often than not, he would cook it with raisins.  Plump, rehydrated raisins.  Yuck!  While I now look back on those mornings with a certain fondness, I certainly wasn’t in love with oatmeal at the time!

I preferred things like my Mom’s french toast with butter and powdered sugar or my Dad’s soft-boiled eggs served over buttered toast.  And as far as hot cereals went, I loved the smooth and creamy bowls of ‘mush’ that I would eat at my Nana’s house (which I later found out was just boiled cornmeal).  Lumpy oatmeal with rehydrated, squishy raisins just wasn’t my idea of a wonderful breakfast in those days.

But tastes change and now I enjoy eating oatmeal for breakfast.  Even with raisins.  And no, I’m not talking about the little packets of overly-sweetened, artificially-flavored instant oatmeal.  I like the texture of old-fashioned rolled oats and, even more, steel cut oats.  When I have children, they’ll be eating oatmeal for breakfast, just like I did, squishy raisins and all!  By the way, do you know that it only takes five minutes to cook rolled oats?  Five minutes!  With all the varieties of ‘instant’ and ‘quick-cooking’ oatmeal available, you’d think that cooking the regular kind must take forever!  Wrong.

So now let me tell you a little more about my latest oatmeal love:  steel cut oats!  I like to think of steel cut oatmeal as ‘oatmeal for adults.’  Why?  Because it has a wonderful, chewy texture that I think is more appealing to me now than it would have been when I was a kid.  Steel cut oatmeal does take longer to cook, usually about 25 minutes.  But the great thing about steel cut oatmeal is that it can be made in advance because it reheats so well!

I like to make a large batch of it once a week, then divide it between individual plastic containers.  In the mornings I can pull out my little container of oatmeal, pour a little milk on it, and pop it in the microwave.  It’s my own version of instant oatmeal!  The steel cut oatmeal retains it’s chewy texture and you’d never guess it wasn’t fresh off the stove.  Have you ever tried reheating oatmeal made from rolled oats?  It turns into a gummy, gluey mess!

You see, I never have an appetite in the morning so I really have to force myself to eat breakfast.  Yes, I know that I just got through telling you that old-fashioned oatmeal only takes five minutes to cook. But when I don’t feel like eating anyway, I generally won’t put any effort into breakfast at all.  This is where my pre-cooked steel cut oats come in.  If all I have to do is take the container out of the fridge and pop it in the microwave, I’m much more likely to eat breakfast.  It’s even easier than pouring a bowl of cold cereal.  It’s true that I don’t ever want to eat breakfast in the morning, but my day sure goes a lot smoother when I do!

Oatmeal in Containers

I first tried steel cut oats several years ago.  At the time, the only brand I knew was McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.  It comes in a pretty metal can, is imported from Ireland, and is rather expensive!  I’ll admit that the reason I first bought it was because I wanted that beautiful black, white and gold can (to this day, I still use the can to store spare change). But it turned out that I really enjoyed the oatmeal inside the can, too!  Due to the price, steel cut oatmeal was a luxury rather than a regular part of my diet for a few years.  But when we moved to San Diego, I had access to several stores that sell steel cut oats in bulk, for a much better price.  And now, thankfully, steel cut oats are gaining in popularity and are therefore much easier to find in regular grocery stores.

With it’s recent surge in popularity, you might think that steel cut oats are a new superfood or are somehow much healthier than other types of oatmeal.  The truth is that old-fashioned rolled oats and steel cut oats basically have the same nutritional value.  They are both made from whole grain oat groats, they are just processed differently.  And yes, they are both extremely good for you (but you knew that already)!

When rolled oats are made, the oat groats are steamed and rolled flat under heavy metal rollers.  This process results in the familiar-looking flat, flaky oats.  Quick-cooking and instant oatmeal are processed even further and in some cases, some of the bran may be removed.  If you want to make sure you’re getting all the good stuff, buy old-fashioned rolled oats, remember they cook up in only five minutes!

So if rolled oats are actually rolled, can you guess what happens when steel cut oats are made?  That’s right, the oat groats are cut into small pieces rather than rolled.  Common sense argues that since these steel cut oats are processed even less than the rolled oats, they are probably a tiny bit healthier for us.  But both types of oats retain the bran and germ, and both types are still considered to be whole grain.  I prefer steel cut oats for the texture, but if they happen to retain a bit more nutrition due to the minimal processing, then that’s even better!

Steel cut oats may also be called Irish oats, Scotch oats or pinhead oats.  Keep an eye out for them in the cereal section of your supermarket or the bulk bins of your local health food store.  If you decide to buy it in bulk, here are some general cooking guidelines:

Steel Cut Oatmeal

For one serving:  1 1/2 cups water  and 1/4 cup oats
For four servings or more: Use 1 cup of water per 1/4 cup oats for each serving  (i.e. 4 cups water/1 cup oats for four servings)

Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan (or large saucepan if making several servings at once).  Stir in oats and immediately reduce heat to low.  Watch carefully, because the water might foam up and boil over!  (If using an electric stove, and the water foams up before the burner cools down enough, briefly lift the pan off the heat and the foam will subside).  Simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes or until oats are of desired texture.

Notes: If making ahead with plans to reheat, I cook the oats for only 20-25 minutes. I like to add a tiny pinch of salt when I add the oats to the water, but this is entirely optional.  If you want to add dried fruit while the oatmeal is cooking, add a bit of extra water.  I like to cook 8 servings at a time:  I let the oatmeal cool slightly then divide into 8 small plastic containers, which can be refrigerated for up to one week.  To reheat, add a splash of milk or water, then microwave until heated through.  Stir and serve plain or with desired toppings.  I’m sure the oatmeal can also be frozen and reheated, but I haven’t tried that myself!

Steel cut oatmeal in containers

So what do you like to eat on your oatmeal?  My standard used to be a bit of milk, butter, and brown sugar.  But now I like to eat it with fresh berries or dried fruit and a small handful of chopped nuts.  Sometimes I cook the dried fruit with the oatmeal, sometimes I throw it in as I’m reheating it, or sometimes I just add it at the very end.  My favorite dried fruits are apricots, cherries, or cranberries. But this morning, I ate my oatmeal with nothing but a handful of plump, squishy raisins!

Whether you prefer steel cut or rolled oats, a bowl of warm oatmeal is a delicious, healthy and easy way to start the day.  Give it a try, your body will thank you!

You can learn more about the health benefits of eating oats at The World’s Healthiest Foods.

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91 Comments
  1. Ellery

    Swedish style oatmeal is delicious…cook with water and make it salty, then you top with milk and lingonberries…which you can get at Ikea for one! — or, Danish style preserves. Yum, yum. We also grew up eating oatmeal with cinnamon, vanilla ice cream and raisins, but I don’t recommend that one for every day. Delicious though!

    6:04 pm  May 5th, 2009
  2. Dave

    Steel cut oatmeal is my healthiest addiction! I make it using a mini crock pot (the kind you might use to keep bean dip warm). 1/2 cup oats, fill up with water, plug in overnight…get up next morning, just give it a stir. Recently I started spraying the sides with a little Pam to keep it from sticking….

    5:03 pm  May 7th, 2009
  3. Grace F

    I’ve never heard of steel cut oats. I’ll have to try them if I can find them. I wonder where I can get them here in Oregon? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them anywhere.

    11:38 am  May 12th, 2009
  4. Janine at Rustic Kitchen

    Oh, how I love posts about delicious breakfasts. I soak my oatmeal overnight in milk, right in the saucepan, then toss in a few berries in the morning. Bring it to a boil, then turn off, put the cover on, and let everything steam for a few minutes. The berries cook and distribute their juices. It feels so indulgent!

    7:19 am  May 13th, 2009
  5. JS

    Grace – You can get them Trader Joe’s or New Seasons in Oregon. Bob’s Red Mill has them too.

    9:19 am  May 13th, 2009
  6. dick

    I get mine from Amazon. They sell McCann’s Irish for less than my local supermarket and deliver right to the house. Good stuff. McCann’s is the best I have found so far. Much better than the other steel cut.

    9:28 am  May 13th, 2009
  7. Katiemama

    Yay! I love steel cut oats! I too make mine in the small slow cooker overnight, they turn out so creamy and delicious. I try to put dried fruit in mine, but I really love it with cream and brown sugar. Gastroanthropologist, I recently bumped into a cookie recipe using both rolled and steel cut oats, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’ll try to find it again. I also have a recipe for a lovely cake using steel cut oats, it’s makes a great snack.

    10:30 pm  May 18th, 2009
  8. Ruth

    SOOOO – My husband and I used the McCain first, then red mill….etc. AND we use those SAME exact Ziploc containers (in fact we had an in depth conversation about how fabulous they were last night before dinner!!) We use honey, berries, milk. As he is a cyclist, its easy to take on the road with us as we head to races, and tasty EVEN when cold!

    12:02 pm  May 19th, 2009
  9. Telephone Triage

    Oatmeal is very good for health.And it helps restrain gaining fat and yet keeps me going from morning till mid day.A pinch of elaichi…a very exotic Indian spice makes it very tasty.

    12:55 pm  May 20th, 2009
  10. Kim

    I found a good source for steel cut oats:

    http://store.honeyvillegrain.com/steelcutoatscan.aspx

    $10 for a 70 oz can. Very good quality.

    3:28 pm  May 21st, 2009
  11. Jean

    I love oatmeal for breakfast. Nothing as good to start the day full of energy. I like adding bananas and peanut butter in my oats for added taste. Oats are a good source of fiber and has been proven to reduce cholesterol levels too. So go for it. Thanks for sharing this article.

    3:38 am  May 29th, 2009
  12. DMA

    I grew up on old-fashioned rolled oatmeal (cooked in water) for breakfast with wheat germ and honey. Yum. I still eat it as an adult with a little goat milk. I used to cook just one portion in the morning, then had the lightbulb flash to cook a pot the night before and refridgerate to have portions for the next few days . I just put a portion in a bowl with the fixin’s and pop in the micro on high for 2 to 21/2 mins and have a nice warm bowl of oatmeal. I pretty much eat it year-round. I am looking forward to trying steel-cut oats too!

    5:23 pm  Jun 1st, 2009
  13. Karen

    I have just started eating Steel Cut Oats and I love them. I bought Quaker as the first time I went they did not have McCann’s, I will try them next time. I made a batch of four and put them in the refrigerator for the week. I use I cup water, 1/2 cup fat free milk and 1/4 cup steel cut oats per serving. I like the idea of cooking it in the slow cooker, I will be trying that. Thanks for all of the great ideas I eat mine with brown sugar or honey and walnuts or pecan, and or dates or apicots.

    12:00 pm  Jun 2nd, 2009
  14. Emily

    It makes me so happy to see steel cut oats in the lime light, where they rightfully should be! My parents introduced them to me years ago and my husband and I eat them all the time and our little girls love them too, but that may be in part because we call them ‘rolly-polly’ oats. When I first started making them I tried a number of different methods to see which one we would like the best and we found that cooking them overnight gave us the results that we just love. We bring 1 cup oats, 3 1/2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt to a rolling boil on the stove for about 3-5 minutes (thankfully, it doesn’t have to be exact), turn the heat off, put the lid on and go to bed knowing we’ll be having a great breakfast in the morning! That’s it, simple as can be and the oats are tender but still retain their shape and in my opinion the salt really brings our their flavor. You could add more or less water or salt for your own preferences. In the morning we just heat up our individual portions and then refrigerate the rest, though they don’t last long at our house. We always add a little milk when reheating and we love to add flaxseed meal, fresh or dried fruit and toasted almonds, though I am excited to try some of the different toppings mentioned above. We usually buy our oats in the bulk isle at Whole Foods Market. Thanks for a great post and so many great comments!

    9:32 pm  Jun 21st, 2009
  15. Leah DiPalma

    Hi Everyone!

    I’m with McCann’s and I must say, it is so great to see such enthusiasm over steel cut oats! I also enjoy steel cuts, and especially like to find new ways to prepare them. If anyone else is interested, take a look at our website recipes http://www.mccanns.ie/recipes.html . They are delicious!

    We, here at McCann’s, are so happy that you are enjoying the product AND packaging!

    9:56 am  Jun 23rd, 2009
  16. Mary McCabe

    Hi Everyone: Oatmeal is wonderful on cold wintry Chicago mornings. We make it often and everyone loves it. We add a step at the beginning of the process to give it a rich nutty flavor. The first thing we do is toast the oats in a tablespoon or so of melted butter. Once it is toasted we add the water and a pinch of salt and cook it till it is done. We serve it with dried fruit, nuts, brown sugar and milk. It is a great way to start the day.

    8:58 pm  Jun 24th, 2009
  17. Jenn

    Hi everyone… I first ate Steel cut oatmeal out here in FL @ jamba juice franchise. They are an all natural stand, and they serve the steel cut oatmeal w/ a dollop of brown sugar and either banana or apples on top. It was delicious!!! I now buy the dry package at publix supermarket in the greenwise section and make it just like described in large batches, so i can too have it for breakfast quick and easy! It has an incredible texture!! So yummy!

    7:31 am  Jul 22nd, 2009
  18. Healthier

    My grocer sells a store brand that is in the frozen isle. You put them in the microwave for like 3 minutes-and done. 2 bowls cost about $1.99. The store is Safeway, or Vons in some area. The brand is Eating Right. They have about 3 or 4 flavors available, and they are pretty tasty.

    9:52 pm  Jul 30th, 2009
  19. Bethany

    You can actually make oatmeal (any kind) in the crockpot overnight. Just spray slow cooker with non stick spray (or coat with butter) mix oats and water, a few pats of butter and anything else you would like with your oatmeal and let it cook on low (or even just warm setting) overnight. Stir really well in the morning. It’s the best way to wake up!!

    6:58 am  Aug 6th, 2009
  20. George Mott

    I’ve been eating steel-cut oats for many years. I have an old fashioned gas stove with a pilot light. The night before, I boil the water and pour it on the oats then cover and place over the pilot. In the morning it only needs 10 minutes simmering.

    3:25 pm  Dec 1st, 2009
  21. Monica

    I have just discovered steel cut oats and made them for the first time yesterday – I think my water measurement was a tad off..but I tried and will keep on! What I love with any oatmeal is pour on top of sliced bananas and a little bit of milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon. I am so enjoying your site – Thank you!

    10:16 am  Dec 8th, 2009
  22. Jinhan

    Yeah, oatmeal is one of my favorite meals during the winter season. Usually with cinnamon, sometimes cooked with diced apple. But I mainly wanted to say that if you have any concern about preserving the nutrition in your meals, then DON’T USE THE MICROWAVE.

    10:16 pm  Dec 20th, 2009
  23. Becky

    Steel cut oatmeal with Blueberries. My Blueberries are frozen, so I put on when the oatmeal is piping hot and it cools the oatmeal. Brown sugar and if I have it, Half&Half. Very good!!

    6:55 am  Jan 10th, 2010
  24. Jennifer

    I love steel cut oats! My quest to find the best, easy-overnight cooking method has been extensive. I’ve read a lot of suggestions on the internet. And after lots of trial and error, I’ve decided that the crock pot method just won’t work for me.

    I’ve tried over and over again to cook it in slow cookers to have it ready for the morning, but have never been satisfied with the results. I’ve tried various sizes of slow cookers, and various temperatures. On the plus side,the oatmeal is nice and hot when you wake up. But, cooked in a slow cooker, the oatmeal is really overdone on the outsides and pretty soft in the center. Mixed together, it is actually OK, but there is always that ‘crust’ of not-so-appetizing baked oatmeal and later the task of soaking and cleaning the crock – no fun. I’ve tried spraying the crock or rubbing it with butter before cooking the oats, and I’ve used a timer to keep the cooking time to a minimum, but nothing has prevented the crusty clean-up problem. The only idea that might seem to work would be to use the crock pot as a water bath for a container of oatmeal…but I haven’t been able to figure out what container would work in one of my crock pots…and besides, it then becomes such an ordeal, that it’s no easier than cooking oatmeal on the stove. The same goes for cooking it in the pressure cooker – fast, yes, but the logistics of setting up the pot in the water bath….kind-of a headache.

    So, I tried the thermos suggestion – sounded easy! But, though I pre’heated’ the thermos with boiling water for 15 minutes, and used boiling water to mix up the oatmeal I placed in the thermos, my oats were only slightly cooked and were still too watery and unappetizing the next morning. Then, after reading about the ‘precook’ method – I decided to combine it with the thermos method. While I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, I prepped my thermos w/ boiling water while I boiled my oats for 5-10 minutes. Clean up of the cooking pot was easy – nothing cooked long enough to make a mess. I dumped the prep water out of the thermos and put the ‘parboiled’ oats and water in. Next morning? PERFEÇT!!! Still slightly warm (truthfully, it needed a few secs in the microwave – but I did make it early in the evening and our house is pretty cold right now – temps outside are very low and inside are rarely over 65), my oatmeal was still ‘just right’ nutty and chewy but, at the same time, creamy. I used a lunch thermos that holds a bit over 2 cups, so my husband enjoyed some, too. Now, this method isn’t much different from the one which involves leaving it on the stove overnight to finish cooking in the morning, but in the event that you just want to completely avoid cooking or pot washing in the morning, then this method might work for you.

    Next time? I’m going to try sauteing my oats in butter before adding water, then following the same procedure – cook for a few minutes, then quickly put it in a thermos until morning. Sauteing the grains before adding water is a method that I’ve used forever for making brown rice, and I know what a difference it can make. I’m sure it’ll improve our oatmeal….which just goes to show that the more I keep reading about different ways to cook oatmeal…the more great ideas I learn!

    Good luck to all the rest of you and thanks for all the great ideas!

    12:06 pm  Jan 11th, 2010
  25. Jennifer

    I’ve always despised the texture of regular oatmeal, and especially the instant stuff. For some reason I was intrigued by steel cut oats after seeing a recipe in a recent issue of Cooking Light and I decided to try it. I picked up a canister from Trader Joe’s last week and my mind has been blown. I’ve been making my oatmeal using 1 cup of oats, 2 cups of water and 2 cups of milk. I’ve used 2% milk and found it to be a bit too much, so I’m experimenting with 1% or lowering the milk to water ratio. Also, I top the cooked oatmeal with a drizzle of honey, chopped walnuts and sliced banana. Holy Toledo, that’s some amazing chow!!!

    9:47 pm  Jan 22nd, 2010
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  27. Ashley

    Hello,

    Love this site! I just tried the steel cut oats from the silver can myself and made them using a rice cooker. It took a while, about 45 minutes, for me to be confident that they were cooked enough because they were really hard and chewy there for a while. I put 1/4 cup oats with 1/2 cup low fat goat milk and 1/2 cup water and it tasted pretty good. I have to admit that I am an oat bran girl myself because I enjoy the texture so much, like a creamy delicious porridge that tastes naughty :) It also takes about a minute to cook and has more nutrients including iron, magnesium, calcium and more! I use a brand sole at Mrs. Green’s Market called Mother’s 100% natural oat bran and always top it off with 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed, cinnamon and a packet of spoonable stevia. I’m telling you it is pure heaven! I also eat a handful of blueberries and strawberries first thing after waking up on an empty stomach to give my stomach time to digest it while waiting for the oat bran to cook. My doctor suggested I eat fruit this way since I was always getting indigestion from combining it with other foods and it has worked like a gem, he just said to be sure to eat something with protein after about 5-15 minutes later of any fruit you eat to keep the blood sugar steady. Oatbran anyone?

    5:31 am  Aug 14th, 2010
  28. LadySharpe

    Thank you for the great recipe. Just a heads up I have froze left overs of my oatmeal and when I reheated it you could really taste the difference…yeah, don’t do it.

    9:05 am  Sep 26th, 2010
  29. Edie Davenport

    The first cool morning of fall and I’m loving my steel cut oats. Love the idea of cooking ahead and storing individual containers — for a different breakfast each day. Great site!

    6:49 am  Oct 13th, 2010
  30. Mitch

    For those who love steel cut oatmeal but don’t have the time, a new product has hit some stores. It’s frozen steel cut oatmeal that only takes 2.5 minutes to heat in the microwave. It’s from Good Food Made Simple and comes in Unsweetened, Maple Syrup and Brown Sugar, and a Fruits with Berries. The Unsweetened can be heated up and then mixed with anything you like.

    9:17 am  Jan 27th, 2011
  31. Alex

    Thanks for the info on cooking steel cut oats. I bought some from the natural foods department of my grocery store, and they didn’t come with instructions. So delicious! I love mine with a little milk, brown sugar, almonds, and raisins–just a bit of each. The oats are wonderfully chewy and are fantastic along with the crunchy almonds.

    12:53 pm  Jan 30th, 2011
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  36. Mary T

    I’m just coming on board with this site on the web. I’ve eaten oatmeal all my life but didn’t know about steel-cut oats until I saw it one day on Oprah. Since than, it’s been heaven. I haven’t tried adding the yogurt on top but that’s next.

    But listen to this story everyone! As a young teenager, when I was in a hurry to catch the bus one morning, I poured my oatmeal (rolled oats) into a cup to cook them but I was running late. My brothers yelled, “Here comes the bus.” I dumped the raw oatmeal into a paper cup and on the way to school, I tossed them into my mouth, bit-by-bit, and ate them all. I know y’all are going whaaattt!!!! However, think about it.
    I was hungry, so, many things taste better when you’re hungry. Oatmeal is raw in granola bars, trail mixes, etc. It wasn’t bad. I’ve done it many times since…just because I wanted to do it.

    Don’t get me wrong; of course I like my oatmeal cooked but this accidentally happened and it wasn’t so bad. As for steel cut oats, they’re the best.
    “We like the steel, not the meal;
    and ‘in the cut’, we like the nuts.
    Cream or milk, gives us the silk;
    it’s yummy-yummy, for health and tummy.”

    Peace Out! (Having fun…Age 61; BS & MPA)

    5:48 am  Oct 15th, 2011
  37. Rodney

    The boiling water and left overnight works for me. I’ve done other things with steel cut oats, made pancakes, made seasoned onion and garlic cakes (like Momma did with left over mashed potatoes), used it in soups, love it in chili. Mixed grits and oats and still experimenting.
    The exercise/fit folks use oats in lots of ways.
    Nuke in a plastic container? I have info overload on plastic in Micro waves.
    One of the fitness dudes on the web uses the small glass fruit jars to make his weekly meals and he premixes the fruits/flavorings in before he stores them. Cool idea.
    Lots of steel cut oatmeal online now. Mccanns, Amazon, Honeywell, etc.

    5:56 pm  Jan 12th, 2012
  38. JulieMeyer

    I toss in a fruit flavor tea bag or chai tea with my oatmeal. Yummy and makes it really sweet without added sugar. This was a kitchen oops but now I can’t make any kind of oatmeal without tea.

    10:46 am  Mar 6th, 2012
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  40. Kathy H

    @Ellen – thank you for the banana idea!!!! Happen to have a 4 in the fridge that no one will eat because they are too dark. I love to make banana bread….but don’t love putting that oven on in the summer, so in the water they went. LOVE oatmeal & have cooked bulk (for myself only – the other don’t know what they are missing). Thanks for sharing :p

    2:55 pm  Jun 26th, 2012
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