Steel Cut Oats for Breakfast

oats.jpgThis morning marks another seasonal milestone in my daily life: breakfast was a big, steaming bowl of steel cut oats with maple syrup. When the weather gets cool, this is the perfect food for filling your belly and warming your bones.

If you’re only familiar with oatmeal made from rolled oats, steel cut oats can come as a surprise. Although they would seem to be an almost identical foodstuff, they’re worlds apart in terms of taste and texture. I’m fond enough of rolled oats, but steel cut oats are fabulous, with a firm, chewy texture and a rich, nutty flavor.

The problem with steel cut oats — and the reason most of us get our oatmeal from little packets of quick cooking oats — is that they can take a very long time to cook. Prepared traditionally on a stovetop, you’re talking almost 45 minutes. Microwaving is much faster, of course, but the results can be disappointing. One trick is to soak the oats in water overnight. Another is to use a rice cooker, which is what I’ve been doing. (It’s really hard to find instructions on how to do this, so I’m including a recipe after the cut.)

You can buy steel cut oats in most grocery stores. McCann’s Irish Oatmeal is the standard, although it’s a bit pricey. Trader Joe’s sells a certified organic version, which I really like.

Cooking Steel Cut Oats in a Rice Cooker

Warning: Do not try this with quick cooking or rolled oats. It will most likely explode into a horrible, gummy mess all over your kitchen!

In the evening, put 1 part steel cut oats and 3 parts water in the rice cooker. (A full cup of oats will make three medium or two large servings.) Soaking overnight makes the oats cook more quickly and it also minimizes the risk of boiling over. Set the timer on the rice cooker, selecting the “porridge” setting if your rice cooker has one. Wake up to a yummy, warm breakfast. (If your boyfriend serves it to you in bed with a big cup of strong coffee you really are the girl with the most cake!)

11 Comments so far

  1. skye (unregistered) on October 15th, 2005 @ 8:47 am

    over at, a claim has been made that slow cookers are The Thing To Use (for oats), so I’m planning to try that at least once this winter — I just need one of those cute little one-quart cookers.

  2. wendolen (unregistered) on October 15th, 2005 @ 9:10 am

    I sat down at the computer with my own big bowl of steelcut oatmeal and maple sugar to find this post topping my friends list. I buy my oats in bulk, from Whole Foods or PCC or Central Market, and I use Cook’s Illustrated’s “The Best Bowl of Oatmeal” recipe. It does call for standing and stirring for about 20 minutes, but it’s never seemed that strenuous to me, and the toasting-in-butter step does wonderful (non-vegan, though) things to the flavor of the oats.

  3. TonyD (unregistered) on October 15th, 2005 @ 9:58 am

    Let me join the bandwagon in saying that steel cut oatmeal is a real treat. We prefer the Trader Joes stuff, but the Red Mill brand (sometimes seen at Red Apple) is also quite good.

  4. eas (unregistered) on October 15th, 2005 @ 10:42 am

    Nice. Just this morning I had my second bowl of oats of the season. I was lazy though, I microwaved them and used coarse rolled oats, but it was still good.

    I like to mix in some pecans too. I’ll even toast them if I’m not feeling lazy.

  5. Cat Nilan (unregistered) on October 15th, 2005 @ 11:56 am

    Yep, I bet a slow cooker would work really well with steel cut oats too. The hardest part seems to be getting the right proportion of water to oats. The first few times I tried the rice cooker I used way too much water and the oats came out all soupy. I think setting things up to cook the night before so the oats get a chance to soak helps alot.

    I do enjoy cooking the oats on the stove — there’s something both restful and energizing about all that stirring. But on Saturday mornings I go to a 9:00 yoga class, so it’s nice to let my cute little Zojirushi do all the work for me ahead of time.

  6. Laurel (unregistered) on October 16th, 2005 @ 8:34 am

    If you don’t want to pay the ridiculous price for the stuff in the can, check the bulk section. Madison Market has steel cut oats for somewhere around 89 cents a pound (I think it’s the stuff from Red Mill, just cheaper because you scoop it yourself). Any store with a bulk section will probably have them…

  7. terry Pogue (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2005 @ 6:19 pm

    Here is my recipe for doing steel cut oats in a slow cooker/crockpot. I use a 1.5 quart crockpot.

    Maple Oatmeal with Dreid Fruit and Sweet Spices – Serves 2


    1 cup Steel cut oats
    1/2 cup Raisins or dried cherries, dried blueberries, or dried cranberries — 1
    1 teaspoons Apple pie spice or ground cinnamon mixed with a pinch of ground cloves, nutmet, and allspice
    4 cup Water
    2 tablespoons Maple syrup or granulated maple sugar — plus extra for serving


    1. Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or overnight.

    2. Stir the oatmeal well and scoop into bowls with an oversized spoon. Serve with milk and maple syrup or sugar.

    Printed from A Cook’s Books — Recipe management for Macintosh

  8. skye (unregistered) on November 3rd, 2005 @ 12:13 am

    thanks Terry: that looks great! I was reading on a website somewhere that you can carve the leftovers up and store them in the fridge for the week, and they apparently heat up well, which … let’s just say it’s going to be a one-person job in my house to eat them, so I’ll need all the time I can get!

  9. Kate (unregistered) on November 6th, 2005 @ 2:01 pm

    Well, I never knew so many folks liked oatmeal! I’ve just gotten back on the wagon diet-wise and came home with, among other things, steel cut oats. While I’ve usually only used organic rolled oats ………. now I’m going hunting for a slow cooker! Thanks so much for your ideas.
    Kate in West Virginia

  10. Lisa (unregistered) on November 10th, 2005 @ 11:50 am

    I hate regular rolled oats (always taste either mushy or undercooked), but I *love* steel cut oats. I usually make them in a small (1 1/2 qt.) crockpot…I do 10 ounces water, 10 ounces of milk, and 3/4 cup of oats. Spray with cooking spray or rub with a bit of butter. Mine end up cooking about 9-10 hours; you would need to adjust the liquid up or down depending on how long they will cook. I’ve also used a “little dipper” crockpot for 1-2 servings and had to up the liquid to oatmeal ratio. I always attributed this to the fact that my little dipper has a plastic lid (and seems to leak more moisture/steam), but could be wrong. Point being that my 1 1/2 qt. has a glass lid; if yours has a plastic one, you might need more liquid.

    I do get a ring of crusty brown stuff where element in the crockpot is. I typically just throw it away; I hate wasting it, but justify it to myself by the fact that bulk steel cut oats are cheap. This is greatly lessened if you just use water (but I love the taste so much better with milk). I soak my crock all day and wash out at the end of the day. Occasionally I will (after cleaning it) fill it with water and a bit of dishwasher detergent and let it “cook” for a while, then whatever brown stains have built up come off easily with a brush.

    I like them a little better on the stove, but on a typical morning don’t have 1/2 hour-45 minutes to stand over them. It sure is nice having breakfast ready to dump in a bowl before work. I pair this with my “citrus smoothie”…1 orange, 1/2 each of a grapefruit, lemon & lime; blend with apple juice and ice to taste. Yum-yum. Can’t say I don’t get my fiber! :)

    Oh, and Kmart and Target both have the small slow cooker. I think it costs about $10.

    How do you guys reheat the leftovers? Mine always seems to be in a rubbery blob, and I haven’t had much success restoring them to the original creamy state…any suggestions?

  11. Chloe (unregistered) on November 10th, 2005 @ 8:56 pm

    I am so excited to hear that I can use a crock pot for steel cut oats! I suppose it makes sence if you think about it for half a second…
    I have to share that Portage Bay Restaurant in the UDistrict has GLORIOUS oatmeal made with soy milk and chai. I could eat it every day.

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