When people first set out to start eating better, one of the first things people tell you is, “Oh, just eat some oatmeal for breakfast.” In fact, if you follow the BGG2WL Meal Plans, one of the things I mention straight up is the affordability and ease of oatmeal.
But which kind? And what the hell do I do with it?
Oh, should I just get some packets? I mean, these packets should work, right?
If you take a look at the side label for one of your boxes of oatmeal packets – you know, the kind that you just add warm water to – you’ll notice a few things:
For starters, the ingredients list is out of control. “Peach flavored apple flakes,” “powdered creaming agent,” “hydrogenated” oils – and we’ve talked about that, although hydrogenated coconut oil is a new one for me – and guar gum… basically, nothing about this oatmeal is authentic.
And, not to mention, the nutrition facts. The fiber is low, the protein is low, but the sugar? That’s awfully high. Two and a half teaspoons of sugar for what amounts to less than two thirds of a cup of oatmeal for breakfast?
Raise your hand if you ate multiple packets at once. I can’t even type right now because I’ve got both hands in the air. Lucky for you, I’m pretty good at typing with my toes.
I’ll disinfect my keyboard later.
Making oatmeal at home might require more effort than, say, making a large batch of granola, portioning it out, and eating that like cereal, but it’s so worth it… especially on those cold winter mornings. (Or even mornings where it was so hot the night before, you woke up to a freezing house because of the A/C.) For Mini-me, her weekend mornings aren’t complete until she gets to choose what kind of oatmeal she gets that day.
Roller oats are awesome, buuuuut… steel cut oatmeal is a different kind of beast.
It looks differently from your regular rolled oats. The texture is far creamier. It’s higher in protein and fiber – averaging at around 7-9 grams of each fiber and protein across brands. It’s also super easy to make at home.
What are steel cut oats? They’re literally the whole groats, kernels (or berries; see: wheatberries) of cereal grains, crushed and cut cross-wise into little pellets that, when boiled, make a creamy and ultra filling bowl of yum. That is… if you know what you’re doing.
An improperly cooked pot of steel cut oats will leave you eating something crunchy and chewy in unpleasant ways. And, while the level of done-ness is totally up to you, just know that if yours wasn’t smooth and creamy, it’s not because you failed at life. There are simply a few variables that you need to tweak.
For starters, the water content. The water to oats ratio for steel cut oatmeal is always 3:1. If you’re cooking half a cup of dried steel-cut oats, you need three half-cups of water. If you’re cooking a full cup of steel-cut oats, you need three cups of water.
In other words, however much oats you’re putting in your pot, you need at least three of that much in water to cook it.
You start with boiling water, and then you drop your oats into the pot. Almost instantly, you should get a nice, frothy texture going. It’s almost kinda gross looking… but YOLO. (I’ve really got to stop saying YOLO.)
As soon as the pot is bubbling with the oats inside, turn your stove down as low as possible. Mine literally goes on the “Lo” setting.
Slowly, you’ll notice the oats will begin to puff up, and the water will look as if it’s beginning to drain. Good. Still not done, yet. This process should take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending upon how hot your stove gets.
Now, we’re closer to done. When your oatmeal looks like this, give it a good stir. You should see oats that are fuller, softer, and give way to a creamier consistency in the pot.
Scoop your oats into your bowl, and flavor at will. You can use dried fruits and spices, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, whatever you like. Chances are high that anything in this bowl has far fewer ingredients, far more protein and fiber, and far less sugar than anything you’ve poured out of a packet. The entire process takes 30-45 minutes.
These are Mini-me’s oats, with frozen blueberries, brown sugar, salt, and butter.
…and those are steel cut oats with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar.
Now, let’s talk troubleshooting.
Buying your oats in bulk is the cheapest option. (Spoiler: It’s always the cheapest option.) Sure, you can get yours from a package, just be sure to check the side label to make sure nothing unnecessary is lurking within.
As with all grains, store your oats in an air-tight container.
If your oats are done and there’s more water in the pot than you’d like, then you can always use a slotted spoon to scoop your oats out of the pot. The excess liquid would fall between the holes in the spoon, and you’d get your oats. Be mindful of this next time you make oats, and adjust your water for your stove and pot accordingly. (Sometimes, heats and temperatures may vary, and other variables like altitude and weather can make a difference, as well.)
If your oats have burned on the bottom, to the point where your entire pot was coated in oats, no worry – scoop out whatever oats you can eat into your bowl, and then fill your pot with warm water. Let it soak, and a spoon should help your oats slide right out of your pot.
If you don’t have time to cook your oats in the morning… well, that’s why we have overnight oats! Bring your water to a boil, turn off your stove, dump your oats in, add a generous pinch of salt for every cup of oats you’re cooking, stir, cover your pot, and leave it.
Yes, leave it. You read correctly.
When you awake the next morning, you’ll add a fourth cup of water to your oats, stir, and put it on low heat. Give it ten minutes tops, and you should have thick, creamy, pudding-like oatmeal, too. This video from America’s Text Kitchen goes into pretty in-depth detail about this process.
Suppose you don’t want to use sugar at all. No worries, baby. When I sat in on a panel that Mark Bittman was giving once, he talked about the glories of savory oatmeal, something he discusses in his book, Vegan Before 6 (that’s my affiliate link – if you’re interested in buying the book, use my link and I’ll get a few pennies from the sale.) I wound up making a parsley and Parmesan oatmeal that was so good, I almost proposed to myself. Seriously, it was basically breakfast risotto. And I was – and still am – here for it.
Steel cut oats are delicious, infinitely flavor-able, and affordable. At less than $2 per pound, when purchased in bulk and eaten with delicious spices, you could easily get five days worth of breakfast for less than $10.
See? Make those steel cut oats happen today!