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cooking steel-cut oats overnight in slow cooker

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This was one of my main reasons for buying a crockpot at a garage sale, but when I halved Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network site and cooked it overnight (1/2 c. oatmeal, 2 cups water, 1/4 c. milk instead of half and half, with some dried fruit), I ended up with mush instead of that oat-y flavor I love in steel-cut oats.

Do you think this is a problem with a) the slow cooker, b) halving a recipe, or c) something else? Any tips for making oatmeal in a crockpot?

Much thanks.

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  1. I hate this method; too mushy for me (actually, more like wallpaper paste), but I think a lot of people like that.

    I always toast steel-cut oats in a skillet before cooking to enhance their flavor and texture.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.

      We make something like this at home. It's from my family's macrobiotic days and it's called hato-mugi. I believe that hato-mugi is actually a grain in its own right (?), but a tiny bag of it is several dollars at the health food store. We use whole hulled oats and pearled barley. Having used whole oats all these years I can see how steel cut ones would turn to total mush.

      I believe that all we do is put 1 part grain (half barley to half oats) with 8 parts water and a t. of salt and cook it all night. This is a very simple form. You could probably add milk and raisins, etc. and have a yummy breakfast. I find that milk in general makes oatmeal-type-things more gooey, so I use water instead.

      B/c we were macrobiotic at the time, we generally had brown rice syrup or molasses on top as the sweetner. I still love molasses on it, but it's quite tasty with brown sugar and half-and-half. Enjoy!

      1. re: tigrr_lily

        Agreed, using milk in the cooking liquid makes oatmeal glue. Apple cider straight, or with water, adds good flavor. Ditto diluted maple syrup.

        1. re: tigrr_lily

          I often cook 1 part hato mugi to 2 or even 3 parts brown rice, to stretch out its expense. It's called Job's tears in English. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job'... It has a great flavor, almost like corn.

          My favorite way to fix steel cuts oats overnight is to toast them in a teaspoon of butter, then add the water and bring to a boil. I clap the lid on, turn off the heat, and let them sit covered overnight. In the morning, I add salt and it reheats in about five minutes, Prepared this way, porridge has that great thick, but not too thick, texture and a wonderful toasty flavor.

      2. Alton's crock pot recipe didn't work for me either. However, a hound, who's name I have forgotten, gave a great recipe for steel cut oats that I tried recently.

        You toast the oats, pour in water, add a piece of vanilla bean, cover and turn off the stove. In the morning, add milk, salt, sugar, cook until you like the consistency.

        That worked out great for me. The final product was creamy but the oats still had a nice chew. Perhaps you could search for old McCann's threads...I have deliberately not given you measurements because I'm afraid I will mis-remember.

        1. I hated Alton Brown's slow cooker oats -- for one thing, adding the dried fruit the night before means that you will have a pile of apricot-flavoured mush. Also, using buttermilk for some reason results in mushier oats.

          Halving the recipe means it cooks faster and thus overcooks -- this may be part of your mush issue. Just make the whole recipe, it reheats well (or you can refrigerate it and cut it into oat cakes, which you then fry in butter and eat with maple syrup).

          I toast 1 c. steel-cut oats in butter (usually) and put them in the Crock Pot with two cups water, two cups milk (we use 1%), butter if I didn't already toast the oats, 2 Tbsp. sugar and ½ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg. I turn on the Crock Pot before retiring at 2300 hours and it's ready for me at 0630.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Much thanks, Das Ubergeek! Tried your way last night and it was much better, a lot more chew. I'm going to try some of the other suggestions next week, once I get through my leftovers.

          2. I just purchased some oats today....was thrilled to find you could put them in a pot and cook while one slept....but....after reading your happening, decided to look further. Found this recipe....hope it works for you....I'm going to try it for breakfast tomorrow.
            2 c water
            1/2 t salt
            1 c steel oats.
            Cover and let simmer for about 15 min. or until tender. Serve with a pat of butter, milk or cream, and sweeten with honey, natural fruit or syrup.

            2 Replies
            1. re: lin

              You'll need a four-to-one ratio of liquid to steel-cut oats, not two-to-one.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Das Ubergeek ist wahr! You'll need 4 c water, and 15 minutes isn't long enough. You'll need 30 or more, stirring often. For some reason the directions on steel-cut oats packaging are way off. I have a canister from Scotland that says to add oats to boiling water, simmering 3-5 minutes then standing for 2 minutes. Its microwave instructions are about the same. Both need far more cooking time. I have a canister from Trader Joes that has the same incorrect nuking instructions, but does get the stovetop ones, at 30 minutes.

                I stir in the dried fruit when the cooking is finished, and let them sit for 2-3 minutes before adding milk and eating. That's long enough to pleasantly soften the fruit.

            2. Alton's recipe inspired me to try steel cut oats, and have been eating oatmeal at least four times a week in the past few weeks as a result.

              However, I, too, found his recipe lacking. Further, I'm lactose intolerant, so I could not use the buttermilk component.

              I tried halving the recipe and ended up with the same mush. I tried substituting unsweetened soy milk for the buttermilk and then tried omitting any kind of milk, and found little difference between soy milk and no milk.

              My slow cooker has three temperature settings: High (4 or 6 hours), Low (8 or 10 hours), and Warm (indefinite time). I tried many variations at Low 8 hours and always ended up with a huge amount of the oatmeal drying and caking up around the edge. The stuff left in the middle was very good, but I felt a lot of oatmeal was going to waste.

              My theory was my slow cooker's Low temperature was still to hot. I made one key adjustment and I haven't stopped using it:

              I now start with boiling hot water from an electric kettle, and set the slow cooker immediately to Warm. There is now minimal drying and no caking. The texture is also very thick but still creamy and smooth.

              The few times I tried using dried fruit at the beginning of the cooking, I did not like the taste.

              So, here's my recipe:

              5 cups water
              1 cup steel cut oats
              1/3 tsp salt

              Turn on the slow cooker and set it to Warm (the very lowest temperature on my slow cooker). Let the stoneware warm up for 10 minutes.

              Begin boiling the water. In the mean time, measure out the one cup of steel cut oats and add it into the warm slow cooker. When the water is boiling, pour it into the slow cooker, briefly stir the oats. Add the salt. Cover the slow cooker.

              After just an hour, the oatmeal is actually already edible, although the oats will still be chewy. After a total of 6 to 8 hours, the oatmeal will have a nice thick but smooth consistency, virtually no chewiness left. It will need a good stir to even things out before serving into two bowls (generous servings).

              My gf likes her serving with a 1/2 tsp condensed milk and a few pieces of freeze dried strawberries stirred in.

              I like it with 1 tsp brown sugar and a good handful of dark raisins stirred in.

              It packs easily in a container to take to the office, needing a brief zap in the microwave.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Benny Choi

                Benny, have you ever tried Coconut milk as suggested in this video: http://www.chow.com/stories/11620

                1. re: Benny Choi

                  1/2 tsp of condensed milk would be undetectable on the palate.

                2. John McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal. Prepare portions according to recipe, but evening before retiring, bring water to boil, toss in oatmeal, stir and turn off. Leave in pot overnight with lid on. heat up in morning with a little milk or zap in microwave.

                  1. I sometimes make steel cut oats the night before, and then I just reheat them in the AM.

                    I like to put the oats in a dry pan for a moment or two and let them toast a little, and slowly add the water, then lower the heat.

                    1. I use a slow cooker but find that overnight is just too long even on the lowest setting, so I plug mine into one of those cheap kitchen timers so it just cooks for a couple hours. You'll probably have to play with the timing / amount of liquid etc. for your particular cooker.

                      1. IMHO the basic problem you have is that you're trying to use a slow cooker for something that doesn't need it. Use AB's recipe as written and you have nirvana-in-a-bowl. Overcook oatmeal for 6 or 8 hours and you have nasty tasting, nasty textured gruel not fit to feed to the hogs.

                        Get up 20 minutes earlier and do it right <grin>!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: KiltedCook

                          The cited AB recipe is specifically for a slow cooker.

                          1. re: KiltedCook

                            I'm on your team, KiltedCook. Steel Cut Oats aren't supposed to be smooth and creamy, That describes oatmeal (and you can make that instantly from a package) with a smiling Dutchman on the label. Just get up twenty minutes earlier, start the water and when you're washed up for the day your steel oats will be nice and chewy as they should be.
                            While I respect AB's culinary suggestions, they're not all as good as he seems to think they are. Making mushy steel cut oats is almost criminal.

                          2. not in a crockpot, but here's my favorite way of cooking steel-cut oats. pan toast 2 cups oats until nicely brown. add 6 cups liquid (2 cups milk, soy milk or 15-oz can of coconut milk, 4 cups water, pinch of salt). at medium-low heat, it should take 20-30 minutes to absorb the liquid. i usually stir in about a tablespoon of ginger spread or grated ginger.


                            for a savory oat risotto, i use chicken stock (skip added salt).