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OATMEAL-O-RAMA – The best oatmeal

Is there a difference I wondered? Naaaaaah … not that much.

THE RESULTS: best to worst:

1. Christine and Bob’s Old Fashioned Oatmeal

2. Snoqualmie Falls Lodge Oatmeal

3. Bob’s Red Mill Organic old fashioned rolled oats

4. Old Wessex Ltd Scottish Style Porridge Oats

5. Old Fashioned Quaker Oats

6. Country Choice Organic Oven Toasted Oats

7. Albertson’s Old Fashioned oats (generic supermarket brand)

8. The Silver Palate Thick & Rough Oatmeal

Yup … Silver Palate … dead last … worse than I remembered the taste of generic oatmeal. It tasted like cardboard.

TESTING METHODOGY

1. Note uncooked appearance of each … small, medium, large oats, thickness, oatmeal dust, color

2. Microwave (2.5 minutes). 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 cup water
3. Taste oatmeal … note … sip water to clear palate.
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 seven times

5. Taste Quaker as benchmark. Sip water
6. Taste other brand … better or worse than Quaker?
7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 lining up in order of preference

8. Before freezing … one more bite in order of preference
9. Rearrange rankings
10. Freeze for future breakfasts.

CONCLUSION

Ya know, despite all the slick copy on the pricy oatmeal boxes … one oatmeal isn’t that much better than another.

The oatmeal was tasted plain, but once milk or brown sugar or butter or raisins or other fruit or whatever is added … the minute discrepancies aren’t going to matter … except for Silver Palate … hate that stuff.

Oats that were thinner produced a lot of oatmeal dust which, IMO, makes the oatmeal gluey.

THE DETAILS

1. CHRISTINE AND BOB’S OLD FASHIONED OATMEAL 20 oz ($5.99)
International Fancy Food Show 1st place award
http://www.christineandrobs.com/

This has always been my favorite oatmeal … so much so when I moved out of the area, I packed up boxes of this oatmeal to take with me.

It looks pretty … evenly shaped, cut thick, almost with ripples. It has a pleasant texture, constancy and chewiness.

That being said … after doing back to back comparisons …will I pony up six bucks for this in the future given most oatmeal was very close? Maybe not.

2. SNOQUALMIE FALLS LODGE OATMEAL 24 oz ($4.99)
http://www.continentalmills.com/brand...

Smaller and a darker toasty color than most, with little dust. Initially it was watery but after sitting a few minutes it had a nice chewy texture.

3. BOB’S RED MILL ORGANIC OLD FASHIONED ROLLED OATS 32 oz (4.29

)

Medium oat with little dust. Nice consistency with a little more flavor than most

4. OLD WESSEX LTD 100% NATURAL WHOLE GRAIN SCOTTISH SYLE PORRIDGE OATS 18.5 oz ($2.99)

I like this oatmeal a lot. The pieces are irregular and there is some dust. It has a nice rough texture.

5. OLD FASHIONED QUAKER OATS 42 oz ($2 – On sale for $2.50 w/50 cent coupon … usually about $4.59 for large size … 18 oz $2.49)
http://www.quakeroats.com/

Given this is often on sale and there are coupons, I’ll probably be buying Quaker the most.. There are large irregular pieces and it has a nice creaminess to it with a bit of texture.

6. COUNTRY CHOICE ORGANIC OVEN TOASTED OATS OLD FASHIONED 18 oz ($2.99
)http://www.countrychoiceorganic.com/

Irregular pieces with more dust than most … it was flat and watery tasting.

7. ALBERTSON’S OLD FASHIONED OATS 100% NATURAL WHOLE GRAIN 18 oz ($2 on sale … usually $2.49

)

Slightly smaller and paler with more dust than most, it was gluier than the others. It is close to the taste of instant oatmeal which is chopped up smaller.

8. THE SILVER PALATE THICK & ROUGH OATMEAL 100% WHOLE GRAIND MILLED OATS 16 oz ($1.99 on sale … usually $3.99)
www.silverpalate.com
NASFT product award

This was just awful. It is everything I remember that was bad about generic brands. There was a cardboard taste to it. It was also slightly bitter and had an unpleasant texture. Slightly thicker cut with little dust.

Now for some pizza … and ice cream … and a life … hey, I don’t have to cook breakfast for the next week … or buy oatmeal again, like forever.

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  1. How about McCann's Irish Oatmeal? Is that available where you live? I love the regular steel cut oats, but they do take a long time. For convenience's sake, I find myself getting the quick cooking which are still significantly better than Quaker. I make it for my 16 mo son with whole milk and have to restrain myself from dumping cinnamon on it and gobbling it up!

    9 Replies
    1. re: amyvc

      I just went with rolled oats rather than steel cut. When I finish my endless stash ... maybe a post for oatmeal recipes is in order at this point, I might do steel cut since I learned on Chowhound about freezing.

      1. re: rworange

        I do a batch of steel cut oats each sunday evening for the following week:
        1.5 cups water
        1.5 cups lite vanilla soy milk
        1 T brown sugar
        2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
        1 cup pure pack pumpkin puree
        1 cup steel cut oats
        1/2 tsp salt
        bring all to a boil, add sco and simmer ~30 minutes.

        1. re: jujuthomas

          this recipe sounds awesome.... i'm assuming you just store it in the fridge? would it be ok to use splenda instead of the brown sugar? and which steel cut oats do you prefer?

          1. re: kubasd

            i use the splenda brown sugar. you could use whatever sweetener you prefer! :)
            I break it up into 1 cup portions (I'm on Weight Watchers).
            I don't really have a preference I"m new to eating sco! :) I get mine at trader joes, the red Country something brand.
            it's very thick when you microwave it, I add a little pumpkin pie spice soymilk and a little more vanilla soymilk to loosen it up.
            I hope you enjoy!

      2. re: amyvc

        I cook steel cut oats in the slow cooker. I put the oats and water in before I go to bed, turn it on low and voila, ready in the morning when I wake up.

        1. re: harken banks

          Good idea! I could do that for the weekend. I usually eat cereal at work before my class gets here. If I ate at home, I'd be hungry for lunch at 9:30 :) thanks for a good suggestion

          1. re: harken banks

            I've tried cooking things in the slow cooker overnight but the smell of cooking food drives me crazy all night. It just seems so un-natural and I have really bizarre dreams the times I did it.

          2. re: amyvc

            I make a full batch of the McCann's Irish Oatmeal and then just nuke it each morning for 4 mornings. Stir in dried fruit, sweetner and top with milk when it's hot as you want it. LOVE the texture of steel cut oats.

            I also use Quaker Old Fashioned oats and nuke them in the morning.

            1. re: KristieB

              And since I just used up my canister of McCann's I am going to try the other brands of steel cut oats as they are cheaper.

          3. Great post. I do feel that some are nuttier than Quaker but all in all the distinction is fine. (And I don't like McCann's, btw, which can be purchased at Trader Joe's. There was no difference worth the money or the puny-size package.

            And the difference in nuttiness? I throw some frozen TJ's walnut baking bits just before eating (as well as often some frozen berries). That cools the oatmeal, which I like without milk or with milk on the side, and adds a lovely nutty taste.

            1. I like steel cut oats when I have time to cook. When I don't have time I use a good quality old fashioned rolled oat, and my own peculiar "quick" technique. I put a half a cup of the rolled oats into my bowl, and pour one cup (approx) of just boiled water over them, and cover tightly for ten minutes while I do something else (brush hair, set up coffee, etc). They "cook" up nicely - more body then instant oatmeal, and not gummy at all. I like it, especially with a bit of maple syrup, or cream.

              1 Reply
              1. re: AnnaEA

                Nice hint. I'll try cooking some like that next week.

              2. Your "Testing Methodology" seems flawed to me...you cooked all these oatmeals the same way, even though their instructions for preparation might be different for every one?
                The types, thickness and toasting/precooking are often different enough to require cooking instructions unique to each of the brands you referenced.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  The testing was flawed because I microwaved, period. I think cooking is best for oatmeal, but beyond my patience or culinary skills & cleaning desires ... all those scorched pots, you know. As it was, sitting through all this microwaving was trying my cooking endurance.

                  Same microwave instructions on all. The difference was that some were more watery right out of the microwave. Stirring and letting sit fixed that. Some were better right out of the microwave ... Albertson's for instance I thought would rank higher, but sitting a while ruined the texture.

                  The best directly from the microwave ... Quaker ... creamy and a handsome looking porridge if there is such a thing.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I just use a non-stick pot! So far no problems with scorching...
                    I haven't got my courage up yet to try my fuzzy logic rice cooker, or slow cooker..for overnight cooking!

                    1. re: rworange

                      Here's a tip about handling your pot. My oatmeal is cooked in a small nonstick All Clad pot with a cover - nonstick skillet does not work right. What I do is put the pot over medium heat for a bit, and then rub it with a bit of vegetable oil: when you do this, you're risk of scorching goes waaaaay down. I toast the steel cut oats in the rubbed pot before adding the water; this brings out their flavor better.

                  2. Please take no offense, but I don't get how making oatmeal stovetop results in scorched pots? It only takes 5-10 minutes, depending on your stove, and if you turn it down once it comes to a boil, there shouldn't be any scorching. Soak the pot in cold water rather than hot, and the goo comes right out with a soapy sponge, no problem. If you're replacing water with milk, I can understand the aversion, but with water, cleanup is simple.

                    BTW, I love the Bob's Red Mill rolled oats, almost as much as steel cut. Have you ever tried steaming rolled oats? I saw the technique mentioned in a letter to Cook's Illustrated. You blanch them first, then steam, and though more time consuming and resulting in more dirty utensils, it's an nice variation for oats fans. I'm going to keep an eye out for your top two brands.

                    1. my favorite and the only kind i can get down (hate the gluey-ness)
                      is bear naked, available much cheaper through amazon, than the grocery store (in organic section)
                      the banana walnut is delicious. and i used to HATE oatmeal. btw, their granola is scrumptious too.

                      1. Thank you, Orange, for doing all this research so the rest of us don't have to...I am a fan of the Quaker's and use the method you describe everyday, except substituting low-fat milk for 1/2 the water and adding both a trace of salt and cinnamon. If you don't cover in microwave (and your bowl is big enough) there is no problem with wateriness, even if consumed RIGHT away.

                        Now, what should I do with the rest of the giant bag of Old-Fashioned Large Flake Quaker Oats I bought in the fall now that spring is nearly upon us? Any good ideas that use up (not) minute oatmeal? All the cookie recipes seem to call for the quick-cooking kind?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: LJS

                          LJS,

                          Have you tried making oatmeal bread? That's the usual destiny for left-over oatmeal around my house. I also use old fashioned oats in crumble toppings - I add a half a cup of oats or so to the flour/butter/sugar/spice crumble. It adds a nice flavour.

                          1. re: LJS

                            What about using it as the "binder" in meat loaf? Or use it in an oatmeal body scrub or facial mask. :-)

                          2. My favorite is Old Wessex Scottish Porridge Oats. I'm a fan of Bob's Red Mill as well, which is slightly cheaper.

                            1. So, you're insane, right? Nice work. Another flaw in the test could be you have an undeveloped palette for the nuances of oat. just kidding. I'm a Quaker type but have tried Bear Naked and couldn't justify the price. Sample of Kashi(?) and was not impressed. It also had a dozen ingredients if I remember. Mine always gets real maple syrup and cinnamon and bananas, raisins or dried cranberries so differences in taste may be hidden. I cannot stomach the supermarket generic though. Tiny pieces of oat. Couldn't eat them and used them in meatloaf instead. Do not eat instant either. I do like a large well shaped oat though. Keep up the good work.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: RC51Mike

                                I started a topic on Home cooking for Oatmeal recipes
                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/377667

                                Isn't Bear Naked granola though? You don't cook it do you? I kind of glanced at it quickly and moved on since I was interested in cooked rolled oats.

                                There is that time in life when you hit bottom. The oatmeal taste-off was it. Yep, yep, yep ... officially insane. Since therapy won't work, I can only put in an application at America's Test Kitchen and see if I can make some money off this ... uh, interest in food. If you are rich & famous ... eccentric ... poor & interested ... nuts. Maybe I can use Martha Stewart as a inspiration as how to channel an interest into $$$.

                                Maybe it was just the oatmeal. This is really a boring product. Hell has to be the job of Oatmeal ad writer. I mean there's about a half a dozen words you can use ... nutty, wholesome, rough, thick, toasted ... avoiding words like bland, cardboard-y, gluey.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  Don't you think America's Test Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated) should have a Western branch here in San Fran. our tastes are often very different from their New England norm..
                                  We ALL could be gainfully employed doing the very same Neurotic Food thing we do anyway...and get paid for it!!!

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    rworange - they do make both oatmeal and granola - amazon doesn't seem to be carrying the oatmeal right now, not sure why.

                                2. absolutely fantastic post. we need more of these type posts around here i think.
                                  i too love oatmeal. some above post mentioned the just-boiled water over oats and covering with wrap while you do something else-style. great idea. you can make that to-go, as well. just put the oats in a to go coffee cup and cover. by the time you get to work or are stuck in traffic you can eat it up. its worked for me the couple times i tried it.

                                  1. Funny enough I picked up a box of Silver Palate last week and just finished eating my second bowl. Not sure what I make of it yet - don't hate it, don't love it. But didn't really tasted bitter or had unpleasant texture; I suspect it's the microwave cooking method. I like it better than the mushy stuff like Quakers.

                                    Still liked the McCann steel cut the best. I like the nutiness and the slight crunch, but I will have to try Bob's next.

                                    My hubbie's preferred method is stovetop for 30 minutes - didn't have a problem with burning it. I like to put the steelcut into a crockpot and cook overnight, but he found the resultant texture too mushy. I also add raisins and sometimes a few scrambled eggs into the pot.

                                    1. You can't MICROWAVE Silver palate Oatmeal! You have to slow cook it! No wonder you didn't like it!! Everyone else, try it for yourself, and try cooking it as per the directions - it's incredibly wonderful!!

                                      1. I thought I'd add my thoughts after tasting all the types I could find on the east and west coasts. It's a pretty similar list.

                                        The setup:
                                        1/2 cup of milk was boiled on the stove, to which was added 1/4 cup oats. Oatmeal was cooked until it was done. With such small batches they generally took close to the same amount of time to finish up. Contenders were blind taste-tested in batches of three, with the top one moving on to the next bracket. The oatmeal was eaten with no additions.

                                        Results from the great oatmeal cook-off:

                                        Snoqualmie Falls
                                        Number 1, although it was close. Good texture and taste, slightly better than Christine and Rob's. Taste is somewhat nutty and toasted. When mail-ordering, it comes in a opaque bag which will keep the sunlight out. I don't know if that actually does anything.

                                        Christine & Rob's
                                        Tasty and a great texture. Very close to Snoqualmie Falls. Clear flimsy bag that needs repackaging.

                                        Old Wessex Scottish Style
                                        Good taste and nice chewy texture. It is fairly cheap and seems widely available on the west coast.

                                        Bob's Red Mill
                                        Nice texture. Had somewhat of an off taste, but nothing like the cardboard one of Silver Palate.

                                        Silver Palate
                                        This one has a nice chewy texture. But that's about its only benefit. It's pricey, and it tastes like cardboard.

                                        Whole Foods bulk
                                        Pretty much indistinguishable from Quaker. It's cheaper and has fewer husks.

                                        Quaker original
                                        Taste was fine, but the texture was like glue. Quaker also was the most consistent at having the outer husks left in, which made for disruptive eating. At least one husk per bowl. At least it's relatively cheap and widely available.

                                        I would be happy eating any of the top three on a regular basis, particularly after adding whatever extras I generally use. Both Snoqualmie Falls and Christine & Robs can be mail ordered in bulk, which is what I'll be doing.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: peterm2

                                          Nice new point ... the husk factor. Didn't consider that one.

                                          Did you get Quaker old fashioned oats or the quick oats which are chopped smaller. Every now and then I pick those up by accident and the glue factor makes it not pleasant to eat.

                                          A new entry is Wal-Mart True Value (I think) old fashioned oats. Pretty much the same as Quaker ... I'll have to pay attention to the husk factor though. Anyway at $1.99 for a large container vs the $4-$5 that Quaker costs these days, the Wal-Mart brand is the better choice for anyone watching pennies.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            It was the old fashioned. I only get those quick cook ones by mistake.
                                            The Christine & Robs and Snoqualmie Falls are each between $3 and $4 per pound after shipping. So it's definitely pricier than some of the other options, but worth it for me on the east coast since I can't get Old Wessex.

                                        2. Coach's Oats available at Costco will definitely make your top 5 after you try them.
                                          ...sure beats Quaker.
                                          Usually McCann's or Coach's for me.

                                          http://www.coachsoats.com/

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: monku

                                            Coach's Oats are my new favorite. I can eat them plain (not something I've ever been willing to do before) but I especially love them topped with fresh sliced peaches and real Grade B maple syrup. To die for.

                                          2. The ne plus ultra of oatmeal is apparently Macroom Irish Oatmeal according to John Thorne's recent article in Simple Cooking (Issue 92 - just released). And we pays attention to John Thorne's opinions, cuz he is, well, great, and he does not live in awe of obscure gourmand ingredients unless they truly add value, as it were. Zingerman's is currently the only vendor for Macroom's in the US. Anyway, here's how Thorne describes Macroom's:

                                            "The aroma of this oatmeal hits your nostrils the moment you open the can. You might as well be at the mill scooping it out of the bin: it's as fresh-seeming and potent as that. In fact, from that moment, I knew that Macroom was going to blow McCann's away. Where McCann's is nutty tasting, Macroom, judging from taste alone, might be mistaken for actual crushed nuts . . . at least until the vegetative aftertaste of the grain comes through. And, despite its fine texture [it's true oat meal], because it hasn't been steam-processed, it cooks up velvety smooth but not at all mushy the way instant oatmeal does."

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Wow, $15 for 2 pounds before shipping (you can't get shipping costs without creating an account). Plus John Thorne's suggestion for cooking it is to toast it in butter, cook it for 30 minutes, and then let it sit for 20 minutes in a double boiler. I wonder how it tastes plain vanilla.

                                              1. re: peterm2

                                                Well, Simple Cooking subscribers get a discount until the end of October....still, it's too dear for my current austerity budget.

                                            2. I just went to the Mollie Stone's on Calif. St. off Fillmore...Christine and Bob's was $4.99.
                                              Have you done a tasting on my favorite type...Steel Cut oats???

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                No. I just eat rolled oats. Steel Cut oats are more work than I can deal with in the morning ... and I'm just not that much of a fan.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  don't know whether these local guys distribute as far as the BA, but here's
                                                  a regional brand to try:
                                                  http://www.buttecreekmill.com/index.h...

                                              2. I like your style RW.

                                                1. Recently went to steel cut oats. You HAVE to make time to have the best, or just presoak.
                                                  Tried McCann's and Bob's Red Mill brands and Red Mill came out on top. Top with cinnamon and Splenda and pig out!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: dg tx

                                                    Just don't like steel cut. I don't see the appeal and I've had them from lots of good restaurants when I was giving them a try.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Thanks for the hints here on cooking oatmeal. I have recently tried steel cut oats and I must say I like them so much better than the rolled. The slimyness factor seems overwhelming in rolled oats. I think because of the chewiness of the unflattened grains I don't feel that slippery, but good for you fiber texture so much. I am a big fan of most whole grains and this seems like more of the real article in the oats department. The cooking time is the problem, but I may try the overnight method, once I get my slow cooker back.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        I didn't care that much about one oatmeal vs. another until recently when I took the time to make some Country Choice Organic Steel Cut Oatmeal I found in our pantry. Except for the significant time investment (45 minutes+) this was maybe the best oatmeal I've ever had. It does have a firmer texture than rolled oats (I guess that's what the standard is), but you just have to make sure you cook them long enough so they're not still hard.

                                                        Note: The box these came in is mostly green and has a classic look, while the ones on the Country Choice site are red, with a much more generic package design. Not sure if they're the same, but think so.

                                                        Question: Is there a quick version of steel cut oats that would be as good? What brands? The overnight pre-soak sounds good too, but I tend not to plan breakfast that far ahead.

                                                    2. SNOQUALMIE FALLS LODGE OATMEAL absolutly the BEST