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Oatmeal + milk = burnt pot

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No matter what kind of oatmeal I make (steel-cut, Quaker's), no matter how fast or slow I cook it, whenever I cook it in milk, as I prefer, I always make a mess out of the bottom of the pan. Any suggestions for avoiding this?

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  1. I like oatmeal made with milk too - I tend to go half and half water and milk. ANYthing cooked in milk is going to tend to burn when it dries out at the surface of the pan. So there are three things you can do (1 first and foremost, use a double boiler which greatly reduces these problems (2) stir all the time which prevents the heat buildup in a particular spot (3) use more liquid in your mix. this last will mean the oatmeal takes longer to cook, but the starches will gradually cook out of the grains and make for a lovely creamy thickened milk and tender grains, sort of like congee - if you expect all of the fluid to be absorbed into the grains, you will definitely have burning problems unless you stir continually. start with a lot more milk/water than you think you need and cook on low heat for a long time - I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    1. Use half water/half milk, cook over moderate heat, and stir, stir, stir. (Stirring not only prevents burning, but makes the oatmeal creamier, helping to activate and extract the natural starches in the oats.) Also, I'm willing to bet that your pot has a thinner bottom, not a thick, heavy base that evenly distributes heat. If so, that's your biggest problem. Get a nice heavy-bottomed pot.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Regan B

        I'm with you about the pot. I can make oatmeal with milk without any problems in an All-Clad pot, which has a heavy bottom. Once I got my All Clad pots and pans, I couldn't believe the difference in performance. No burning, no sticking. Ever.
        Oh, I have gas too, which may help. I know I prefer it.

        1. re: monavano

          Heavy pot - check. Gas stove - check. Stirring - got me there. I'm so lazy in the morning. I guess I'll do better with that, and try some water in the mix.

      2. Another option, and much more of an investment, is to use a rice cooker with a nonstick pot for steel cut oats with milk. (Nearly all models have nonstick pots, but I like Sanyo.) I've also used the microwave to cook rolled oats with milk, but I like the texture from stovetop cooking MUCH better. (Use a large bowl, 3-4 times the capacity of your portion, if using the microwave. The milk will boil over anything smaller quite easily.) Otherwise, for stovetop cooking, get a silicone spatula and stir and scrape the entire time it's cooking. Use a Le Creuset saucepan, which will distribute heat more evenly, and be a bit easier to clean because of the enameled lining.

        1. Another option is to cook the oatmeal in water and added powdered milk right before its done. You get creaminess without burning. I usually hate powdered milk, but in this situation it works great. I still add more milk right before serving. Oh and I wouldn't do it with steel cut oats, I treat those like special occasion breakfast food and stir them alot.

          1. Use the microwave. My mom laughed at me scrubbing oatmeal pots during one visit and told me to start nuking it. Once I got the formula down for my microwave (for 1/2 c oatmeal and 3/4 c liquid, 90 sec on Hi, stir, another 60 sec--but it's a really strong micro) I was happy as a clam.

            Another option is to cook stovetop with 1/4 cup less water, then dump in 1/2 and 1/2 (or even better--heavy cream!) at the end. All that creaminess yet no baked-on pot.

            1 Reply
            1. re: venera

              i tried the microwave option with regular rolled oats + milk...wow the results were amazing.

            2. Always had this happen, just soaked it with cold water until I got home from work, and it slid right off, always without a Teflon surface.