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Hot Oatmeal for breakfast, can't get it right.

r
Rick Jan 11, 2008 08:49 AM

I order a nice cup of hot oatmeal at a food stand at an auto auction I go to and I just love it. Add in some brown sugar and some raisins and it's a great start to the day. At home I use quaker oats, follow the instructions, and end up with grainy, tasteless bowls of mush that I throw away. I suspect I'm using the wrong type of oatmeal for the texture I'm after but don't know what to buy. The oatmeal i like has a very nice texture, is stiff, without being able to feel each individual oat in my mouth. In fact it looks nothing like the oatmeal I make, rather it looks like little pieces of broken rice. What should I be buying to make hot oatmeal?

  1. p
    polyhymnia Jan 14, 2008 08:44 AM

    to add to the myriad ways of cooking oatmeal here, just wanted to say that I put my oats in the pot with whatever liquid I'm cooking them in the night before and let it soak, then in the morning turn on a low flame and cook, stirring continually so it doesn't burn. This way it only takes as long as cream of wheat rather than forty five minutes to cook your oatmeal.

    1. l
      Liana Krissoff Jan 12, 2008 02:06 PM

      I haven't done a lot of experimenting with different techniques, but I do make steel-cut oats almost every morning in the wintertime for my 2-year-old daughter and I, and I often think to myself that it's the best oatmeal in the universe. It definitely sounds like you want steel-cut, as others have said, started in cold water (I use the Quaker-recommended 1/3 cup oats to 1 3/4 cup water, with a pinch of salt). Bring to a boil, stirring, then turn down the heat to maintain a simmer; stir frequently until it's the texture you're looking for. (I like mine a bit chewy, but it sounds like you prefer it more well done.) I think the cold-water method might just mean it soaks a little first, which softens the grains and lets them get creamier? Stirring also makes it creamy.

      Toasting the oats first sounds like a great idea; thanks, Mister M.—I'll try that tomorrow!

      I almost always add some combination of the following (added right at the beginning, for simplicity's sake), which I keep in bags in a big tin container—my oatmeal kit: lots of flax seeds, a couple tablespoons of grated unsweetened coconut, raisins or dried sour cherries (the latter when I'm feeling extravagant), a little wheat germ (though this changes the flavor in a way I'm not entirely sure I like), good cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. If cardamom weren't such a pain to grind fresh, I'd use that too! The raisins or cherries break down a little as the oatmeal cooks and sweeten it just enough—no need for brown sugar or honey or anything.

      Then again, sometimes I like it completely plain but for a pat of butter and a little milk poured around the edges.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Liana Krissoff
        r
        Rick Jan 13, 2008 08:06 AM

        Well I just made the oat meal and used both methods. For the ratio for both I used 1/3 cup oatmeal and 1 3/4 cup water and a pinch of salt. In one pot I boiled the water then dumped in the oatmeal, the other I put the oatmeal in cold water and brought to a boil. I liked the cold water method better. But, it took 50 minutes for it to cook!? I'm guessing either too much water or I turned the heat down too low. The other problem was that it had some crunchiness too it. Not overly crunchy but more of a snap too it that I'd like to eliminate. Any advice?

        1. re: Rick
          fayehess Jan 13, 2008 02:40 PM

          You can soak the oats overnight if you want to. fayefood.com

        2. re: Liana Krissoff
          waver Jan 13, 2008 04:01 PM

          This is very helpful - I just bought some steel cut oats, so I'll try it out tomorrow (if I can get up in time).

          My can says to serve with buttermilk - has anyone tried that?

          BTW I'm thinking about the cardamom situation as I like that flavour a lot. I suppose you could simmer a few whole pods in there, but then you'd have to pick them out. I guess the oatmeal is too thick for an infused to work? I made a simple syrup and boiled a bunch of pods in there, it works well, but of course there's a lot of sugar involved.

          1. re: waver
            rworange Jan 13, 2008 07:38 PM

            Sprinklle ground cardamom on it like cinnamon.

        3. fayehess Jan 12, 2008 12:16 PM

          A common mistake is to start the oats (whatever kind you are using) in cold water. Be sure that the water is boiling before adding oats, and then turn down to a simmer. Steel cut are definitely my favorite. fayefood.com

          5 Replies
          1. re: fayehess
            pikawicca Jan 12, 2008 12:33 PM

            I always start my oats in cold water. This is the way my (Irish) mother taught me.

            1. re: fayehess
              paulj Jan 12, 2008 12:46 PM

              I haven't found starting with cold to be a problem. I think stirring during the early stages is more important, at least if you want to avoid lumps. Cold or boiling water may extract different amounts of soluble fiber from the oats, and affect the final texture. I don't think cut oats are as sensitive to how you start them, since it takes a while for the porridge to thicken.
              paulj

              1. re: paulj
                fayehess Jan 13, 2008 05:16 AM

                You are absolutely right. Starting the oats in cold water is not a problem at all if you want creamy oats. I was thinking more of what the original question was, where it sounded like the writer was trying to get more definition from the oats rather than have them blend together like a cream of wheat consistency. I love oatmeal where the oats stand out on their own (ie steel cut, made with boiling water first) and I forget that there are others in the world with different tastes. I need to get out more. fayefood.com

                1. re: fayehess
                  paulj Jan 13, 2008 08:28 AM

                  I like the variety, both the smoothness of cream of wheat, and distinctness of whole wheat berries (grain). Oats don't have the same extremes, since even oat groats (whole uncut grain) produce a creamy binder.
                  paulj

              2. re: fayehess
                v
                violabratsche Jan 12, 2008 01:18 PM

                My Quaker Oats boxes all say the same....more oats for thicker, more water for thinner, hot-boiling water for coarse, cold water for creamy. Hey, they're the experts on the darned stuff.

                AnnieG

              3. f
                fern Jan 12, 2008 12:00 PM

                Rick, do you like yogurt? I like to mix plain yogurt into my oatmeal. Even better with a cut up orange or whatever fruits you like added. Might not sound like much but if you like yogurt, give it a go. It's creamy and flavorful.
                Add nuts too, if you like, and you'll pretty much have a Swiss muesli. If you want sweetener, try honey. Your morning bowl can be as simple or elaborate as you like.
                Let us know what you try!

                1. s
                  smartie Jan 12, 2008 11:41 AM

                  brown sugar and double cream poured round the edges. Delicious

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: smartie
                    pikawicca Jan 12, 2008 11:45 AM

                    Steel cut oats, but not instant. Cook low and slow with a pinch of salt until creamy and thick. Stir in a mix of brown sugar and real maple syrup. I make large quantities, then freeze in individual portions in small Gladware containers. Freezes really well. Just nuke when you want some.

                  2. maplesugar Jan 11, 2008 01:43 PM

                    Are you making it with milk or water? Milk, even skim, will add a creaminess not found in oatmeal made with just plain ol' water.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: maplesugar
                      c
                      CathleenH Jan 12, 2008 07:48 AM

                      Exactly. Rick complained about "tasteless bowls of mush". That's exactly what you get when you make oatmeal with water. Use old-fashioned oats and substitute milk for water.

                      When I make Irish oats, I generally use half water and half milk to make it less likely to burn on the bottom -- I also stir constantly towards the end of the cooking time. It's worth it though.

                      1. re: CathleenH
                        r
                        Rick Jan 12, 2008 08:54 AM

                        Ok I just bought bulk Steel Cut Oats from Whole foods and now I don't have the water/milk to oats ratio nor the cooking time. Please let me know how you make them.

                        1. re: Rick
                          j
                          janeh Jan 12, 2008 09:05 AM

                          I've been a McCann's oatmeal fan for a long time, but recently bought Coach's Oats at Costco after tasting them at a demo there. They're tasty, nice texture and microwavable on mornings when I'm running late. Good enough that I bought a couple more bags to give as part of holiday gifts for some oatmeal eating friends.

                          1. re: Rick
                            paulj Jan 12, 2008 09:35 AM

                            1:3 is a good starting point when cooking a cereal like this. If the mix seems too thick you can add water as it cooks. Allow a half hour, but taste as you go along. Stay around to stir it.

                            paulj

                            1. re: paulj
                              r
                              Rick Jan 12, 2008 10:56 AM

                              Paul, high, med, or low heat?

                              1. re: Rick
                                paulj Jan 12, 2008 11:13 AM

                                As with regular oats, with too high heat it will sputter, and it is more likely to stick and burn. So keep the heat low. For long low-attention cooking use a double boiler (metal bowl over boiling water), but it doesn't have to be that low. Just pay attention when you stir it.

                                Oh, and make sure you use a spurtle to stir it - or the handle end of a wood spoon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spurtle
                                Just kidding. I've never done that myself.

                                paulj

                      2. n
                        neobite Jan 11, 2008 12:38 PM

                        Definitely sounds like steel cut. Since I'm not a fan of that texture, but adore oatmeal in the mornings, I use Bob's Red Mill Old Fashioned Rolled (not quick cooking). Avoid the gloppy mush by cooking slowly over a low flame til all water evaporates. But if you're loving the steel cut, definitely get some as suggested and give it a shot.

                        1. rworange Jan 11, 2008 09:39 AM

                          You are looking for steel cut oats, sometimes called Irish oatmeal, rather than rolled oats like Quaker. With rolled oats, I find the best way to make them is in the microwave so they don't overcook.

                          I like rolled oats better and never got into the whole steel-cut thing. Also steel-cut are more of a pain to make though you can freeze it after making a big batch.

                          Oatmeal combos I like
                          - bananas, walnuts or pecans, cinnamon
                          - pommegranite molasses stirred in
                          - chopped apple, walnuts, cinnamon
                          - chopped persimmons and pommegranite seeds
                          - maple syrup and butter

                          1. paulj Jan 11, 2008 09:35 AM

                            That look of broken rice suggests that they use steel cut oat, rather than rolled ones (flakes). But usually with cut oats, individual pieces can still be felt. But, maybe they cook the oats long enough (at least half hour), so the texture is smoother. There have been lots of threads about cut oats.

                            And having the right amount of salt is important. But this is also a matter of taste. There's a Flanders and Swan song (The English are best), where they fault the Scotsman for eating 'salty porridge'.

                            paulj

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: paulj
                              v
                              violabratsche Jan 11, 2008 01:24 PM

                              lol...have that song right here, paul...thanks for reminding me about it!

                              I've got to try that toasting the oats....I always start mine cooking with cold water, and on the stove, bring it to a boil very slowly....it's creamier that way.

                              AnnieG

                            2. e
                              emilief Jan 11, 2008 08:58 AM

                              McCann's Quick Cooking Oatmeal- you put 1/3-1/2 cup of oatmeal in a bowl, and double the amount of water. Stir and p ut in microwave for 1-2 minutes. Nice testure and very easy.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: emilief
                                m
                                MisterM Jan 11, 2008 09:23 AM

                                Ditto the above, plus, (unless you are on a salt restricted diet) add a pinch of salt after your oats are cooked. This brightens the flavor. McCann's is real Irish type Oatmeal rather than just rolled oats.

                                Sometimes, with Quakers Oats, I mill the Oats in the food processor, toast the resulting oatmeal lightly in a saucepan with a little butter, add the water and let cook. (Be careful not to burn the oatmeal when toasting).

                                This gives the oats the Oatmeal texture you are looking for and the toasting adds a lovely depth to it.

                                I sometimes add walnuts, raisins, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom to the mix for Raisins and Spice flavored oatmeal.

                                I wish I wasn't on a carb restricted diet! I'd make a bowl of that right now! Yummy!

                                1. re: MisterM
                                  Scirocco Jan 11, 2008 12:51 PM

                                  Wow never thought of toasting the oatmeal (and I eat it frequently). Great suggestion!

                                  If I'm just making something quick, I'll start with "regular" Quaker oats, and then add some more in right near the end (and cook another minute or two) to give it a little more texture. I also add a little (real) maple syrup to mine. YUM!

                                  If I have more time, I'll use the McCann's steel cut oats (vs. the quick cooking) - great texture, but takes quite a bit longer. That is a rounder oat and not a rolled oat. That may be what you get at your food stand, but as I said, takes quite a bit longer to cook.

                                  Ah, just noticed someone posted about "irish oatmeal" or "steel cut" below. Ditto! If you cook it long enough, it should get to that texture you're looking for.

                                  1. re: Scirocco
                                    sebetti Jan 11, 2008 01:09 PM

                                    Trader Joe's carries steel cut oats and they're much cheaper than the McCann's. Also, you can crockpot them overnight and have it ready when you get up. (Alton Brown has a good recipe)

                                    1. re: sebetti
                                      Scirocco Jan 11, 2008 01:12 PM

                                      I've used the crock pot method too overnight and really like that.

                                      1. re: sebetti
                                        j
                                        jlafler Jan 12, 2008 10:01 AM

                                        Another way to cook steel cut outs it to get them started in a double boiler, turn off the heat and let it sit over night, and then reheat and cook it for about 15 minutes when you get up in the morning. I got this idea from Deborah Madison, who got it from Marion Cunningham's "Breakfast Book."

                                        1. re: sebetti
                                          emily Jan 12, 2008 12:13 PM

                                          I really like TJ's steel coat oats (organic, too!) -- mine seem to take only about 15 minutes to cook, but I like them a bit firm.

                                    2. re: emilief
                                      sirregular Jan 11, 2008 01:24 PM

                                      You should check out Alton Brown's recipe for Steel Cut Oatmeal. It should give you the tooth you're looking for in your oatmeal.

                                      My Blog: http://www.epicureforum.com

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