Oatmeal, that little breakfast grain that could, is certainly having its day in the sun. It makes regular appearances on lists of foods you should be eating, it now graces the menus of coffeehouses and fast food restaurants, and it can be found mixed into or sprinkled on all sorts of baked goods. But oatmeal isn’t just oatmeal – it comes in several varieties. Some can be used interchangeably with only minor impact to the overall results, and others have a completely different set of rules. Let’s break down the basics of oatmeal:
Oat groats are the whole grain seed with the husk removed. When cooked, they develop a slightly nutty flavor. Groats can be ground for oat flour or oatmeal for various purposes.
Steel Cut Oats
Steel cut oats are simply smaller pieces of oat groats. They take longer to cook and have a chewier texture and nuttier flavor than other preparations of oats. Try them in this great make-ahead breakfast recipe.
Rolled or Old Fashioned Oats
Rolled oats (or old-fashioned oats) are made by steaming and flattening oat groats, usually with large rollers (hence the term “rolled oats”). Rolled oats are great for most applications. They hold up well in baking, providing chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. Try using old-fashioned oats to make your own Crunchy Granola.
Quick or quick-cooking oats are made in the same manner as rolled oats, but instead of whole groats, they are cut into smaller pieces first. These smaller pieces allow for a faster cooking time than old-fashioned oats. Quick-cooking oats can be used in a variety of ways, including as a binder for meatballs or meatloaf to retain moisture. They are also great for baking applications where you want some texture and chewiness, like in these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.
Instant oatmeal, like instant rice, is precooked and dried. This allows for very quick preparation. Stir them with some hot water to enjoy a hot breakfast in no time. Instant oatmeal is often found in small packets with flavors, sweeteners, and sometimes added fruit or nuts. Cooking or baking with instant oatmeal isn’t generally recommended.
Looking for other ways to enjoy oatmeal? Check out our Oatmeal Recipes All Day recipe collection for even more inspiration!