Breakfast

4 Simple Tweaks for Better, More Satisfying Oatmeal

February  8, 2018

"Oats are a sturdy sort and they aim to please," writes Peter Miller, author of Lunch at the Shop and, fittingly, of one of our favorite make-ahead lunches (and dinners) of all times.

There is some oral history that oatmeal can calm a stomach, begin a day, and serve well the subtleties of digestion. It may well be true.
Peter Miller, Singing oatmeal's praises

But still, Peter laments, oats are "part abandoned, stuck out in the margins, with almost no agent at all." Poor, fussy-seeming oats—always second fiddle to breakfast cereal. They could use some dignifying—and some demystifying.

Photo by James Ransom

Look no further: With Peter's 4-step plan, you will give oatmeal the respect—and butter—it deserves, and oatmeal will give you a satisfying, dare-we-say-easy, 30-minute breakfast (for 10 of those, you can be in the shower):

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1. Chill out on the measurements.

  • Use 2 cups of cold water for every 1 cup of oats (and every 1 cup of oats for every 2 eaters). Precision is not necessary here: Peter uses a squat drinking glass, which he fills once with oats, twice with water.

2. Take the time to soak your oats.

  • Soak the oats in the cold water (remembering the ratio above), along with a good pinch of salt, for 10 minutes. ("Go take your shower," Peter suggests.)
Photo by James Ransom

3. Treat it like risotto. Yes, risotto.

  • "Treat it with a small nod to risotto and grain," advises Peter, so that you can monitor and control the consistency: Heat a small kettle or pot of water and leave it to simmer, "as you would stock for risotto," alongside the soaking oats, simmering over medium-heat.

  • As the oatmeal bubbles and thickens, add hot water from the kettle or pot, 1/4 cup at a time, directly into the pan. Let the oatmeal gel—if it's too thick, drizzle in a bit more of the boiling water. Your oatmeal should be ready in no more than 5 minutes. "You will see that it has unified, and thickened—choose the consistency you want, adding a little more water until you get there."

4. You've come this far: Finish with a bang (and a pat of butter).

  • "When you have the oatmeal where you want it, turn the heat off and cover well. Add a good pat of cold butter and let it sit, covered, for 2 minutes."

  • Ladle the oatmeal into hot bowls—"silly to come this way and then use cold bowls," writes Peter. It's simple to heat them up: Simply pour over a bit of the hot water from the kettle you heated alongside the oats.

  • Add brown sugar first, so it has time to melt, then fold in a tablespoon of whipped cream (which, magically, lightens and enriches) and garnish with good, fresh granola and dried fruit.

  • Cinnamon bread, or monkey bread, toasted, buttered, and then broken into pieces can—and should—also be added at the last moment. Sweet croutons.

And Peter's last bit of advice? "Work quickly, so the oatmeal is hot when you serve it."

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Put 2 c cold water into top of double boiler along with 1 c Irish steel cut oats. Add a pinch of salt. Put on top of double boiler and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir. Add your favorite toppings (raisins, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, blueberries, diced apples, etc) Serves 2. ”
— Rebecca J.
Comment

Share your best oatmeal tip in the comments below.

This post originally ran in February 2017, and we're bringing it back because we just can't get enough oatmeal during these cold winter months.

48 Comments

Tamara H. February 9, 2018
I cook toasted wild rice with my oatmeal and add cinnamon sticks and star anis while cooking. Sometimes I’ll add shredded carrots and it tastes like carrot cake. I top it off with toast d nuts and currants.
 
BerryBaby February 8, 2018
Haven’t made hot oatmeal in years. Maybe I should try it again.<br />Very fond of overnight oatmeal with coconut, pistachios, dried cranberries and brown sugar. Bet it would be great hot.
 
witloof February 8, 2018
I love steel cut oats. I toast them first by just dry frying them in the pot until they start to turn a little brown and smell nutty before adding cold water to the pot. I don't eat grains at breakfast anymore {which makes an enormous difference in my blood sugar and my ability to make it to lunch without a big spike and drop}. So I have it for dessert with walnuts and maple syrup.
 
cosmiccook March 15, 2017
I'm a bit confused--first it says soak oats in COLD liquid, then use HOT liquid like risotto. So do you drain the soaked oatmeal before toasting it? I like to cook w milk and cinnamon water. So do I soak and drain then heat the drained cold liquid?
 
Dave K. March 6, 2017
the best steel cut oats I've had are 1. toasted first. 2. pressure steamed with 3:1 liquid to oats. I use coconut milk. the great technique is at https://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooker-oatmeal-how-to/
 
Joan March 4, 2017
I love my steel-cut oatmeal! I sometimes at it w/ a spoonful of peanut butter and a spoonful of honey, and of course, I have to pour some milk over it all.<br />My SO adds chopped raw garlic to his every morning. No way could I do that! I've also cooked it kasha style, starting / the groats mixed / a raw egg and then cooking that in a dry hot pan, then adding liquid, (water or stock, usually) and then adding sauteed onions, mushrooms, anything that ls appealing. It' always a hit, and people don't expect it.<br />Joan<br />
 
Valerie February 28, 2017
Cook your oatmeal in half-and-half water and coconut milk, with nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom and a pinch of salt. Very creamy and delicious.
 
David N. February 28, 2017
Sounds good.
 
Windycity February 27, 2017
No time to cook steel cut oats but love them and eat daily....heat your Thermos with boiling water while you shower. Pour water back into kettle and bring to rolling boil again then dump 1/4 cup steel cut oat and a little qinoa into the thermos and add a cup of BOILING water and quickly seal. Add the fruit and nuts before eating for best flavor. I normally eat as a snack a couple hours later. If it comes out watery or undercooked..water wasn't hot enough. I can't go back to rolled or quick oats.
 
David N. February 27, 2017
An important point which I forgot to add to the below method for keeping the oat grains separate: Boil the water before you add the oats if you want to keep the grains even more separate and distinct. Otherwise the method is as <br />I wrote earlier if you want to try the "non-gloppy style" of oatmeal:<br />- Never a single clump with my easy method. I think many people would prefer this method if they tried it. Other people might like it as occasional alternative for variety. - Simply use a lot of water (butter and salt can also be added) and cook according to taste. When ready, remove the grains with a slotted spoon.<br />This keeps the grains very separate and preserves an almost nut-like flavor.<br />The oatmeal is nuttier and less starchy.<br />With this method we actually prefer to use the old-fashioned flake style oatmeal to the steel-cut. Steel cut oatmeal can be cooked this way as well although it takes a bit longer to cook. I suspect that if more people tried our method it would become immensely popular.
 
Laura415 March 2, 2017
I usually do this method with rice and after pouring the excess liquid off then steam the rice finish fluffy and separate. I could see how it might work well especially with steel cut oats.
 
Cb February 26, 2017
Don't make it so complicated. The best oatmeal is the simplest. 2 cups water, 1 cup rolled oats, 1 tsp salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn it OFF. In 5 min it will be perfect. Hot and delicious. Add whatever you want and eat it.
 
nutcakes February 23, 2018
Why do so many people hate it, then? Both adults in our house hate it. Like 10 grain type hot cereal though. So I like to see a new method in hopes it won't be so vile.
 
Sharw1 February 27, 2018
Bob's 10 grain cereal has steel-cut oats in it. <br />It's my find that porridge-type foods (oatmeal, congee, grits, cream of wheat, whole-grain boiled cereals) are less about flavor than texture. They're just the filling background for the flavor profile of the things we add. Each has a slightly different texture, so that's the main difference between rolled and steel-cut oats. I'll eat either of them, plus I like hot multigrained cereal for a change of pace. But I always go back to dried fruit and cinnamon for the flavor, with the occasional PB&J hot cereal breakfast.<br />
 
Molly F. February 26, 2017
I'm loving all these ideas for oatmeal. After eating oatmeal with dried cherries every morning for several months, my LDL went down by double digits. Of course, I had to forgo the butter.
 
Yvonne February 26, 2017
I use half good quality fruit muesli to half oats. Then cook with milk and served topped with mashed strawberries and your favourite nuts and seeds. A drizzle of syrup and a couple of spoons of cream is great too.
 
David N. February 26, 2017
Never a single clump with my easy method. I think many people would prefer this method if they tried it. Other people might like it as occasional alternative for variety. - Simply use a lot of water (butter and salt can also be added) and cook according to taste. When ready, remove the grains with a slotted spoon.<br />This keeps the grains very separate and preserves an almost nut-like flavor.<br />The oatmeal is nuttier and less starchy.<br />With this method we actually prefer to use the old-fashioned flake style oatmeal to the steel-cut. Steel cut oatmeal can be cooked this way as well although it takes a bit longer to cook. I suspect that if more people tried our method it would become immensely popular.
 
tastysweet February 26, 2017
I just microwave mine. Use Bob's Red Mill Scottish Oats. More like steel cut. When cooked, I do have to really stir them to get the clumps out. Then add some cashew milk and of course real butter.
 
tastysweet February 26, 2017
Forgot to add that I dice a little honey crisp apple, blueberries and some frozen banana slices. Add chopped walnuts when cooked.
 
Lorraine February 26, 2017
I use water AND milk. Also if you stir the oats well before you heat them, they come out creamier. Then just keep adding water or milk to get your desired thickness as they cook.
 
Dave K. February 26, 2017
for steel cut oats, my favorite technique is over at https://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooker-oatmeal-how-to/ and the fact is this technique has NEVER failed me ever. The oats come out perfect every time.
 
David N. February 26, 2017
This sounds like an interesting approach to oatmeal.<br />An alternative approach which we love in our house is quicker, easier and almost the opposite. Simply use a lot of water (butter and salt can also be added) cook according to taste and remove the grains with a slotted spoon.<br />This keeps the grains very separate and preserves an almost nut-like flavor.<br />With this method we actually prefer the old-fashioned flake style oatmeal to the steel-cut. Steel cut oatmeal can be cooked this way as well although it takes longer to cook it. I suspect that if more people tried our method it would become immensely popular. I think that if more people tried this method it would be a revelation to them! Of course you can add whatever extras you want, either during or after cooking.
 
Laural H. February 26, 2017
This was yummy! I took Annette's advice and added a chopped Granny Smith apple while simmering. Didn't have any whipped cream, but it was wonderfully creamy without it. Added a dash of cinnamon (the apple needed it) and some raisins at the end. This recipe is a keeper.
 
OldGrayMare February 26, 2017
Butter, always! Brown sugar or, if feeling especially frisky, a dollop of maple syrup.
 
Rebecca J. February 26, 2017
My uncle who lived to be 106 gave me his recipe that came from our Irish ancestry, and it lets you take 30 minutes getting yourself ready with the oats unattended. Put 2 c cold water into top of double boiler along with 1 c Irish steel cut oats. Add a pinch of salt. Put on top of double boiler and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir. Add your favorite toppings (raisins, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, blueberries, diced apples, etc) Serves 2.
 
Rebecca J. February 26, 2017
I forgot to tell you: WITH A LID!
 
Stacy February 26, 2017
I love this! Working smarter not harder.