The Rushed, Tired Cook's Key to Steel-Cut Oats

March 23, 2017

Steel-cut oats are not for those who wake up famished. While not difficult to make, they do take 20 to 30 minutes of patience. (Hopefully, you're sipping coffee.)

Until now!

If you want to a bowl of steel-cut oats on a particularly hungry (or rushed morning), Laura Wright's method for "Lazy Steel-Cut Oatmeal," from her new book, The First Mess Cookbook, is the answer. All it takes is a tiny bit of forward-thinking.

Photo by James Ransom

Instead of cooking the steel-cut oats from start to finish, she lets time do the work. In the evening, toast the oats in coconut oil or butter, then add dried cherries, spices of your choosing, non-dairy milk or water, and bring the mixture to a boil. (You'll want to use water or non-dairy milk when you make steel-cut oats ahead of time, to avoid spoilage. You can always thin the mixture out with cow's milk in the morning.) Once it boils, take the pot off the heat, cover it with a lid, and then leave it out overnight.

This is one of my favorite ways to wake up because I've done almost all of the work the night before.
Laura Wright

Then, in the morning, just turn the heat to medium and bring the oats back to a boil. Add more milk (or water) to thin it out, if you'd like, then top with maple syrup, chopped fruit, or any of your favorite accoutrements.

Waiting for YOU. Photo by James Ransom

Laura's recipe makes one serving—she uses 1/4 cup of steel-cut oats and 1 cup of almond milk as the base—but this make-ahead method can also be applied for oats for the week.

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On The Kitchn, Faith Durand recommends the same technique using 1 cup of steel-cut oats and 3 cups of water to make 4 servings of oats.

Heat the big pot of oats all at once, then refrigerate the leftovers and reheat those in the same way (or, for a faster reheating process, portion out individual servings and warm them separately each morning).

What's your favorite way to get ahead in anticipation of a rushed morning? Tell us in the comments below.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Two Trays Kitchen
    Two Trays Kitchen
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


AntoniaJames March 24, 2017
May I respectfully suggest (as I did when suggesting this method in a comment to your article on Instant Pots a few weeks ago . . . ) that this method is an easy way to reduce one's carbon footprint - something that needs the commitment from us as individuals, now more than ever. It's a good idea for anyone, not just for the rushed or tired.
This is a good example of how reducing energy consumption can also be also more efficient in terms of human effort. Just a thought . . . . (would love to see more coverage on this topic / examples in features here on Food52). ;o)
AntoniaJames March 23, 2017
I've been doing something like this for many years, tinkering along the way, as usual. I don't toast the oats first, but I do like to mix regular rolled oats in, as they give the cooked oatmeal a more complex flavor. I stir 3/4 cup of each into a heavy saucepan with a little more than a quart of water and a small pinch of salt, give it a good stir, bring it to a boil, give it another stir and then tightly lid it, turn the heat off, and leave it overnight. Then we add either milk or water when we re-heat in the morning. Mr T likes chopped pecans and apples or pears in his, so we stir those in, with a couple good shakes of cinnamon, right before serving. In the summer (it's cold here on summer mornings), we top with fresh blueberries or strawberries. When we don't have fresh fruit, we stir in raisins or dried cranberries or sour cherries right before heating up.

Here's another tip: Did you know that Ball makes a quart Mason jar with markings on the side showing milliliters and cups? I have one of the older ones -- with the pretty fruit design on one side -- which I keep handy on one of the built-in open shelves (original) in my 1920's house. That jar is so handy, especially for applications like making oatmeal, quinoa or rice, which don't require the precision of a scale. ;o)
Two T. March 23, 2017
I do this all the time! Then I use the leftover cooked oatmeal to make oatmeal muffins.
AntoniaJames March 23, 2017
Salvegging, what recipe do you use for those muffins? ;o)
Two T. March 23, 2017
I used to use Orangette's but now I use the leftover oatmeal muffins on the blog The Black Peppercorn. Much better. I use steel cut oats.
AntoniaJames March 23, 2017
Thank you so much! I usually make 3 days' worth at a time, but often mix things up with sourdough waffles and pancakes - a great way to use spent starter - and baked oatmeal, so occasionally I have extra already-cooked steel cuts on hand. ;o)