Lorna Sass, in her book Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way sings the praises of oatmeal:

“Although it’s likely that most Americans never get beyond oatmeal and oatmeal cookies, with their mild flavor, delicate sweetness and pleasing texture, oats can easily play a much larger role in everyday meals. When cooked they are equally chewy and creamy, a felicitous combinaton. The bran layer is so soft that it calls no attention to itself, making oats a welcome component of dessert puddings as well as savory dishes. All forms of oats – from whole to rolled to flour – are considered whole grain, which means they contain the same proportion of bran, germ, and endosperm as the oat kernel.”

“The soluble fiber in oats that has been shown to lower blood cholesterol is the very ingredient that gives body, smooth texture, and a beautiful sheen to soups. In pilafs, oats add a chewy heartiiness that is at home with sweet vegetabels such as scarrots and beets. In the dessert category, rolled oats are ideal of crisp toppings, chewy bottom crusts, and superlative cookies, and oat flour creates delightful scones and light muffins.”

Baking with Oats

You can substitute oats for up to ⅓ of the flour in many recipes. You can also grind rolled oats in a blender or food processor to create oat flour.

According to the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book,

“Oats have a comforting, nutty, slightly sweet flavor that most people find appearling; rolled oats are chewy without being hard. Oats are neutral enough to pair well with savory and sweet; they’re often used as a meat extender. Oat flour is a good thickener for soups, gravies, and stews. … Oats and oat flour are often added to make dough more moist, or to give a nice nubby texture to the finished product. Oats make a wonderful addition to yeast breads, both for their moisture retention and their flavor; they can make up to one third of the volume of the flour in a loaf before they begin to weight it down too much.”

Cooking Oatmeal for Breakfast

Specifics vary according to the different forms of oats:

Generally, you bring water to a boil, add oats, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until oats are to your taste. Some people like their oats very tender, while others like a bit of bite remaining. Some prefer more liquid in their porridge, while others like it stiffer and dryer. If you like your oats on the creamier side, start by putting the oats in cold water, then bring to a boil.

Here are some starting guidelines for different kinds of oats. Experiment, and adjust them to your own taste.

kind water  oats  time
Oat Groats 4 cups    1 cup    60 minutes
Steel-cut Oats    4 cups 1 cup 30 minutes
Rolled Oats 2 cups 1 cup 10 minutes

If you prefer the taste and texture of steel-cut oats but find yourself short of time, there are plenty of ways to shortcut the cooking time. You can cook a few days’ worth at a time, then just warm up the leftovers. You can bring the water to a boil the night before, throw in the oats, and leave them covered on the stove, and you’ll find it takes only about 10 minutes to finish them off in the morning. Or, you can boil them for a few minutes then head out to the gym for your morning workout. Your oats will be warm and waiting for you when you return. We even know friends who use a slow cooker for 8 hours while they sleep, so they can wake up to freshly-made steel-cut oats. 

In theory you can microwave oats. We’ve never done it without having the whole dish erupt like a volcano all over the microwave. We’re told that the solution is a really big bowl, and half-power on most microwaves, but we tend to just use the shortcuts above, instead. If you have a successful approach for microwaving oats, email us and we’ll post it here.