Hey y’all! I’m glad you’re back to learn more about how to incorporate more oaty-goodness into your daily diet. So today we’ll learn about the different types of oats, how to cook them, and what they can be used for. We’ll just go from the least processed to the most processed and tackle it that way. Sound good? Good. Oh, but an interesting fact about oats… unlike many foods, oats are nutritionally the same* regardless of which form they are in. This is because each form still has the endosperm, germ, and bran in tact (they apparently cannot be separated in oats). So feel free to make your oat choices based upon which texture, flavor, and price you prefer. They’re all healthy for you.
And now, on we go…
Whole oats are just what the name says… it’s the whole oat, hull and all. The outer hull is hard and really should be removed before it’s ready for human consumption. About the only thing you could do (eating-wise) with unhulled oats is to sprout them and use them that way, but we won’t go into that process here and now (you can always look it up on the internet if you really want to give it a try). 🙂 Otherwise, this form of oat is mainly for the animals.
Oat groats are the whole oat grain, minus the hard outer hull. For human consumption, this is the most “whole” an oat gets. The hull has been removed, but the outer bran layer is still left in tact. They look kind of like brown rice or wheat berries, and although they are typically processed further, you can eat them at this stage. They are said to have a sweet and nutty flavor with a moist but chewy texture. The only downside is that they take a while to cook.
To cook oat groats:
-Stove top: Use a 1:3 ratio (groats to water). Bring the water (with a dash of salt) to a boil. Add the groats, lower the heat, and simmer, covered for about 45-50 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the oats are tender. Remove from the heat and let stand for about 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve, garnished to your liking.
-With a rice cooker: You can cook oat groats the same way you would white rice, with a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 of groats to water… depending on your preference. You may want to start with a 1:3 ratio and just drain of any excess water when the groats are done to your liking. The groats will take approximately one hour to cook.
-Tip: Also try toasting your oat groats for approximately 5 minutes (until a shade darker) in a saucepan over medium high heat prior to cooking them. This will bring out a new level of flavor.
Uses for oat groats: Most commonly, people cook them up and use them in place of rolled oats oatmeal at breakfast with some fresh fruit cut on top. You can also use them to add to soups, a stir-fry, or a salad (try replacing the water with stock for a little more savory flavor).
Steel-cut oats (sometimes called ‘pinhead oats’) are essentially cut up oat groats. They are made by passing groats through steel cutters which chop each one into smaller pieces (hence the name).
To cook steel-cut oats: Using a 3:1 ratio of water to oats, bring the water to a boil and then stir in the steel-cut oats with a pinch of salt. Bring back to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes (depending on how cooked or chewy you want your oats), stirring every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Remove from the heat when desired consistency is reached and garnish according to your tastes and preferences with things such as: cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, fresh (or dried) fruit, extra milk for creaminess, toasted nuts, etc. You can store leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 week (just microwave it to reheat). (Directions courtesy of thekitchn.com)
Uses for steel-cut oats: You’d generally use these as a nice hearty breakfast.
Old-fashioned/rolled oats are made by steaming groats and flattening them with a roller. They are flat and oval shaped. The fact that these are steamed in their process means they have been partially cooked, which is one factor in reducing their overall cooking time at home (plus the fact that they are more thin).
To cook old-fashioned oats: Using a 2:1 ratio of water to oats, bring the water to a boil with a dash of salt. Stir in the oats and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
May also be cooked in the microwave by combining all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and cooking on HIGH for 2-3 minutes. Stir before serving.
Uses for old-fashioned oats: Obviously oatmeal is a common use. Rolled oats are also good in cookies, breads, muffins, meatloaf, stuffings, etc.
These are essentially the same as old-fashioned oats, except that instead of starting with the oat groat, this process starts with the steel-cut oats that are put through the same process as the old-fashioned oats. The smaller size makes them cook quicker, but everything else is the same.
To cook quick oats: Generally using a 2:1 ratio of water to oats (although you may want to add slightly more water), bring the water to a boil with a dash of salt. Stir in the oats and cook for about 1 minute over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
May also be cooked in the microwave by combining all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and cooking on HIGH for 1-2 minutes. Stir before serving.
Uses for quick oats: Most commonly used for a quick bowl of oatmeal in the morning. These can also pretty much be used anywhere that old-fashioned oats are used. They are generally interchangeable.
These are also made similar to the old-fashioned oats, except that they are steamed longer and rolled more thinly. Generally the more you process a food, the less nutritious it becomes, so if you’re looking for nutritional value, I would stick with one of the other forms of oats… although there is no proof that these are less nutritious (so don’t feel bad if you like them!).
To cook instant oats: Anyone? Anyone? I couldn’t find a generic “how to” for this. It’s basically the same as Quick Oats, but faster, right? Well, you will pretty much always have to buy this is some sort of package form, so just follow the directions on the package. How’s that for a wimpy answer? 🙂
Uses for instant oats: This is commonly used for instant ‘porridge’. You cannot use this interchangeably with old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats in recipes. Since it has already been cooked and dried, it can turn your recipe into a gummy mess.
Oat flour is simply oats ground down into flour. It’s interesting to note that oat flour has a longer shelf-life than wheat flour because of the natural preservatives found in oats, so adding a little bit of oat flour to your bread can help improve it’s shelf life.
To make oat flour: Many wheat grinders will also process rolled oats as well to give you oat flour that way. If you do not have a wheat grinder (or yours won’t process rolled oats), you could also use a food processor or even a blender. Simply place rolled oats in your food processor and process until the oats reach a flour consistency. Sift out any large particles if needed.
Uses for oat flour: Can be used for a thickener in soups and stews. You can also replace part of the wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour (only replace up to about 1/3 of the wheat flour with the oat flour since oat flour does not have gluten and your baked goods will not rise properly if you replace too much of the wheat flour).
Well, I hope you enjoy your oats! And here’s a challenge for ya… give one of these types of oats a try that you’ve never tried before. You never know what you may end up liking! 😉
*Note: If you want to get technical on the benefits of eating oats, the more processed varieties (rolled oats, quick oats, and instant oats) will have a higher effect on your glycemic response thereby causing insulin and sugar levels to rise and eventually fall as well. But honestly, we’re talking about a minimal effect. So yes, TECHNICALLY the oat groats, and steel-cut oats are going to be better for you, but the difference is so small that I wouldn’t really give it a passing thought.