Different Types of Oatmeal and Why it Matters
Steel Cut vs. Traditional/Old Fashioned vs. Quick Cook/Instant
Oatmeal starts off as oat groats. Groats have a protective outside and a spongy inside–the inside is the white-beige part we’re most familiar with. The difference in types has to do with how they’re processed. Simply put from least processed to most processed:
Steel Cut: Whole groat sliced straight across
Old Fashioned: Whole groat pressed or rolled flat and steamed
Quick Cook: Whole groat pressed or rolled flatter and steamed longer
(Some other variations on the processed spectrum for reference: Steel Cut, Scottish, Rolled, Old Fashioned/Traditional, Quick/Quick Cook, Instant)
Okay, so now you’ve learned that I have (at least) three different kinds of oatmeal in my pantry. So what?
Different types of oatmeal cook differently. And when they’re cooked, the result is different too. Steel Cut is chewier, Instant is mushier. The more processed, the more the oat is pre-cooked and the less time it takes for you to cook it.
Which is why if a recipe doesn’t tell you what type of oatmeal to use and you use, say, steel cut oats instead of quick cook, you might end up with inedible gravel domes. I’m guessing. (…But not really.)
Traditional and Quick Cook are the two best types of oatmeal for baking. Quick Cook is thinner and has already been cooked longer, so the texture after baking will be closer to flour (though not exactly like it). So if you like a heartier oat texture, use Traditional. If you’re trying to hide the fact that whatever you’re making is healthy, go with Quick Cook. And trust me, save the Steel Cut for breakfast and keep it away from cookies.