How to Cook Steel Cut Oats: Stovetop, Slow Cooker or Instant Pot
Steel cut oats are getting a lot of attention for their health benefits, but what exactly are they? Here’s everything you need to know about this healthy whole grain, plus how to cook steel cut oats.
What are steel cut oats made of?
Both steel cut oats and rolled oats are made from oat groats, they’re just processed differently. I know that processed food gets a bad rep, but processing has been a part of our food system for centuries. When you chop up an apple, you’re processing it. Similarly, we process oat groats to make them palatable.
Rolled oats get their name because rolling is part of the processing. To make oat groats, processors steam, roll and toast them. The rolling part of the process is why rolled oats are flat.
Just like rolled oats, the process for making steel cut oats is right in the name. Instead of steaming and rolling, the oat groat kernels are simply cut up into smaller pieces. That minimal processing is why they take longer to cook than rolled oats.
What do steel cut oats taste like?
Steel cut oats have a chewier texture and nuttier flavor than rolled oats. They’re closer in taste to brown rice and in texture to quinoa.
You cannot substitute steel cut oats for rolled oats in a recipe. Steel cut need a lot more water to cook, so adding them to something like a cookie or bread recipe that calls for conventional rolled oats will give you dry results. If you want to try baking with steel cut oats, seek out a recipe that calls for them specifically.
Like rolled oats, delicious steel cut oatmeal is all about the mix-ins. Add a little sweetener of your choice, a dash of cinnamon, fruit, nuts or seeds to make your own best bowl of steel cut oatmeal. You can even mix a tablespoon or two of nut or seed butter into your bowl to make them even more filling.
Why eat steel cut oats?
The short answer is that steel cut oats are less processed, so they retain more nutrients. Dr. Weil explains that the thicker pieces digest more slowly than thinner rolled oats. This is better for your blood sugar levels. Steel cut oats also have more fiber, iron, protein and calcium per serving than rolled oats.
Rolled oats aren’t unhealthy, but steel cut oats are definitely more nutritious. If you’d like to give them a try, we’ve got directions below for how to cook steel cut oats on the stovetop, in the slow cooker and in the pressure cooker.
Yields 4 servings
The amount of water you'll need depends on your cooking method. You can add mix-ins, like spices, sweeteners, fruit, nuts, seeds, and nut or seed butters either during cooking or at the end.
5 minPrep Time
20 minCook Time
25 minTotal Time
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- water (see instructions for amounts)
- On the stovetop: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the steel cut oats, and simmer , stirring occasionally, for 10-20 minutes, until you get the consistency you like. Add water by the 1/4, if needed, if things look dry. If you cook for the full 20 minutes, you may end up needing as much as an extra cup of water - it depends on how fresh your oats are and how soft you want the finished product. A shorter cooking time with less water yields chewier oats. If you cook longer, they'll soften more, and you'll need to add more water.
- In the slow cooker: Combine the oats with 4 cups of water in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours.
- In the pressure cooker or Instant Pot: Combine the oats with 3 cups of water in your pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure, and cook for 5 minutes, with a natural release (10-15 minutes). For chewier steel cut oats, you can reduce the time at high pressure to 3-4 minutes.
For the pressure cooker, some people grease the inside of the pot before beginning. I haven't had problems with sticking in my Instant Pot, but if you're worried that your steel cut oats will stick, you can spritz with cooking spray or grease the pot before adding the rest of the ingredients.
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Image Credits: Steel cut oats images via Thinkstock.