Will it never be oatmeal time? Unlikely.
Oats are one of the easiest, most versatile, and cheapest ways to stock up on the whole grains we all know we’re supposed to eat. As Harold McGee explains in “On Food and Cooking”, oats are actually the grain of the grass known as Avena sativa. While the shell is removed, the rest of the kernel – the coarse outer bran, the carbohydrate-laden interior (the source of refined flour in wheat kernels) and the fat-containing germ – remains.
Part of the nutritional benefits of oats are due to fiber and protein, but they also contain beta-glucans. These indigestible carbohydrates absorb and hold water, giving oatmeal its smooth, thick consistency and helping lower cholesterol, McGee says. If they come from a certified facility and the packaging says so, oats may also be acceptable for people with celiac disease or other gluten-free needs.
In ‘Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution’ about to be released, author and chef Roxana Jullapat says oats were probably first grown tens of thousands of years ago in the Near East. Orient and domesticated in the Bronze Age. They became a major culture in Northern Europe and spread to America in the 17th century. Despite this, oats were not very popular for human consumption, as this ironic definition by the 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson indicates in his famous dictionary: “A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people. (In modern times, over 90 percent of the crop is still used as animal feed.)
In America, oats really took off in the 1850s after German immigrant Ferdinand Schumacher developed a method for rolling oats with heavy steel pins at his factory in Akron, Ohio, according to author and pastry chef Stella Parks in “BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. The grain eventually “gathered a loyal following during the Civil War years.” Other producers, including the Quaker Mill Company, jumped on board, with several mills merging into the American Cereal Company in 1891, retaining the smiling mascot of a man in a Quaker costume.
You’ll never hear me talk you out of your standard bowl of oatmeal in the morning, but consider expanding how you cook oats and what type you use. (Each type is the same in nutrition for equal weight.) “It’s never the flashiest grain, ever used to make the sexiest dish,” says Jullapat. “They evoke tough times and are forever linked to Dickens’ images of a hungry Oliver Twist pleading for a second bowl of oatmeal. … But make no mistake, oats have fueled civilizations, celebrated the supernatural, and in modern times even replaced milk. Our tendency to relegate oats to microwave porridge overlooks the myriad of ways they can be consumed.
Let’s break down the tips and ideas by type of oats.
Oatmeal. Groats are the whole kernel of the oats, with only the inedible husk removed. Even after soaking and cooking, they remain chewy, says Jullapat. On the stovetop, they’ll take the longer side to cook, about 30 minutes using this Bob’s Red Mill method. The company suggests using oatmeal just like you would any other whole, chewy grain, like rice – in cereal bowls, stews, and salads, for example.
If you buy oatmeal, you get ground oatmeal. “Oatmeal, with its high bran content, often results in tender and moist baked goods,” says Jullapat. “Its nutty taste and soft touch are similar to whole wheat, with no added gluten.” In “The Science of Good Food,” David Joachim, Andrew Schloss, and A. Philip Handel recommend using no more than 5 to 20 percent oatmeal in your bread, cake and cookie recipes. Parks Note that grinding oats the old-fashioned way at home is not a good substitute for commercial oatmeal, which is finer and includes other parts of the grain that are used for nutritional and thickening purposes.
Oats cut in steel. These are oat groats that have been cut into several pieces for a little faster cooking, 20 to 30 minutes on the stove. Some brands offer quick cooking steel cut oats to cut even more time. “Steel cut oatmeal has a healthy earthy taste and a pleasantly chewy texture,” Jullapat says. (You can also use them in cold oats overnight.) This strength, however, is one of the reasons they aren’t typically used in baked goods, where they can be too hard. One exception: this chocolate and coconut cake, which I tested years ago, and has distinctive oatmeal buds incorporated into the tender crumb.
The recommended ratio of liquid oats to steel cut oats can vary, but it tends to be between 3 and 4 parts liquid to 1 part oats. I prefer the 3 for 1. As with all of this, it’s not a bad idea to check the package instructions first.
My favorite way to cook steel cut oats, in the Instant Pot, avoids the longer cooking time. For a quick fix, I’ll pressure cook them for 9 or 10 minutes, but for a practical approach and a luxury feel, I’ll cook them slowly overnight to have a hot batch ready in the morning. Of course, this can also be done in a traditional slow cooker.
Old fashioned oatmeal. Also known as the versatile, easy-to-cook variety that I buy in 10-pound packs at Costco. If you kept only one type of oats in the house, it should be this one. Old-fashioned oats are steamed and then rolled, which significantly speeds up the cooking process – about 5 minutes on the hob and even less in the microwave. (Some brands sell thick cut oatmeal, which takes a little longer to cook.) Whichever method you use, I’ve learned from hard-earned experience that, much like eggs, this can help to cook the oats lightly. . They will continue to absorb moisture and thicken, so by the time they are cold enough to eat, the oats will have the right consistency. You can also play with consistency by changing the liquid / oat ratio: 2 to 1 is typical, although I tend to reduce the liquid slightly (a generous 3/4 cup of milk for 1/2 cup of oats) to avoid the soup. results.
When the weather is warmer and I’m pressed for time, I turn to oats for the night, no cooking required. As Parks explains on Serious Eats regarding his oatmeal cookie recipe, the steaming process “pregelatinizes the starch, making the oatmeal soluble in cold water. This allows them to swell with the moisture in the dough, and when the grains swell, they soften. This means that your liquid soaked oats in the fridge will be chewy, not hard. As with cooking oatmeal, there is a lot of wiggle room with the ratios. After being unsatisfied with excess liquid in a 2 to 1 ratio for too long, I followed a recipe from Jullapat’s book that dramatically reduced the difference by combining 1/3 cup of rolled oats with 1/2 cup of liquid. With a little chia and flax tossed into the mix, the result is deliciously chewy and smooth oats that don’t swim in tons of extra milk. Our basic overnight oatmeal inverts the mixture with 1/2 cup of oats and 1/3 cup of liquid, resulting in a slightly drier bowl.
Quick cooking oats. Like their old-fashioned sibling, Quick Oats are steamed and rolled, but they’re even thinner. McGee says old-fashioned oats are typically 0.8 millimeters thick, with a quick half-thickness. Tips vary somewhat by brand, but quick oats usually cook in 1 to 3 minutes on the stovetop and pretty much the same in the microwave. Of all the varieties, Old Fashioned Oats and Quick Oats are the most interchangeable. Advice differs on whether you can quickly go old-fashioned in a recipe. My verdict? In a pinch, maybe, but be aware that you may end up with a different texture than intended by the recipe, especially if the oats are mixed into a dough or paste (notably, the famous oatmeal cookies and with Quaker raisins offer the option of the old fashioned or quick cooking).
Instant oats. The most common definition seems to apply to oats that have been cut, cooked, dried, steamed and then flattened. But there’s also instant oats, like Bob’s, which isn’t pre-cooked and just rolled even thinner than quick-cooking oats. Either way, instant oats can usually be made with hot water or milk or cooked briefly in the microwave.
It is best to leave instant oats in the porridge. A word of caution from “The New Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst: The “pre-cooking process softens the oat pieces so much that after being combined with a liquid the mixture can transform pastries such as than muffins or sticky lump cookies.
Note: If you are concerned about pesticides used in the oat harvest, such as glyphosate, look for organic oats, which have much lower levels, if available.