Differences Among Types of Oats and Oatmeal Project Day 2

Steel Cut Oats Oatmeal with Flax and Honey[The Oatmeal Project, Day 2: Flaxseed and Honey ]

It’s only Day 2 of The Oatmeal Project, and honestly, we kind of want to get to at least the halfway point already.

But not because we’re bored with oatmeal. Quite the opposite, actually. We’re so inspired by everyone else’s favorite version of a bowl of oatmeal that we just can’t wait to get to that point on our monthly menu. But until then, we’re throttling the build on our bowl of oatmeal and start simply with some standard additions and basic ingredients, like a couple of tablespoons of flaxseeds with a drizzle of honey this morning.

We know. Flaxseeds. It sounds painfully healthy, doesn’t it? It is. But we have an awesome thing or two to say about flaxseeds.

But that’s later this week.

Differences Among Types of Oats

So we’ve been all over the internets researching oats, so we thought we’d share what we’ve found as the answer to one of the biggest questions we had when we started this whole (notreallybuthumorus) crazy project.

What are the differences between oats and groats, steel cut and rolled, quick cooking and instant, and Scottish and Irish?

Here’s what we’ve found, in an easy glossary format. If you have more to add, or a correction, please share (especially on the Scottish/Scotch oats one)!

  • oats:

    this is the general term for the grain. It’s pretty much the equivalent of saying “wheat” or “rice.”

  • oat groats:

    whole edible oat kernels that come out when the two protective outer (inedible) husks from oats are removed. These are the least processed form of oats (unless you straight pick oat grains from the field), so they require longer preparation in the kitchen, e.g. soaking, longer cook times.

  • steel cut oats:

    oat groats that have been chopped into a few pieces by steel blades. Steel cut oats take about 15-20 minutes to cook on the stovetop. They are also called “coarse-cut,” “pinhead,” and “Irish” oats.

  • rolled oats:

    oat groats that are steamed to soften then flattened (i.e. “rolled over”) into thi flakes, steamed, then toasted. Because they are thinner than steel-cut oats, they take a shorter time to cook. Rolled oats can be “thick-” or “thin-rolled,” and “old-fashioned,” “quick-cooking,” or “instant.”

  • oatmeal:

    we are thinking that this usually term refers to any form of cooked oats, which almost always looks like a porridge, but in a specific sense, would be considered a ground form of oats. We could be wrong.

  • “old-fashioned”:

    refers to rolled oats that you cook on the stovetop (or in another way) because they aren’t “pre-cooked” to make them quick-cooking or instant.

  • quick-cooking:

    a form of rolled oats, but they are cut into smaller pieces, then steamed and rolled. Like the name says, they cook quickly.

  • instant:

    cut, rolled oats that are cooked then dehydrated. You only have to add water to eat them. These usually come with sugar and “flavorings” added, so we are not fond of these (as we mentioned earlier).

  • oat flour:

    oats finely ground into a powder. Oat flour can be used for baking, but behaves differently from wheat flour because oat flour does not have gluten.

  • oat bran:

    the outer husk of the oat that has the bulk of the grain’s fiber. Whole oat groats are separated into the bran and the oat flour

  • Irish Oats, Irish Oatmeal:

    same thing as steel cut oats. Popular brand: McCann’s Irish Oatmeal in the metal canister.

  • Scottish oats:

    this is the one that confuses us. First of all, we can’t figure out if Scottish and Scotch are two different things. In either case, these can be ground oat groats that cook faster into a porridge, or these are the same thing as Irish/steel cut oats.

  • muesli:

    a mixture of rolled oats (and other grains sometimes) with dried fruit and nuts.

  • granola:

    like museli, made of rolled oats (and other grains, sometimes) and dried fruit and nuts, but toasted. Granola usually has added sugars/sweeteners.

Obviously. we’re quite fond of the steel cut oats we’re eating, but what kind of oats do you eat?

by Sarah J. Gim on February 2, 2011 · 6 comments

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Celena February 2, 2011 at 8:12 pm

i sometimes like to add a little cream cheese and some strawberries to my oatmeal!! Pureed pumpkin is also really amazing… Don’t forger the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger :) and finally peanut butter and bananas…


Albizia February 3, 2011 at 12:35 am

I always buy muesli because I love the raisins and seeds in mine and because even if I’m really lazy and lacking creativity some mornings I will still have a breakfast with some kind of flavor and not a completely bland bowl of plain oatmeal.


Natalie February 3, 2011 at 6:03 am

I have an amazing oatmeal recipe that I call “Magic Oatmeal” – I mix in an egg for extra protein and it makes it so creamy and delicious!



Jen February 3, 2011 at 10:32 am

I’m eating oatmeal right now with raw honey and dried cranberries. Yum!


annette February 3, 2011 at 11:28 am

our favorites are steel cut and old fashioned, gluten free of coarse. we soak the steel cut overnight and the old fashioned oats are great in the summer soaked in milk of choice overnight and eaten raw in the morning.


Kenniston September 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm

You siad oat flour behaves differently tham flour because it doesn’t have gluten but oats do.


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