How to Cook Steel Cut Oats in the Microwave – Oatmeal Project Day 12

Steel Cut Oats with Raspberries, White and Dark Chocolate[The Oatmeal Project, Day 12: Raspberry White + Dark Chocolate]

We’ve been eating oats every day for the last two weeks and have tried a few methods for cooking steel cut oats. We started with the standard, slow method standing at the stove for 20 minutes, moved on in our busy schedules to the “quick”/overnight method, and even pulled our old rice cooker out of storage to try steel cut oats in there. We know that several of you have recommended cooking steel cut oats in the microwave oven, but we were reluctant to “resort” to something so easy.

But we tried it anyway.

The microwaved oats taste just about the same as the others, but something about rustic, chewy steel cut oats, warm and comforting at the same time so totally healthy, just didn’t seem right coming out of a microwave oven. It made us feel cheap, like we should just be eating instant oatmeal. However, if microwaving is the only method available to you, well, we aren’t going to argue with that. Of course, since a microwave oven means you do have a plug, you could plug in a small rice cooker instead. *wink*

The most remarkable thing about microwaving oats, however, is really just the size of the bowl you need to account for the oats and water bubbling up during the microwaving time. The more you need to cook, the larger the bowl, which may not even fit in the microwave.

How to Cook Steel Cut Oats in the Microwave Oven


1 part steel cut oats
4 parts water
pinch of salt for every ½-cup part of oats

Special Equipment/Tools

a large, microwave safe bowl that is at least 4 times larger in volume than the amount of water, e.g. if cooking 1 cup of oats with 4 cups of water, you will need almost a gallon-size bowl


Stir together oats, water and salt in large microwave-safe bowl. Loosely cover the bowl with a microwave-safe plate.

Microwave on high for 10 minutes, stopping and stirring the oats halfway through the cook time.

by Sarah J. Gim on February 13, 2011 · 39 comments

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Morgan March 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I make steel cut oats in the microwave every day at work. I ran into the same problem with oats bubbling up like whoa until I started using a wiiiiiiiide bowl, not unlike this:

Problem solved!

I’ve also found that throwing frozen fruit in at the halfway point results in pure deliciousness. I like TJ’s very cherry berry blend.


carleen November 6, 2011 at 10:13 pm

i find them to be real slimy?! is that normal?


B. Deahl November 30, 2011 at 8:12 am

Morgan . . . I used to add blue berries, raspberries, etc. The OU nutritionist said the heat would destroy the antioxidants . . . (antioxidants? . . . it would destroy something super.)
Love steel cut oats! While on Thanksgiving vacation I had flax meal . . . and it too was delicious.


B. Deahl November 30, 2011 at 8:15 am

I use equal parts of water . . . no salt. Will try the ratios above + salt and see what happens.


Nikki February 21, 2012 at 8:52 am

Well I tried this, followed it to the letter and it failed miserably.

I used the biggest bowl I have, just to be safe and a plate that fits over it. The plate literally BLEW OFF from the bowl and shattered in the microwave. But I’d walked away because 10 minutes is a long time to stand and watch the microwave. So all the oatmeal splattered all over everything and then baked on. So my bowl and microwave are ruined.

But I was starving so I decided to go ahead and eat what was left in the bowl. I did 1 part oatmeal and 4 parts water. It never soaked up the water, so it was crunchy oatmeal bits in water.

Thanks, I’ll just stick to instant.


Joe February 29, 2012 at 7:41 am

I am at work and just tried this method since my first bowl blew out after the first minute in the microwave..

I do have a water cooler / heater station.. and the red tap puts out some pretty hot water. I used a dixie brand (paper) bowl and filled the bowl to cover the oats (about 1/4 of the bowl) I took it back to my desk and worked for a bit and let the hot water do its thing. Then after about 10 minutes took it back to the break room, microwaved it for about 2 minutes.. (Having to stop every 30 seconds or so to let the mountain forming reduce in size).. Took it back to my desk again and let it sit for a few more.. I keep trying bites here and there and I notice they are getting softer and creamier the longer I wait and let them ‘cook’ I will admit they are still a tad chewy but I think I actually like that! Thanks for the tips on how to do this!


janice March 5, 2012 at 7:16 am

just ate my first bowl of steel cut oats…wish i had read online how to prepare in the microwave first! like others mine was all over the microwave but i will take the advice of others and use a larger bowl. you mentioned it making you feel “cheap” – it shouldn’t! cooking in the microwave will save you $ as it uses MUCH less energy than cooktop or stove…eating oatmeal cooked in the microwave is HEALTHY SMART & GREEN!


anonymous November 1, 2012 at 8:34 am

i have to question the “health smart” nature of subjecting my food to radiation…

to anonymous November 1, 2016 at 9:03 am

The oats have already been subjected to MUCH more radiation to grow from sunlight than your microwave subjects it to.

DM March 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

I have been cooking and eating steel cut oats from the microwave for years and here is what I have learned. First of all unless you like you oats turned to mush (one of the reasons I prefer steel cut to regular is that I don’t like mush) then the recipe above has WAY too much water. I cook mine just like brown rice with a ratio of 1 to 2. For a single portion I cook 1/2 C of steel cut oats with 1 C water. I omit salt, because there really is no need unless you are addicted to sodium. To avoid the run over mess I sprinkle a generous handful of raisins or dried cranberries on top just prior to popping it in the microwave. This cuts the surface tension of the water and keeps it from boiling over. Next I set my microwave at 70% power for 17 minutes. I don’t use a giant bowl (with the dried fruit on top there is no need). I cover mine with a vented microwave top (I have also used parchment paper). I turn it on and then go shower and dress for the morning. I like to top mine off with straight cinnamon, chopped walnuts, and almond milk (no sugar or honey to avoid the glucose crash). This easily keeps me going teaching 4 and 5-year-olds until lunch and beyond. The nice thing about using less water and avoiding the mush is that the oat break down slower in your digestive track and thus stick with you longer. This is also the advantage of steel cut over regular. They are also chewier which I prefer. For something a little more savory, top with chopped dried apricots instead of raisin while cooking, then afterward dress with bacon crumbles and a dollop of Greek yogurt. You might even forget about lunch.


MM February 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

DM, you had me until you mentioned bacon crumbles. Idk, I like mine with fresh fruit and brown sugar with soy milk. Healthy and delicious. I like how you mentioned adding stuff on top to cut surface tension. I’m going to try that. I’m sure the cranberries and/or raisins will also hydrate with them being boiled. Thanks. 17 mins.

Jane Morgan February 3, 2018 at 8:37 am

Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m looking forward to trying! I taught 1st grade for 10 years and wish I had known about this back then because I was always starving by 10:30 am!!

frank May 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I just wanted to add, I make steel cut oats in the microwave at work. It took trial and error to get what I like without the mess. I start using a regular coffee cup. I put just a quarter cup of water in microwave, heat for two minutes, put quarter cup of oats and let sit for two minutes. Then I start putting in the microwave thirty to forty seconds at a time and add water as needed to keep it from boiling over. It only takes about a minute or two to get them just right. Then I add a little maple syrup, raisins, and walnuts. Perfect!!


maclibrarian June 1, 2012 at 1:05 am

I use 1 part oats to 2 parts water, scattered raisins not on top, and some spices, no salt, cook for 7-9 minutes (9-11 for the old microwave, 18-20 minutes at a lower power in the really old cheapo microwave) depending on time of year (less when it is warmer) and how hot the water is going in (less if it is hotter). Then I either stir and do one or two more minutes while watching to make sure it does not overflow, OR just let it sit in the microwave until breakfast time (15-20 min, though often I don’t eat for a long time after it is made) I use a large glass mixing bowl with a glass lid that does not fit perfectly for 2 – 3 cups oats, and sometimes it overflows, but never explodes!, as it gets warmer out, so I just mop up (pouring it back in the bowl) and adjust the cooking time for the next day. One benefit…Usually when it overflows it is ready to eat without the extra time. : )


sonatherun July 17, 2012 at 5:11 am

I don’t like the taste of steal cut oats, and from what I’m reading, they aren’t sufficiently more healthy than old fashioned rolled oats to justify the incredibly greater level of difficulty and waste of time, just another one of those made up things. Also, using the microwave is not only faster and more convenient, but it’s also green, using less energy. Steal for snobs, rolled for real people.


Margaret December 10, 2012 at 10:45 am

Perhaps this makes me a snob, but I can’t give much credence to the opinion of someone who doesn’t know the difference between “steel” and “steal.”

holly July 17, 2012 at 8:47 am

I use my electric pressure cooker. The ratio is 3 cups of liquid, I like a mixture of almond milk and water, to 1 cup of steel cut oats. Add a cinnamon stick or two. Pressure on high for 3 minutes. Let pressure come down naturally. It comes out perfect and I usually double the recipe if I want to make it for the entire week. While it’s pressuring I like to put some fresh/frozen fruit on a microwave plate and heat it up for a minute or so and then slap it on my oats.


Joan Merrell August 8, 2012 at 7:01 am

I did cracked wheat for years and now am starting oats – you just cook like rice: varying by amount and microwave’s power: cook on high long enough to get to boiling then on low for 20 minutes or more depending on how well done you like it. So it’s simmering gently, not boiling over. No watching, no sticking. go take your shower.


DEE August 9, 2012 at 5:33 pm

this is so simple. i use 1/4 cup of the oats and 3/4 cup water in a large bowl. i microwave it for 2 min on high then reduce it to 50% power for 7 min. i also wash it like rice before cooking. if this is not cooked enough then extend the time on 50% power. then i add craisins, walnuts, awberries, blueberries, strawberries. my neice uses pineapple with a little juice also. i eat this at 730 am and am not hungry until 100. it great.


Marlene August 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

I just experimented this morning with microwaving steel cut oats. I usually cook the stove-top method and make 4-5 days worth, then just reheat a single portion each morning in the microwave, but this morning I tried microwaving. I had a box of old fashioned oats that I use in other recipes and it said to put 1/2 cup in 1 cup of water and microwave at 5 minutes at 50% power. I did that yesterday, and they turned out excellent. So last night I put 1/4 cup steel cut oats into 1 cup of water and left overnight in the fridge to soak. I then microwaved at 50% power for 5 minutes, and got some spill-over, so I transferred to a larger 4-cup glass measuring cup and did it for another 5 minutes at 50% power. No spillover. I then did an extra 45 seconds at 100% power because it was still too liquidy. Turned out great. I added some thawed frozen berry blend and had a great breakfast. So tomorrow I’m going to try 1/4 cups soaked overnight in 3/4 cup water and microwave 10 minutes at 50% power.


Katie at Mom's Kitchen Handbook September 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I like your overnight method for steel cut oats. For microwaving, I use rolled oats (not instant oats) and mix them with dried fruit, nuts, spices, and brown sugar in a big jar for multiple portions like this:


MGE September 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Can these steel cut oats be used for cookies or bread as is? Or do they need to be cooked a bit before adding to a receipe? Thanks


mommalibrarian March 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm

IMHO they would not cook sufficiently in cookie dough or a crumble topping.

Dave September 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Okay, I’ve used this method for a few years now; who am I to keep it private. I have a 700 watt microwave, so YMMV. I don’t use an oversize bowl, just a regular cereal bowl (from Venture c.1980:o). 1/4 cup oats + 3/4 cup skim milk. 4 mins 44 seconds on high + 22 mins 22 seconds on power level 3 (I’m not into moving my finger around the keypad!) The first stage simply brings the mixture to the boil; the second stage keeps it at simmer until I’ve completed my morning routine. Never had any spillage; never a drop! I add more skim milk to achieve sloppiness, my custom Flax meal/Wheat germ blend, then top with fresh blueberries. Yummy!


Marlene February 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I put 1/3 cup oats and 1 and 1/3 cup waterin a 2 quart casserole and put it on high for 5 minutes. It boiled over and made a mess.
I took what was left and finished the cookingon the stove top. So, it didn’t work out for me.


Judith June 5, 2013 at 10:00 am

I have been eating steel cut oatmeal for years. Reading all the different ways of cooking is interesting. I need it quick so have only but 1 part oatmeal to 2 parts water. Put in bowl twice as large as cereal bowl. Cook it for only 2 min on high and leave it in the microwave until I have gotten ready in the morning. Water is all soaked up but it is in the chewy not mush stage. I add cinnamon, some type of berry and mini chocolate chips and stir it in. It suits me. I wouldn’t eat it if it took so much fiddling around. though I may try the overnight version and see if I like the texture.


Dannielle June 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I’ve been wanting to try steel cut oats for a while now because of their higher nutritional value. I love making rolled oats in the microwave oven and because I prefer them chewy, I use 1/4c oats with about 1/2c of water. I add a squirt of organic vanilla, about 1 1/2tbs of raisins, cinnamon and cover with either paper towel or wax paper before cooking in the microwave for a total of 45 seconds. I have to admit I use about a tsp each of honey and maple syrup. I let it stand about a minute or so which brings it to my favorite consistency. By the time I eat the last bites, it’s like eating a chewy oatmeal cookie. From the postings here, it sounds as though I will try the same ratio for the steel cut, maybe a bit more water.


lizzyd August 20, 2013 at 6:55 am

Cooking the steel cut oats on the stovetop took FOREVER! I don’t know if it was my crappy stovetop where low is too low, medium low is too low and medium is too hot. I had to adjust the temperature constantly to get them to a low simmer. Otherwise, it was a still pot or boiling pot. I also had to go back and add water 3 times and cook for over 50 minutes for 1 serving (started with 1/4 cup oats and 2 cups water.)

So, I tried it in the microwave. I have a pampered chef microwave rice cooker and I cooked 1/4 cup steel cut oats to 2 1/2 cups water. Heated on high 5 minutes then at 50% for 30 minutes. Now I know there is no time savings but after the first 5 minutes on high you can walk away.

The consistancy was better and the texture was better than in the pot. Cooking with an uncovered pot makes the steel cut oats cook very unevenly. When you cook in the microwave, all of the oats cook at the same rate and come out consistant. I prefer it to coming across hard lumps every bite.


TK September 7, 2013 at 6:03 am

The trick is understand the microwave is not going to save you time and steel cut oats take time.

I use about a 2-3/1 water to oats recipe. A half cup of oats will expand to plenty for one person. So; 1/2C oats, 1.25C water. Pinch of salt or teaspoon salted butter (the butter will aid in reducing boil over too)
Allow at least 2/1 space in bowl and then microwave for;
up to 45-sec on high or, 4-min at 60% in a 1400W microwave.

Stir and repeat until “sides roll and crunch is almost gone “al-dente”.
This will take up to 10-minutes. Add fruit milk to consistency nuke for 30-seconds mire, remove stir and enjoy!


judy October 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I use an 8 cup Pyrex straight sided measuring cup/bowl, it’s large, and it comes with a cover which can be adjusted to let air into the bowl, so it’s not air tight. I am trying to figure out how it make steel cut oats in the microwave without it boiling over and without ending up with too much water. The directions on the box for one serving says two cups water (in an 8 cup bowl) and one half cup steel cut oats, put it in the microwave for 5 minutes, stir, cook for 5 more minutes. The boiling over doesn’t start until the second cooking, but despite the boiling over, quite a lot of water comes out (i use a large heavy paper plate under the Pyrex to catch the spill over), but despite a lot of water coming out, which i don’t want, there is also a lot of water in the finished oats. I have tried reducing the amount of water to 1 3/4, and cooking it longer, but i haven’t solved this problem yet.


Lyle Giles November 23, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Cook them in the micro on 40% pwr to 50% pwr for 2 – 2 1/2 minutes stiring the last :30 seconds.

Oh yeah, 1/2 cup oats, 1 cup water.


bill bertrand September 28, 2015 at 6:22 am

i love steel cut oatmeal get it @ aldi’s, directions say 1/4 cup of oats to 3/4 cup of water nook 4 3min. on high then nook 4 another 2-3 mins.i use a largebowl probably standard oatmeal bowl its deep the oats start to boil overwithin 1.5 mins.our microwave isover stove 1200 watts, is thisto powerful.i can cut power by 50% if necessary.


Marni September 11, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Nuke, not nook. Nook is a brand name of an e-reader.

Norm Blais May 15, 2016 at 4:57 pm

I need help! I’ve never made them and my only option is a microwave. I don’t want them lumpy and hard. I prefer more the mushy type. If someone could give me simple and easy directions I would appreciate it.

Thanks, Norm


Susan June 22, 2016 at 8:54 pm

I’ve seen recipes that call for 1 part oatmeal to 3 parts water. Obviously I could fit that much easier in a large microwave bowl Does it make a difference either way?


CHETSTER CHET December 1, 2016 at 11:25 am

I have been eating rolled oats for years (using microwave) through the winter months and just switched to steel cut and boy do I love em! My oats always get the following after they are cooked – handful of dried cranberries, heaping spoonful of cinnamon, sprinkle of cayenne pepper, 1/4 cup of fiber one, 5 secs of honey out of the teddy bear, then stir. top with grape nuts, whole flax seeds, and bee pollen. use a little extra water to allow for all the added ingredients.


Scott McKay June 29, 2020 at 9:30 am

I have been making my steel cut oats in my rice cooker for years. I put in the oats and water at a 1-2 ratio ( with an extra splash of water for my taste) when I go to bed. I set the timer for when I want to eat and it is always ready and cooked perfectly. I add the fruit etc to my serving bowl thus retaining all the nutrients.


mommalibrarian March 3, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Radiation ???? What a strange idea. Visible light is radiation. Microwaves are radiation in the same sense as radio waves and the waves that make cell phones work. You would be hard pressed to avoid radiation. If you are thinking there is some scary sort of atomic decay you are way off base.


Suzanne April 17, 2013 at 7:50 am

Hahaha Margaret!


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