How to “Quick” Cook Steel Cut Oats – Set It and Forget It

Oatmeal with Blackberries Blueberries Raspberries[The Oatmeal Project, Day 4: BerryBurst! (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry)]

It’s a total sham.

This whole “how to ‘quick’ cook steel cut oats” thing that we bumped into a few times during our travels along the steel cut oats is a sham.

We got all excited about the “secret” that could mean getting to our morning bowl of steel cut oats sooner than the very tedious 20-30 minutes it takes for us to cook it on the stovetop, while standing there stirring it. We tried it. It certainly tastes just as good as the “long cooking” method. But it’s still a sham.

You see, we get that this method only takes five minutes, but what this bait-and-switch method fails to tell you upfront is that the “quick” five minutes is in the morning. What is so quick about the 12 hours before the five-minute-morning that you’re actually letting the oats sit in the pot after you’ve boiled them the night before? Shouldn’t this be called the “All-Night Method?” And what about the time and effort it takes to remember to do all this before? We’re not that prepared! And reheating these “all-night” oats isn’t really cooking, now is it?! You might as well microwave them!

Which is actually another method, but we’ll get to that after the weekend.

How to “Quick” Cook Steel Cut Oats


1 part steel cut oats
3 parts water
pinch of salt for each (1 cup) part steel cut oats


Put oats, water and salt in a pot that will leave at least 2 or 3 inches of room at the top (so the oats don’t boil over).

Bring to a boil over medium high-heat and boil for about 1 minute. Turn off the heat, cover, and let oats sit at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, uncover the pot, place over medium high heat, bring to a boil, and let oats heat through.

** TasteSpotting Kitchen note: We are assuming you get a good solid eight hours of sleep. However, if you’re like us, “overnight” really is only three hours long, which probably explains why this method doesn’t work for us.

by Sarah J. Gim on February 4, 2011 · 17 comments

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth M February 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I always just cook a big batch (4-6 servings) at one time, divide it up into individual containers and refrigerate. Then, in the morning I just nuke a container and it’s ready to go. The original batch only takes 30 minutes and then each morning it only takes about 90 seconds to reheat. I dunno why anyone would boil a fresh batch every morning!

But, I guess if you *did* want to make a fresh batch every morning, you could just get it going, lower the heat to a simmer and just come back later (say, after you shower) and it would be good. There’s no need to sit and watch it while it simmers on low.


Elaine Dai February 4, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Nice idea. I will try it tonight.


Kristina February 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Geez Louise, I feel spanked hard. I made the overnight suggestion in more than one comment, but didn’t call it quick (other than the reheat in the am portion), so I guess I can share some of the blame with others who had the same idea. I need to go skulk away now. Oh, except for pointing out how healthy and advantageous, from a digestive standpoint, it is to soak the grains overnight, especially with yogurt in the water. But I’m frightened now and am not saying anything else about oatmeal again!


Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul February 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Lately I’ve been hearing/reading so much about soaking oats overnight; and not just steel cut oats. Some think that soaking even the old fashioned oats helps release phytic acid in the grain, allowing for greater absorption of the oat’s nutrients by your body. However, I’ve read that the reduction of phytic acid is not significant compared to other grains, like barley.
Still, it makes oats cook faster, and that’s enough for me : )


Jenn C February 5, 2011 at 7:24 am

I used to buy the cut steel cut oats (can’t remember what they were called), then I switched to buying steel cut oats in bulk and buzzing them in the food processor until they were smaller. Then I put them in the microwave with water and they cooked in 5 – 7 minutes. Other than the initial food processing (unless you can find them already cut in your natural foods store), they truly were quick.


kristina February 5, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Success or not, I have been on a major oatmeal kick lately so I’m very excited that you guys are doing this. I grew up on the instant stuff and have just now been delving into the real stuff. It’s really interesting to see how many options there are.


Patrick February 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

My method takes 2 minutes in the morning.

One “pouch” of Quaker instant unflavored oatmeal, 2/3 cup of milk, nuke it in the microwave during 2 minutes and add a little bit of maple syrup and your set!

Am I missing something? Is the instant oatmeal really THAT less nutritious?


rebecca May 24, 2011 at 10:10 am

Yep, you are missing out. I highly recommend going to Trader Joes (or your regular grocery store) and picking up some Steel Cut Oats. It’ll change your life, for real. They’re soooo much tastier and they leave you feeling like $1,000,000! And they cost less than the pre-packaged stuff too.

Zo @ Two Spoons February 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Heh, this is why I much prefer a simplified Bircher muesli. Oats + juice (maybe some honey), soaked overnight, add yogurt next morning and you’re good to go. If you’re feeling luxurious, grate an apple in or smoosh a banana and stir through.


shelle February 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

That’s a little nitpicky, isn’t it? It may have been poorly named, but a “sham?” No. To me, a “sham” is when you prepare the dish and it doesn’t work at all.

And cooking oats, or anything else, by ANY method requires that you remember to do it, whenever the “it” occurs.

Not sure why this is a problem.


Ceili February 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

The real secret to steel cut oats in the morning? Rice cookers. I have a 5.5 cup Sanyo with a Porridge setting and a timer. I set it up the night before – 1 part oats to 4 parts water – and then set the timer to when I want my breakfast. Sometimes I’ll toss in some golden raisins. Use the porridge setting, and then I go to bed. In the morning, breakfast is served….


lagne February 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

I’m really uncomfortable with the recipe’s recommendation to leave the cooked oats at room temperature overnight. Everyone associates raw meat, eggs, etc. with foodbourne illness, but cooked grains are classified as a “Potentially Hazardous Food” – they contain everything bacteria need to thrive. Food safety guidelines recommend not leaving a prepared food out for longer than four hours at 140 degrees to prevent foodbourne illness – and in this setting, we’re talking eight hours at room temperature. Very dangerous. It’s much safer to use a rice cooker or slow cooker, as some have recommended. And the plus side is that you wake up to a nice, warm breakfast – no extra morning effort required.


susie February 13, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Actually, if you make a medium to largish pot of it, you can refridgerate the rest and just microwave it bowl by bowl as you like. Add a little frozen fruit, some nuts and brown sugar and you are good to go. It lasts in the fridge for about 5 or 6 days.


Diane Peters September 15, 2011 at 3:17 am

Yeah, take off the “Quick”, but maybe replace it with easy. My dad makes a great overnight, no-cook oatmeal. To one cup of old fashioned oats (not steel-cut), he adds a cup of almond milk, 1/3 cup blueberries, 1/4 cup chopped nuts, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and just leaves it sitting out all night. In the morning he just stirs it and eats. The texture and taste is wonderful. But if you want it hot, nuke it in the microwave. We love it and… for you nervous Nellies: no one has gotten sick.


Sylvia September 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I’ve been eating steel cut oats almost every morning for more than a year and I’m still in love with them. I soak them overnight and cook them in the microwave for 6 minutes. Yum!


Kate H. July 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

This is sort of the method I use. Here’s what I do. Clean four half pint wide mouth canning jars. Add 1/4 cup oats, a pinch of salt and almost a cup water. Put the four canning jars in the microwave and bring to a boil. This takes exactly 5 minutes in my microwave. Be careful you don’t let it go too long because it will foam over the top of the jars if it boils too long. Remove from microwave and put canning jar lids and rings screwing tight. They will “can” themselves within a couple of minutes. Leave on the counter over night and the next morning refrigerate 3 jars and heat the remaining jar in the microwave for about 3 minutes. If the oats seem a little dry, add some water or milk before microwaving.

I also make a compote of apples, maple syrup and cinnamon which I keep in 4 oz canning jars (they are so cute!) in the frig. I add about a half the jar to the oats the last minute of heating then top with nuts and milk, unless I’m feeling really decadent in which case I’ll to with half and half.


Angela April 22, 2013 at 5:46 am

The best way to have steel cut oats every morning, is to buy a 2 quart slowcooker ($10), and a lamp timer. For two people 1/2 cup oats, 2 1/2 cups of water. Set to low, add to slowcooker at bedtime, set timer to start at 4:00 am, to be eaten at 8:00. Add your toppings, enjoy. We do this every morning, so we keep the timer plugged in and dedicated to the oatmeal. Our toppings of choice: cinnamon, raw slivered almonds, Zante currants (raisins), goji berries, chia seeds. Very delish, filling, healthy.


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