Last Updated on November 29, 2012 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD
You know how I like my oatmeal? With peanut butter in it.
I can see you rolling your eyes and chalking this up to pregnancy cravings, but I swear, I was enjoying it loooong before the hormones kicked in. It is delicious like a peanut butter cookie. Even if you’ve never liked oatmeal, please please please just try it this way. Humour me.
I want to tell you about all the different incarnations of oats – steel cut, large flake, quick, instant… So many options – do you know the difference? Are you choosing the right oat for the job? Is the suspense killing you yet?
If you do not want this information in your brain, feel free to scroll to the recipe. I won’t be hurt. I’m used to people tuning me out when I start waving my arms and talking enthusiastically about porridge and whatnot…
Here’s the scoop:
Steel cut oats (a.k.a Irish oats, Scottish oats or Pinhead oats) are intact whole oat groats, with just their inedible hull removed, chopped into a few pieces with a steel blade. They take a while to cook – about 30 minutes. They are chewier and nuttier-tasting than oatmeal in other forms. Not optimal for baking, unless pre-soaked (and then the liquid needs to be adjusted as well). If you want to bake with steel cut oats, follow a recipe that calls for them specifically.
Large flake oats (a.k.a. old fashioned oats) are also the de-hulled whole grain. They are briefly steamed and flattened between rollers. They take about 2 minutes in the microwave, and have a great texture and chew. Both large flake and steel cut oats have the bran and germ intact.
Quick oats are rolled oats, but cut in thinner flakes for faster cooking. Some baking recipes call for quick-cooking, but I still use large flake because I prefer the texture.
Instant oats are completely pre-cooked and then dehydrated, and usually have powdery oat flour added. As a hot cereal, they bear the consistency of soupy baby food. They aren’t great in baking. Many manufacturers remove the bran from quick and instant oats, so they aren’t necessarily whole grain.
From a nutrition perspective, all varieties are comparable in fibre, but the instant packets often have added sugars, salt, guar gum (as a thickener), and artificial colouring. Also, the highly processed instant oatmeal breaks down very rapidly into sugar in your body. Translation: you’ll get an energy spike… and then a crash. (When the factory does the processing, your body doesn’t have to…) Large flake oats require more work for the carbohydrate to be absorbed, giving you a more sustained energy supply. Steel cut are the winner being the least processed option that’ll keep you going the longest (but they do take some advance planning for weekday breakfasts).
Yeah… so that’s oatmeal for you! Back to the peanut butter-y version. Totally yum. And the added protein and (healthy) fat from the PB make for smoooooth sailing through your whole morning.
Speaking of oats, I have a somewhat not-really-related aside. People who dwell South of the border (to us that means YOU, Americans!) tend to poke friendly fun at our nation’s accent, particularly the pronunciation of “out and about”. I just have to say, Canadians do not say “oot and aboot”. We say “OAT and abOAT”.
Say the following out loud:
I was hanging oat on my coach, petting my dog on his snoat, and dreaming (withoat a doat) aboat living down soath.
That’s the Canadian accent. Full of oats. Just like me.
- 1/3 cup old fashioned oats (not quick or instant)
- 2/3 cup water (or milk)
- good pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- brown sugar to taste
- 1/2 banana, sliced
- milk, for serving
Combine oats, water (or milk) and salt in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Stir in peanut butter. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with brown sugar. Top with banana slices and a splash of milk.