How to Make Oatmeal

By Caryn Anderson

Oatmeal doesn't have to be bland or boring. This fiber-rich grain provides a comforting dish that's typically prepared for breakfast, but can also be used for lunch or dinner. Once you have the basic cooking instructions down, feel free to get creative with different seasonings and toppings to cook up a hearty dish that's not only suited for everyday eating, but can also be worthy of special occasions.

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Rolled oats cook faster than Scottish oatmeal or steel-cut oats.

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Cooking Rolled Oats

All you need to make a tasty bowl of oatmeal is a medium-sized saucepan, oats and water or milk. Quick-cooking oats, which are precooked before they're dried and rolled, take approximately 1 minute on the stove top, while old-fashioned -- or rolled oats -- take approximately 5 minutes. For either type of oats, bring 2 parts water or milk to a boil, stir 1 part oats into the boiling liquid and simmer the mixture over medium heat for the specified time.

Cooking Steel Cut Oats And Scottish Oatmeal

Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish oatmeal, give you heartier texture than oatmeal made with rolled or quick-cooking oats. These oats are made from toasted oat kernels that have the husks removed before they are cut into pieces with a sharp steel blade. Cook steel-cut oatmeal by bringing 4 parts of water to a boil for every 1 part of oats. Stir the oats into the boiling water and simmer the mixture over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until the oatmeal reaches the desired texture.

Scottish oatmeal is stone-ground, which provides creamier results than steel-cut oats. To cook them, bring 3 parts water for every 1 part Scottish oats to a boil, along with a pinch of salt. Stir the oats into the boiling water and simmer this quicker-cooking mixture for approximately 10 minutes.

Alternative Cooking Methods

The stovetop isn't your only option for cooking oatmeal. You can also utilize your slow cooker, microwave or an overnight method for fuss-free preparation.

  • Prepare oatmeal in a slow cooker by combining 1 part rolled oats to 2 parts water or milk along with your preferred sweetener, such as maple syrup or brown sugar Cook the mixture on low for 6 to 8 hours. You can use the same method for slow-cooking steel-cut oats; just adjust the liquid-to-oat ratio.

  • Microwave your oatmeal by combining the liquid and oats in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave rolled oats on high for 2 to 3 minutes or quick-cooking oats for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir the oatmeal before seasoning, and serve.

  • Make overnight oats by combining equal parts of Greek yogurt, milk and rolled oats for the creamiest result. If you prefer your oats a bit thinner, use 2 to 3 parts milk to 1 part oats. Stir in your preferred sweetener, chia or flax seeds and fresh chopped fruit before transferring the mixture to an airtight container and refrigerating it overnight. The next morning you can eat the oats chilled or heat them as desired.

Seasonings, Add-Ins and Topping Suggestions

Oatmeal provides a neutral canvas for a variety of flavors, including dried spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger. More sweet topping ideas include fresh or dried fruit such as cranberries, dates, blueberries, bananas or apples. Add extra texture and nutty flavor with chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds. Infuse the oatmeal with the creaminess of milk or yogurt and sweeten it with applesauce, jam, fruit preserves, honey, sugar or maple syrup.

In addition to sweet oatmeal seasonings and toppings, you can top your oats with savory ingredients such as sautéed vegetables, chopped meats, good-quality cheeses, fresh herbs and onions. Top savory oatmeal with a fried or poached egg or stir in flavorful ingredients such as spicy kimchi or deeply flavored miso paste. Add extra flavor to the oats by cooking them in broth instead of water. Serve it for a savory breakfast, a quick lunch or in place of side dishes such as potatoes, rice or polenta.