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Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal

It’s June. Mid-June. Some would even say it’s getting on towards late June. So why am I still making oatmeal?

Because it’s so ridiculously easy, that’s why. This overnight trick (which involves a slow cooker, I must warn you) is laughable as far as an actual recipe goes: You measure water, you measure oats, you pinch some salt, and you’re there. The most complicated part of the whole process is setting up a water bath inside your slow cooker, which keeps the oats from getting crusty and dried out as they cook. What elevates it into something every time-pressed parent—every time-pressed person, period—should make regularly is the ratio of blissful satisfaction to piddling effort. Imagine waking up to a creamy, chewy, fills-you-up-all-morning breakfast that’s ready and waiting, after sixty seconds of “work” the night before. Uh huh, that’s right. Sixty seconds.

If you’re not familiar with steel-cut oats, they’re a distant cousin of quick cooking and old-fashioned rolled oats. Instead of being flaked, the oat groat (love that phrase: I hear Beavis chuckling, “heh heh, she said ‘oat groat’”) is chopped into two or three pieces by steel blades, hence the name. It’s the entire grain, and it’s minimally processed—always a good thing. The taste is more pronounced than with rolled oats; it’s oatier, if that makes sense. But it’s mostly about the texture: steel-cut oats fight you back a bit as you’re chewing them. You can feel each oat in your mouth, if you concentrate. I consider this to be a very good thing; chewy is one of my preferred textures. (I also like the heel of bread and the corner piece of nearly anything baked in a rectangular dish.) Topped with brown sugar, toasted pecans, and raisins, this is just about perfect.

Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Serves 2 adults & 1 toddler

3 cups cold water
1 cup steel-cut oatmeal
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a glass 4-cup measure (or a similar heat-safe bowl that can hold at least 4 cups). Put the measuring cup inside your slow cooker’s insert. Carefully add cold water in the space between the cup and the wall of the insert—you’re making a water bath. You want the water level to come up just slightly higher than the level inside the cup; this will keep things creamy, not crusty. Cover, turn cooker to low, and go to sleep.

I’ve set this up as early as 9PM and as late as midnight, and it’s reliably creamy-not-crusty every time.

ETA: It’s an hour or two later, and we’ve just eaten our oatmeal. June may, in fact, be too warm for oatmeal after all. Sigh.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Z

    I want to try this. Do you have a recommended brand of slow cooker?

  2. debbie koenig

    Hi Z. I have a 4-quart Rival (it's oval, and red), which I got for $20 at Target. Hard to complain when it's that cheap! You don't need a fancy machine; all you really need are Low/High/Warm buttons.

  3. Tracy Malloy-Curtis

    LOVE this. We've made it every day for a week. It works over night on low (I put it on one night at 9, another at midnight, and it was great) and the night I forgot to turn it on – I put it on high from 5am to 7am and it STILL came out great.

  4. debbie koenig

    Wow, Tracy, I've never tried the 2-hours-on-high thing. Good to know next time Harry wakes me at 5:30 (like he did today).

  5. Ivy

    Oh, the solution you told me about for my "smoldering overnight oatmeal"! Hurrah! Would you shudder if I suggested a few tablespoons of cocoa mix? I love the smell of chocolate in the morning…;)

  6. debbie koenig

    oooo, Ivy, I like the way you think!

  7. Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi

    I think I'd better give this a go. I'm trying to eat more oatmeal but have managed to murder it TWICE on the stovetop. Geez!

  8. andrea

    Just to clarify, you put the oats and salt in the glass bowl. Then fill the space between with the cold water?

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Andrea, you put the oats, salt, and the water specified in the ingredients list into the bowl, then fill the space between bowl & insert with additional cold water.

  9. barbara borthwick

    I love the steel-cut oats! Have any of you tried eating them cold after preparing them? I prepare them for the week and each day I just add a cup of blueberries, a tablespoon of flaxseed meal and a tablespoon of sliced almonds and sunflower seeds as well as 3oz. of greek yougert. We had something like this when we were in England a few years ago. It was and is really good!

    1. Debbie Koenig

      So you eat the oatmeal cold, with all that added in? I’ve never tried that!

  10. barbara borthwick

    I’ll try the slow cooker with the water insert. I’ve only been eating them for the past month or so – trying to reduce my cholesterol levels without statins.

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