From Groats to Oats: Everything You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Your Boring Breakfast

Learning to feed yourself can be one of the most terrifying things. Am I about to give myself food poisoning? If I eat this too often will I end up with scurvy? How can I get the most nutritional bang for my buck? Why does this still taste like ass?

With Ode to My Pantry, learn to navigate a grocery store without having a meltdown in aisle three. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a queer to cook and stave off malnutrition for another semester.


OdetoOatmeal

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but also the most difficult. Even though dinner requires preparation and lunch requires forethought (can’t eat it if you leave it in your fridge!), when the hunger hits, you usually have enough brain power to make your meal. As for mornings? The only thing I’m certified to do within an hour of waking is brewing coffee, jumping in the shower and smearing my eyes with black paint. And admittedly I’ll even fuck one of those up.

Cereal, bagels, yogurt, breakfast bars, toast and smoothies all have their place in the Breakfast World, but I’m firmly in Camp Oatmeal. I’m not talking about the brick of porridge my mom used to cut a slice off of each wintry school morning and I’m not talking about those little brown packets full of “artificial and natural flavouring” and I’m definitely not talking about those fast food chain paper bowls that come with 300+ calories and a $3 price tag. Nope, just good ol’ fashioned, dirt cheap oats.

AllOats

All oats come from groats, but not all oatmeals are equal. Much like wheat, rice and barley, we’re here for Avena sativa‘s seed and not for the grassy bits. Once harvested, groats will be cleaned, dehulled and kilned. Cleaning gets rid of un-spoon friendly rocks and stems, dehulling ups the digestibility and kilning switches off the enzymes to make your breakfast shelf-stable. But while other grains usually exit the mill here (unless they’re destined to become flour or meal), chances are you haven’t seen a whole groat recently. So grab a safety helmet and a pair of goggles and let’s make our way through the rest of the mill!

Steel Cut Oats

If you gather up all the broken groats and cut them into even sized chunks you’re left with steel cut oats.

aka Scotch Oats, Irish Oats, Pinhead Oats or Coarse-Cut Oats

aka Scotch Oats, Irish Oats, Pinhead Oats or Coarse-Cut Oats

If breakfasts have trends, this is one of them. With minimal processing that lets some of the bran stick around, steel cut oats are thought to be “more nutritious” than their oat cousins. (But we’re fucking talking about oats people! As long as you’ve traded in your Lucky Charms, you’re already streets ahead no matter which oat you pick.) The extra bran and chunkier texture means this style of oatmeal tastes nuttier, feels chewier and keeps you full longer. But pros don’t exist without cons, so this tasty treat requires 20 more minutes of stove time than I can spare in the morning. But there are ways around it.

Making It Your Breakfast Buddy:
Skip Starbucks and hunt down your slow cooker or crock pot instead. Throw 1 1/2 cups of “dairy,” 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 cup of steel cut oats and 1/4 tsp salt into your pot and wait (or sleep) for 7 hours. Or up your game and add apples and cinnamon, eggnog and cranberries or even pumpkin. Either way, all you gotta do is wake up for breakfast to be served. (And microwave the leftovers for the rest of the week.)

Rolled Oats

If you steam your groats and press them between two spinning cylinders you’re left with rolled oats!

aka Oatmeal, Old-Fashioned Oats, Flaked Oats or Oatflakes

aka Oatmeal, Old-Fashioned Oats, Flaked Oats or Oatflakes

This is the oatmeal you think of when you think of oatmeal or granola. Hearty and toothsome, it’s unctuous and smooth without traipsing into gruel territory. Just like all oats, it’s high in dietary fibre, gluten-free and low on the glycemic scale. On the plus side of things, you can cook it on your stovetop, but on the negative side it still takes a bit of babying. But that extra bit of steam means it still cooks up super fast.

Making It Your Breakfast Buddy:
Grab a handy dandy Mason jar and fill it up with a 1:1 ratio of rolled oats and “dairy.” Top it with any and all of those oatmeal toppings you enjoy (like mangos, bananas, blueberries or strawberries?) and stash it in the fridge while you sleep. The oats will hydrate from the added liquid, losing the powdery raw-texture and becoming creamy smooth in the process.

Quick Oats

If you set your cylinders closer together causing thinner flakes and a bit of breakage you have quick oats.

aka

aka easy oats

They’re not as revered as rolled oats, but they still do their job. The thinner flake size means that they cook up lightning quick. You don’t even need to cook them on the stovetop, boiling water will do! And anytime you made oatmeal cookies, you were probably reaching for this.

Making It Your Breakfast Buddy:
Reach for another one cup Mason jar and load it with 1/2 cup quick oats, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of ground flax seeds and a bit of brown sugar each night. Or if you’re thinking ahead, make a fleet of each Sunday to make it through your work week. In the morning top it off with boiling water and a bit of dairy, close it up and throw it in your bag. You’ll have perfectly prepared oatmeal for your commute with a bowl to boot!

Instant Oatmeal

If you set your rollers even closer together and steam or bake the end result you’ll have instant oatmeal!

I'd be really impressed if you got this out of that packet via Quaker

I’d be really impressed if you got this out of that packet via Quaker

Instant oatmeal is just that, instant! If you’re running on empty and wanna stick to the familiar brown packet, go for it. You Chew You! Given how simple oatmeal should be, just make sure to choose a sachet with the fewest number of weirdo ingredients. Quaker still seems like it’s king.

But outside of breakfast, the occasional cookie and my favourite stouts, oats tend to get forgotten when meals turn savory. But why should they? If you’re midway through a recipe and find your pantry lacking in the grain department, just reach for your oats.

Doesn't look to crazy right? via Vanilla Extract

Doesn’t look to0 crazy right? via Vanilla Extract

Breading:
Throw in some quick oats next time you run out of breadcrumbs when you’re frying up chicken.

Polenta:
Running low on cornmeal? Let your unflavoured breakfast porridge set up before turning out and slicing into cakes. Panfry and serve with a ragu and parmesan. Or if that seems like too big of a step, supplement your normal cornmeal with some steel cut oats.

You know how much we love sriracha via Pie and Beer

You know how much we love sriracha via Pie and Beer

Savory Oatmeal:
Fine fine, this is still oatmeal and we’re back to square one, but it’s a great alternative for people that are bored of cinnamon, maple or any of the usual sweet flavours. Go the congee route and add some scallions and soy. Roll your oats with some caramelized onions and curry powder.Or top it off with the ubiquitous breakfast saviour: a poached egg.

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Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 140 articles for us.

35 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    I love this article! Awesome and informative, great work. A quick note for all you gluten-free folks out there…if you are actually allergic to gluten oats are naturally gluten free, yes, but the way they are commercially cut unfortunately means there’s some cross-contamination. Just look for brands that specifically note gf if you want to be safe :)

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    I recently rediscovered oatmeal and I love how many ways there are to eat it! My current favorite is to add apple, raisins, walnuts and maple syrup. YUM.

    I’ve actually never used anything but rolled oats, so thanks for educating me on additional oatmeal possibilities!

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    I switched from instant to old fashioned oats when I realized how much I was paying for the instant stuff, when old fashioned took only a few more minutes to cook. I like to cut up bananas and add blueberries and almond milk, with a shake of cinnamon.

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    Love steel cut and rolled oats. They pair really good when I’m having a cardio day. They kinda make me feel just a bit bloated though. If you’re creative enough you can actually make oatmeal pancakes with all the berries mixed in etc. Really easy to store and heat up the next day and you’ll have your protein (eggs) in ‘em too.

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    Oatmeal in a crock pot! I’ve been seeing more and more amazing crock pot shortcuts around lately. I feel like getting myself one of those little single-serving crock pots would make my life easier by a factor of 5, at least.

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      You don’t need to do that. Just use the crockpot as a water bath for any smaller over-safe dish. If you are making it for just yourself, you can even make it in the bowl you will use to eat them. I make steel-cut oats in the crock pot almost every night in the winter. I am making for three so I use a smallish pyrex bowl and use 1 part steel-cut oats to 3 parts water. Put the dish into your crock, and then add water to the crock about 2/3rds of the way up the side of whatever dish you have your oats in. Turn it on low and go to bed. You can add spices and whatnot at night, but if you want to add dried fruit, throw it in while you shower or make your coffee in the morning so it doesn’t turn to mush.

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    I never liked oatmeal until I discovered the Mason jar overnight in the fridge method. It leaves the oats more chewy and less like baby food. I love putting nuts and dried fruit in, by the time morning comes the fruit is all rehydrated and delicious. Does anyone else prefer their oatmeal cold?

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    Yay! I love this post. I’m a firm believer in oats (especially for breakfast). I usually eat scottish oatmeal for breakfast with a dollop of honey, chopped apple, and a cluster of almonds. I’m pretty mush convinced it’s the perfect autumn/winter breakfast, as it keeps my belly warm on my bike ride to work/school. So simple, yet so filling and so hearty.

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    I’ve always loved oatmeal and found it very comforting, but since I became lactose intolerant a year or so ago, I am a full-on, every day oatmeal eater. I like it with a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar.

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    YES oatmeal is the best breakfast food ever. As someone who firmly believes that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, oatmeal is so amazing because it keeps me full and happy all morning. And it’s so cheap!

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    yes! i like mine with raisens, toasted sunflower seeds, linseeds and bilberries*. i once tried with raw coco nibs too, and that was also delicious!

    *similar to blueberries, but they grow wild in the forrest – we pick and freeze them for the next year!

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    I don’t like the texture of instant oats but I also don’t have the time or the patience to stand next to the stove and stir for 10+ minutes to make sure rolled oats don’t stick to the pot and burn. I’ve discovered that if you soak the oats in a little boiling water for about 5-10 minutes (just enough time for me to get dressed), it cuts down the cooking time to 5 minutes. I guess you could also soak them in milk but that would involve heating up so milk in the microwave etc whereas now I just use whatever water’s left in the kettle from making tea / coffee.

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    Trader Joe’s makes a quick-cooking steel-cut oats (I think it microwaves in 5 min).

    Another reason to love oats: it will lower your cholesterol. Remember that Quaker’s commercial where two old dudes were playing checkers? Oats apparently removes cholesterol from your blood (like a jumped checker piece from the board!) I’ve been eating oats for bfast forever, and also have nice low cholesterol levels, so it seems to be true.

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    I was lost in the breakfast aisle until I read your post. I always avoided oatmeal as I didn’t enjoy the consistency and texture, but I didn’t know that was just the instant stuff. All your suggestions for pre-prepped milled or rolled oats in mason jars sound yummy and easy. Thank you!

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    I’ve been trying to eat breakfast more often (in addition to putting on pants every day) as part of being an ADULT. Oatmeal is probably my favorite cold weather breakfast so I love all the quick ideas for making it!! Will definitely make my mornings more doable

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