by Ben N on July 9, 2012

A couple of years ago, I got turned on to steel-cut oats. I had a chance to visit Scotland, only briefly, for my work. At the hotel, they served a breakfast buffet that included the best oatmeal I have ever tasted! It was a far cry from Quaker Instant Oats. This was REAL food, with actual flavor and body. Turned out that all it was is properly-cooked steel-cut oats, a Scottish traditional food.

Recently, I heard a radio program again reminding us all of how we eat too much processed food, and that when we are eating carbs, we really need to focus on whole grains, and keep them as unprocessed as possible.

That’s really all I needed to get back to eating steel-cut oats. Just a couple of problems. Steel-cut oats take FOREVER to cook, and we are in the middle of a heat wave. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to simmer oats in a pot for an hour or even have a crock-pot of oats warming my already hot kitchen all day.

I had been thinking about solar-cooking lately (using a recycled fresnel lens pulled from a junked projection television) and that got me thinking about other ways of “low energy cooking” that will feed me, yet keep the kitchen cool.

In our pantry, I have a couple of Thermos brand insulated food containers. Instead of being tall and skinny for coffee or other beverages, these stainless steel containers are short, with a wide mouth, almost like a pint Mason jar.

So, last night, I dumped a scoop of steel-cut oats into the bottom of the Thermos, boiled a cup of water for two minutes in the microwave, and then poured it over the oats. I gave it a quick stir, and then screwed on the lid and left the container on the kitchen table overnight.

Basically, the oats soak in boiling water overnight, thoroughly cooking them, and absorbing all the water. Unscrewing the lid in the morning, I had hot, delicious oats all cooked up and ready. Even better, I can eat right out of the container I “cooked” in, cutting my dirty dishes in half.

I was also thinking that this same technique would work great while camping. I’m really not much of a morning person, and starting a fire in the morning to cook is one more thing standing between me and breakfast. It would be very easy to simply boil a bit of water over the evening camp-fire and pour it over the oats. In the morning, you’d have instant breakfast. (And it would be actual food, not some brand-name powdered beverage called “Instant Breakfast”!)

This was also the first time in a long time that I didn’t automatically add butter, sugar, or cream to my oatmeal. If you are eating “quick oats”, it really needs those things to give it any flavor at all. The steel-cut oatmeal really had flavor and character, much the same way that real home-baked bread is in a completely different class that store-bought white bread.

What about you? Do you have a great cooking trick that adds convenience, yet allows you to work with wholesome traditional foods? Let us know!


PS: I might have to try Thermos cooking with rice as well!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pete Prodoehl July 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Now I want to try this… though I’m not sure I have a suitable container.

2 Nathan Parks October 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm

We are trying this tonight, never had steel cut oats before and we are cooking it in our three kleen kanteen insulated bottles.


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