Oatmeal is a very versatile grain. You can cook it and eat it as is, use it in baked goods, and even make it into soap! There are several different types of oatmeal, knowing the difference can save you from a bowl of cardboard for breakfast.
Types of Oatmeal
There are several types of oatmeal, the most common being old fashioned oats, quick cooking oats, steel cut oats, and instant oatmeal. All oatmeal is made from oat groats. Oat groats are minimally processed whole oats that take a long time to cook in their whole state.
Old Fashioned Oats
Probably the most common type of oats, widely available on grocer shelves, old fashioned oats are used in baking as well as cooked and eaten for breakfast. This type of oat has been steam heated and then flattened, forming an oat flake. A bowl of old fashioned oatmeal usually takes about 5 minutes in boiling water or 2-3 minutes in the microwave.
Quick Cooking Oats
These are basically old fashioned oats that have been flattened further still and cut into smaller pieces to allow them to cook faster. This process allows for a much faster cooking time.
Steel Cut Oats
Not as readily available as quick cooking and old fashioned, steel cut oats are most sought after because of their lower glycemic index. The oat groats are chopped up with steel blades, rather than rolled, during processing and produce a chewier oatmeal. These are often found in natural food stores. Steel cut oats are general not good for baking as they will remain hard in the finished recipe.
This type of oatmeal often comes already flavored and has a higher salt and sugar content than other oats. They are quite convenient and cook up very quickly, making them appealing to the busy consumer. Another advantage is that they come in single servings, making it easy for children to make a warm breakfast in less than two minutes. These are not used in baking or cooking.
While oat flour on its own is not a good substitute for regular white flour as it produces a paste-like texture, combining it with rice flour is a great alternative. Rice flour on its own produces a more granular, or loose texture, so combining it with oat flour works well. You can make your own oat flour by running old fashioned oats through a food processor or blender. You can also purchase oat flour from the grocer or natural food store.
When following a recipe, whether it be for cookies, quick bread, yeast bread, or anything else that calls for a certain type of oats, be sure to use the correct one. If the recipe calls for old fashioned oats, don't substitute instant oats as your results will be dramatically different, most likely resulting in a failed end product.
Why Eat Oatmeal?
For some, eating oatmeal is a simple pleasure of life. For others, it's just not something that appeals to them. That's the beauty of using oats within recipes. Someone who may not enjoy a bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast might really like eating handfuls of homemade granola or a store bought granola bar. Oatmeal is good for you, it helps to lower your cholesterol and provides valuable vitamins and minerals. Get some more oats into your diet today!
Try these recipes!
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Almond Granola Bars
Low Fat Fruit & Oatmeal Bars
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Honey Banana Bread
Mennonite Oatmeal Cake
Cranberry Caramel Bars
Cowboy Cookie Mix
Old Fashioned Living has a great recipe for Lavender and Milk Bath Sachets using oatmeal.