It has come to my attention that much of the world is Doing It Wrong. This is the obvious conclusion from the many supermarket shelf-feet of misguided “Instant”, “Quick”, and “Flavored” products. Oatmeal porridge done right is a fine start to any day; but like many of the best things in life, you can’t hurry it up.

What you want is a big bag full of basic oatmeal. The controversy over Rolled vs Steel-cut is lively; supermarket stalwart Quaker offers both. I’ve actually noticed more flavor variation between one brand and another of rolled or steel-cut than between the two in general. And I think basic Quaker Oats are just fine. Currently we’re working our way through a bag of Anita’s Organics old-fashioned, which is OK, but I think we’ll veer back to something steel-cut next time; variety is good.

[The Quaker Oats label suggests major minor-religion branding opportunities. Visualize these labels: Unitarian pancakes, Pentecostal pickles, Sufi pistachios, Shinto nori, Animist corn chips.]

Cooking makes a difference. Lauren checked in Deborah Madison’s massive Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and came up with all sorts of variations including overnight slow-cookers and double boilers.

My Approach · I think plain old boiling water and time are what you need. You boil the water first, fling some salt in, then the oats. Between 2 and 2½ parts water to one part cereal, depending how thick you want it. Your porridge isn’t going to be ready for a half hour or more, so this isn’t a good option for rushed weekday mornings.

While it’s cooking, you squeeze some citrus fruits (organic grapefruit for me, but tastes differ), send the kid down to the store for whipping cream, and start the coffee.

When it’s ready it’s not an undifferentiated mass; rather, the individual oats are clearly visible. Dish ’em out, spoon the darkest brown sugar you can find (Demerara or an alternative) on top, pour whichever mixture of cream and milk meets your fancy over that, and enjoy with that fresh-squeezed juice on the side, and coffee to follow.


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From: Andy Boyko (Sep 29 2012, at 11:12)

After years of daily slow-cooking steel-cut on stove-top, I switched to a Zojirushi rice cooker ("Neurofuzzy"!), on "porridge" mode. Possibly my best-ever lifestyle upgrade obtained from the application of technology. Not only is the resulting product actually better than stovetop-cooked, but I can set it up the night before, timed to be ready at breakfast time. *And* it plays distinct happy tunes both for when the timer is set at night, and when the product is complete in the morning.


From: Reinout van Rees (Sep 29 2012, at 11:19)

The Dutchman in me shudders at the thought of making oatmeal with plain water instead of milk.


From: Dwight Shih (Sep 29 2012, at 12:00)

I like to toss in a diced apple, brown sugar and cinnamon with mine.


From: Kevin Marks (Sep 29 2012, at 12:29)

This may be heresy, but other things that work well in plain oatmeal instead of cream and sugar include:

Pico de Gallo style salsa,

Leftover sauces from Indian Takeaways,



You're welcome.


From: X. Nony Mouse (Sep 29 2012, at 12:32)

Alton Brown suggests, as an exception to general guidelines, waiting to add salt until the end of cooking. This allows pentosans to be fully extracted from the oat, improving texture notably (salt would hog water molecules... oh, just click the link).


From: Duncan Ellis (Sep 29 2012, at 12:46)

I have oatmeal every day, but I use the rolled oats since they only take five minutes. My method is to mix in cinnamon, nutmeg and flax seed meal in with the oats before putting them in the boiling water, then add raisins half way through the cooking time.

Actually, I say I use oats - my favourite base for this is a multigrain rolled cereal since the grains stay more separate, but Quaker oats are fine too.


From: Jonathan Greene (Sep 29 2012, at 13:46)

I like the McCann's steel cut oats ... The rice cooker idea is excellent. Bob's Red Mill also has excellent choices in the hot cereal / oatmeal options.


From: David (Sep 29 2012, at 20:20)

I was with you for the toast, but on this I have to differ: savory is the way to go. Rather than sugar and spices, the best sharp cheddar you can find is the prefect flavor. Better still, chop up some ham as well.

Touring Scotland many decades ago with my parents, the B&B proprietor refused to mix in the cheese but was kind enough to bring some to the table with the porridge. He wouldn't commit the sacrilege but would look the other way if we did it ourselves.

And for rushed weekday mornings, I've been happy with McCann's 5 minute variety: -- can be hard to find, however.


From: Dave Pawson (Sep 30 2012, at 01:04)

30 mins I would consider short Tim? Try mixing water (and or milk mix as preferred) and give it 3 mins in the microwave the previous night. Cover the dish and stand.

In the morning, 3 mins in the microwave and it's ready. Quaker is our preference.

The 'old fashioned' its called here.


From: superboreen (Sep 30 2012, at 10:41)

No mention of stirring? This is crazy talk? (BTW, cream, salt and jam go very well together.)


From: Tom Welsh (Oct 01 2012, at 04:42)

Made with whole milk (ideally with a nice head of cream) porridge becomes even better - and a better-balanced meal, with protein and fat to complement the carbohydrates.

Moreover, the fat makes it much less liable to stick to the pan.


From: Tom Malaher (Oct 01 2012, at 10:29)

OK, what Tim describes is more or less how I had oatmeal for the first 18 years of my life. At that point I moved away from home and gratefully stopped eating such a boring dish.

Years later someone made me oatmeal with fruit in it, and cinnamon, and it was like a revelation.

Now I have oatmeal frequently, (made with milk as the liquid as someone noted previously) with all sorts of dried and/or fresh/frozen fruit/berries added. Now it's something I look forward to. No sugar required, because it has lots of flavour and sweetness from the fruit.

Why it didn't dawn on me to add fruit when I was a kid mystifies me. I always put fruit on my dry cereal, and the two are similar, but for some reason the plain approach was the only one "allowed" in the WASP environment I grew up in.


From: Tim Southernwood (Oct 03 2012, at 10:51)

You've just described exactly what my kids love to call "Daddy's special porridge".

Quaker whole rolled oats.. none of that quick oats stuff.. and cooked exactly in the manner you described.

For me the texture is critical. Quick oats just forms a glutinous pap that might only appeal to an infant (and even then I'm not sure)

I like to make a little volcano with the brown sugar in the middle and ringed outside with the cool milk or half&half cream.

This format presents the texture, temperature, and taste variations that turns such a simple meal of oatmeal into a culinary treat!

The freshness of the oats is likewise important.. and so because we don't regularly eat oatmeal.. an airtight container is very important to preserve freshness.


From: Ezra (Oct 09 2012, at 23:04)

PLEASE. Cite the related work: (That's textism, from 2001.)


From: Chris (Oct 21 2012, at 10:04)

No mention of honey? Particularly honey produced in your locality.


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