Over a year ago, I posted a brief explanation (after forcing readers to suffer through the details of the Valentine’s Day storm that snowed us in), but I’ve had so many conversations since then about the profound culinary pleasure of crockpot steelcut oatmeal that I felt like posting a more involved and detailed set of instructions.
I’ve tried to explain to friends and family how simple it is to cook steel cut oatmeal in a crockpot overnight, but evidently it’s hard for some people to visualize. So with the magic of digital photography, I have attempted to capture, step-by-step, the simplicity of this delicious breakfast option.
With only a few seconds of preparation the night before, you can awaken to steamy, creamy, perfectly prepared steelcut oatmeal. It’s like you’re suddenly transported to a cozy bed-and-breakfast where the hostess bustled around in the kitchen early in the morning in order to serve you this healthy breakfast treat at the moment you’re ready.
Steel cut oats are chewy and delicious, but they take a long time to cook on the stovetop—30 minutes! Instead of preparing them first thing in the morning, this overnight method basically turns your crockpot into a double-boiler; or, to sound like a more frou-frou B&B hostess, a bain-marie.
And that, my friends, is the the beauty of this method: by using your crock as a double-boiler, the oats don’t get all crusty and burnt on the sides of the crockpot, as they do when you cook the oats in the crock itself. Put the oats in their own bowl, and there’s no waste, no lost oats. No soaking and scrubbing afterwards.
You can buy the well-known McCANN’S Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal, 28-Ounce Tins (Pack of 4), or you can buy a cheaper version. This is what we buy at Trader Joe’s:
My goodness. How blurry. So much for digital magic. I’ve got to take a photography class or something.
Okay, the label reads: “Country Choice Organic Irish Style Oats: Steel Cut.” Be careful not to buy the quick-cooking kind.
Stick with the recommended measurements—the back of my can says 4 cups of water to 1 cup of oats will result in 4 servings [Updated: I have since used less liquid for a less creamy oatmeal; experiment to achieve the consistency you prefer--you could even substitute some milk for the water].
Find a bowl that:
1) Holds four cups of liquid
2) Fits inside your crockpot with the lid on.
3) Is oven-safe (this is not necessary, but may reduce the possibility of the bowl cracking—I’ve never had this happen, but people have expressed some concern)
When I first tried this, I used an older crockpot and was able to fit a fairly small, round, oven-safe white Pyrex bowl inside—the kind you might use to serve a side dish at dinner.
This new wider, deeper crockpot has allowed for a bigger and different-shaped inner bowl for the oats, and I found a pretty green-and-yellow one that works well.
By the way, it’s not a big deal, but the exterior of your oats bowl, because it will be sitting in water, might get a little white ring around it from the water evaporating, especially if you have hard water. It’s always come off in the dishwasher for me, but I wanted to mention it, so that you have no surprises.
[Updated 1-04-10: Several readers have recommended putting wads of foil under the oats bowl to lift it up a bit from the main crock—some people have reported that the main crock could crack if water isn't between the two bowls.
Updated 8-23-11: Now I always use foil under the inner bowl and highly recommend that you do so, as well, to protect the main crock from cracking.
Updated 4-6-12: Reader recommendation is to use canning rings to lift inner bowl from direct contact with main crock; Updated 3-21-13: Reader warns against canning rings for fear of rust stains; he recommends 7"-square silicon trivet*]
Measure out one cup of oats. Pour that into the inner bowl. Add the four cups of water. Stir. Add a dash of salt, if you like (it’s not at all necessary).
Fill the crock with water to a little more than halfway. Set the inner bowl in the crock and see how high the water rises with the displacement. Add water in the crock if necessary—I usually try to match it so that the water reaches about the same height on the outside of the oats bowl as the cooking water inside, but I don’t think it matters that much.
Place the lid on your crockpot.
Set on low.*
Go to bed.
When you awaken the next morning, your oats should have cooked to perfection overnight in the steamy bath.
Do you see how hard I’ve been working this new crockpot? The handle broke off. So much of my life is about brokenness…often literally.
I took this picture to try to show the water, because some people really can’t picture the whole double-boiler concept. But here it is, friends—the crockpot as bain-marie.
I snapped the above picture after The Belgian Wonder had already scooped out his morning serving.
You can add all your favorite goodies the night before and let them cook along with your oats—raisins, nuts, etc.—but the kids like it plain. So we add our goodies as we serve it up.
I keep a bag of frozen blueberries on hand, thawing a few of them in the microwave as needed, so that they don’t cool my oats down too much. One morning, as I pulled them out of the microwave, they made pretty, artsy swirls on the side of the bowl. So I tried to snap a little picture of them:
It doesn’t do them justice. They were so pretty, I almost hated to add the oats.
But those oats are so good, I did it anyway. Blueberries and chewy, steelcut oats in the morning?
Maybe I should open a B&B?
Or maybe, now that you see how easy this is, you can.
]Serve with some fresh fruit, or a soft-boiled egg, whole wheat toast, or, if you just want to wow your guests, set out a Trader Joe’s chocolate croissant to rise overnight and bake while you’re in the shower.
It’ll negate all the health benefits of the oatmeal, but believe me, your B&B guests will never want to leave!
* A reader took time to report that after using canning rings, he discovered rust particles in the cooking water and rust stains in the bottom of the crock. He soaked the crock with vinegar water to eliminate the stains and used a 7″-square silicon trivet—available at his local super-store for $4.99—between the crock and the bowl to provide a cushion and allow water contact. To cook the oats with this bain-marie method, he also recommended using the “serve” setting (he has an older Rival 5060 6-qt Crock-Pot w/rotary switch).
Trouble finding steel cut oats?
- McCANN’S Steel Cut Irish Oats are delicious. You can buy them from a pack of four 28-ounce tins through Amazon.
- Country Choice Organic Irish Steel Cut Oats are also available through Amazon in a pack of six 30-Ounce Canisters.
Consider investing in this dreamy slow cooker with lid-latches to seal shut when traveling (no more sloshes!):
text and photos © 2008 Ann Kroeker