With only a few seconds of preparation the night before, you can awaken to steamy, creamy, perfectly prepared steel cut 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 take a long time to cook on the stovetop. 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, or you can find cheaper options. Just be sure not to buy the quick-cooking kind.
Start with the recommended measurements of 4 cups of water to 1 cup of oats (results in 4 servings). You can experiment with adding a little more or less water to achieve a creamier or chewier oatmeal, depending on the consistency you prefer. You could also substitute some milk for the water. I’ve found that the moist environment of the bain-marie means you don’t have to add much to get a creamy effect.
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.
Observations and ideas:
- 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.
- 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.
- Some readers recommend using canning rings to lift inner bowl from direct contact with main crock; other readers warn against canning rings for fear of rust stains and recommend 7″-square silicon trivet, instead. See details at the bottom of the post.
Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oatmeal Instructions:
- 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.
- 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 or medium (you may need to experiment depending on how hot your crockpot gets and how many hours you sleep).*
- Go to bed.
When you awaken the next morning, your oats should have cooked to perfection overnight in the steamy bath.
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.
You can add all your favorite goodies the night before and let them cook along with your oats—raisins, nuts, etc. To accommodate a family with various preferences, I usually prepare everything to add as we serve it up.
I keep a bag of frozen blueberries on hand, thawing a few of them in a bowl overnight.
* Note: 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).
Consider investing in this dreamy slow cooker with lid-latches to seal shut when traveling (no more sloshes!):
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