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Soothing Irish Oats

March 17, 2010

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  Green beer isn’t my thing.  And I’m more into Jewish corned beef with sauerkraut than what most people will be eating today. Perhaps I’ll get a small shamrock shake.  But it’s a stretch to come up with something Irish to talk about.  And then I remembered Irish steel cut oats.  Bear with me for a moment, and I’ll bring this back around.

Sometimes you have a recipe and it works.  Other times it is a complete disaster.  I have had a few disasters in my time.  And even friends who are significantly better cooks than I have had their flops.

Mrs. Fussy remembers my biggest disaster from college.  I had a Jacques Pepin cookbook, and I was over at her house for a dinner party.  Somehow I had convinced everyone to help make this gorgeous-looking potato and spinach gallette.  And somehow we all thought it would be plenty of food to feed several people as a vegetarian main course.  It took hours.  Lots and lots of hours.  Spinach was everywhere.  And in the end, it resulted in this teeny tiny thing that wasn’t all that good.

And as good as a cook as my friend Raf later became, sometime in college he set out to cook an Asian feast.  The meal included some very ambitious handmade egg roll wrappers and bacon fried rice.  Suffice it to say, this was not Raf at his best.

Recently a regional blogger posted a recipe for an easy steel-cut oatmeal technique that just takes a few minutes of active preparation.  This was very appealing to me, because my steel-cut oatmeal recipe requires one’s attention for the better part of an hour.

But her recipe seemed to be a failure.

As skeptical as I was that good steel-cut oatmeal could be made in a slow cooker, the appeal of being able to “set it and forget it” was just too great to ignore.

I had intended to try her technique, but never got around to it until this week.  Jenn, the woman behind Frugal Upstate, sent out a call for people to help her test the recipe and see where it went wrong.  This was the motivation I needed to finally give the recipe a go.

Interestingly, when I made the original recipe, it didn’t fail at all.  I cannot say it was nearly as good as my more lovingly prepared steel cut oats.  But it was certainly comparable to the Quaker instant brown sugar flavored oats, and much more wholesome.

If I had to guess, I would speculate that the failure of some of Jenn’s readers may have come either from using quick-cooking oats or slow cookers that do not achieve a proper temperature when set on low.

Since this project was in the interest of science, I thought I’d give my own variation a try.  Maybe I could improve upon this sticky, sweet mixture of oats, fat and sugar.  Instead of adding a tablespoon of fat to the pot, I used it to toast the oats in a skillet first, as I would normally do as part of my traditional preparation.  I also reduced the overall liquid content to three cups of water and one cup of skim milk.

Overall, it was better than the original slow cooker recipe.  The texture was firmer, and the toasting brought out the nuttiness of the oats.  But it paled in comparison to the time-intensive stove-top preparation.   Still, given its ease, I’m thinking that this will make it into the occasional rotation for breakfast in the Fussy household.

Now, if you happen to be going out tonight to celebrate the holiday, a nice soothing bowl of Irish oats may be just the thing you need tomorrow morning.  So before you head out the door, get everything set up.  Then when you get home dump the wet into the dry.  Just don’t forget to turn the damn thing on.  Here’s are your easy-to-follow step-by-step instruction.

Before you go out:
1) Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet.
2) Toast 1 cup of steel-cut oats in the fat over high heat, stirring constantly.
3) Dump the oats into the bottom of your slow cooker.
4) In a one-quart measuring cup, pour 3 cups of cold water and 1 cup of skim milk.

When you get home, pour the liquid into the pot, cover with its lid, and set on low.

In eight hours it will be soothing, satisfying oatmeal.  Just add a pinch of salt, some brown sugar, and milk if you like.  It’s the next best thing to breakfast in bed.

You are welcome.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    March 17, 2010 10:44 am

    All corned beef is Jewish–that’s where the Irish got it, on the Lower East Side. You won’t find it in Ireland.

  2. March 17, 2010 10:58 am

    The only thing Irish I did today was have leftover mashed potatoes for breakfast. Mmm, mashed potato cakes.

  3. mirdreams permalink
    March 17, 2010 11:20 am

    How much does this make and how big a crockpot do you use?

  4. Elyse permalink
    March 18, 2010 10:32 am

    My husband cooks steel cut oats in one of those fuzzy logic rice cookers and the results are good. The great thing is that we can put it on a timer so it is ready for us to eat when we wake up in the morning!
    Mr. Sunshine- this explains why my mom used to make corned beef and cabbage

  5. August 21, 2010 12:53 pm

    My sis-in-law & I were just discussing this technique. I stumbled upon you when I was looking for an answer to “why does the water for my steel cut oats turn blueish-green?”. No answer to the first question, but glad to see the results of your experiment since our family of 5 eats steel cut oats every school morning!

  6. Claudia Burris permalink
    July 30, 2012 10:32 am

    I need to feed 30 grumpy teachers at our annual Welcome Back Breakfast. I’m tired of the typical assortment of bagels, muffins, and fruit. I’ve also done a variety of egg-based crockpot dishes. This year, I was thinking about a warm and wholesome oatmeal bar with an assortment of do-it-yourself toppings (diced apples, walnuts, raisins, craisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, etc.). Since I won’t have access to an oven or stove, I was thinking about making the oatmeal in crockpots. Would your recipe work for this (or do you have another fabulous idea)?

    • July 31, 2012 4:03 pm

      The crockpot method would work in this application provided you had enough time, and it sounds like a good choice for grumpy teachers. Don’t forget plenty of sweets like Grade B maple syrup in addition to the brown sugar, and sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. You might even consider agave syrup just in case you have a few hippies in the crowd.

      Naturally I have other fabulous ideas. However they vary depending on if you want the grumpy teachers to be happy or punished. Because you could make pots full of Chinese rice porridge, with bits of offal (which I find to be delightful, but it’s not for everyone). On the other hand, if you wanted to do something super fancy, you could always make frittate in advance and serve room temperature at the meeting. In addition you could have a cold poached salmon that you serve on the side, with a nice creamy sauce. Granted, the budget for this is a good bit higher.

      But sometimes the best way to get what you want is to feed people good food.


  1. The Great Oatmeal Experiment-Results! | Frugal Upstate

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