Pressure-cooked oatmeal

Until now, I have always made oatmeal exclusively with rolled oats; although I know connoisseurs swear by the steel-cut variety, it always seemed like too much of a time investment for a breakfast food. (And yes, I know I’m saying this as someone who has cooked his own English muffins for eggs Benedict.)

But if you could shave off some of that time factor, who wouldn’t be interested in what could potentially be a better breakfast?

I came across this idea in VOLT ink., where it’s presented as a savoury dish with mushrooms and beer: pressure-cooking the oats. Instead of standing over a pot stirring for nearly half an hour, you just put the oats in a bowl, cover them with a measured amount of water, put some water in the bottom of your pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. I was intrigued.

So I tried it out for breakfast one morning. I put half a cup of steel-cut Irish oats, two cups of water, a handful of raisins and a pinch of salt in a stainless steel bowl, set that bowl on a trivet in my pressure cooker, and filled the pressure cooker itself with water until it came halfway up the sides of the bowl. Brought it up to high pressure and cooked for five minutes, then let the pressure dissipate naturally.

I quickly learned two things. First, it takes a steady hand and good side towel to get a stainless steel bowl full of hot oatmeal out of a pressure cooker full of near-boiling water. Second, the process doesn’t actually save you any time once you factor in how long it takes to come up to pressure and then back down again. That’s not to say there are no benefits: if you have the time, pressure-cooking at least saves you from standing over the pot stirring, since the oats can’t scorch when cooked this way. Set it, as they say, and forget it.

The results of my first batch weren’t what I’d been hoping for, however. While the oatmeal was tasty, especially with a sprinkling of coarsely chopped walnuts and a drizzle of good maple syrup, the texture was too loose and the oats were too chewy. So I tried again another day, backing off the water to 1.75 cups for half a cup of oats and raising the cooking time to 7 minutes. This time, I liked the end result much better, and it’s what I’ll be using for these oats from now on.

How do you cook your steel-cut oats?

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9 Responses to “Pressure-cooked oatmeal”

  1. Slow cooker overnight—especially combined with coffee on a timer—makes for an aroma heavenly enough to lure one out of the warmest of beds.

  2. I was also going to ask: what do you think is the advantage of pressure cooking oats, over either slow cooking (preferably with some kind of liner, or a long soak of the cooker bowl afterwards) or my favorite, the overnight method?

  3. Someone on Twitter asked about the rice cooker method, which I guess is similar to the slow-cooker method? I would the benefits are, first, I don’t need to buy a slow cooker or a rice cooker (I don’t have either), and second, with the pressure-cooker, you don’t need to plan ahead. Which is good, because I am highly capable of being impulsive in the kitchen!

  4. You don’t need to fill the pressure cooker with a ton of water. I’ve used Miss Vickie’s “pan in a pot” method for many whole grains/brown rice. It’s similar to what you did, but you only need about 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of the pressure cooker. I stand the bowl above it with the wire rack meant for the steamer tray. 10 minutes cooking time (for oats), and I let it drop naturally, which happens pretty fast.

  5. Interesting, Oscar. I’ll give that a try. I can see how the pressure would definitely drop more quickly with less water in the bottom. Thanks!

  6. My favorite is to put oats and boiling water in a thermos overnight. In the morning, they’re perfect.

  7. Patricia@cookingchem February 28, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Try using whole oat groats in the pressure cooker! It takes an hour to cook but if you do it the night before you just need to take out what you need in the morning and warm it up. If you take the extra time to dry roast the oats in the pot first, it is really nutty tasting. it is about a 3:1 ratio of water to oats. 45-60 minutes depending if you want chewier or softer.

  8. Thanks, Patricia, that sounds interesting. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen whole oat groats, but I’ll keep an eye out for them. Are you saying it takes an hour in the pressure cooker? Low or high pressure?

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