I’ve recently seen three television shows in which the characters are breakfasting on “steel cut oats.” I couldn’t help wonder just what this means. After all, anything that repeatedly shows up in TV dialogue is a safe bet to be one of the latest trends.
Turns out, duh, it has to do with the processing. Oat cereals start out as hulled, toasted oat grains called groats, which also includes the bran. In the steel-cut variety, the groats are chopped into chunks the size of sesame seeds. Period. We’re most familiar with the old-fashioned rolled oats, which are made by steaming the toasted groats and rolling them flat to produce flakes. The quicker the cooking time on the box, the thinner the flake.
Steel-cut oats are chewier, denser, and take over twenty minutes to prepare. So much for our national fetish with instant gratification. But they are touted by athletes and nutritionists as being the healthier, hence trendier, choice. This explains the higher price steel-cut oats command in restaurants and cafés. The truth is: for fiber, protein, calories, and lower glycemic impact , any plain, unflavored oatmeal you actually have to cook for a few minutes is pretty much the same.