Oatmeal is a great choice for breakfast because it’s a whole grain, which is good for your heart and digestive health, and full of fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer. It’s easy to customize oatmeal in a lot of different ways, which makes it less boring to eat regularly.

When cooking oatmeal, there’s a fine line between a delicious bowl of breakfast and a sticky, unappetizing mess. Learn how to cook oatmeal perfectly and you’ll have no more disappointment at the breakfast table.

Types of Oatmeal

Before you think about how to cook oatmeal, you need to know what kind of oatmeal to buy. There are three major types that you can buy at the grocery store: instant or quick-cooking oats, rolled oats and steel-cut oats.

Steel-cut oats are the most traditional and longest-cooking variety. They are cut and steamed before packaging and are usually chewier than other varieties. Rolled oats are produced in much the same way but they are also rolled into flakes that make them a more consistent size and allow them to cook more quickly. Quick-cooking oats are rolled oats cut into smaller pieces that can cook in about a minute (compared to five minutes for the “slow” version), while instant oats are precooked and cut before packaging.

Instant oats are usually sold in individual packages with seasonings included. Add boiling water, stir and they’re ready to eat.

Any kind of oatmeal can be cooked well, but your choice will depend on how much texture you like your oatmeal to have and how much time you have to cook it. Most people will be happy with rolled oats, which only take a few minutes to cook perfectly but have more texture and flavor than the quicker-cooking varieties.

Preparing Quick-Cooking Oats

To make a single serving of quick-cooking oats, you’ll need a cup of water or milk (milk makes the creamiest oatmeal) and a little bit of salt, as well as half a cup of oats. Bring the liquid to a boil, stir in the oats and cook on the stove top for about a minute, stirring regularly. You want the water to be absorbed but don’t let them get too thick.

You can also cook quick-cooking oats in the microwave; just mix all the ingredients and cook on high for one to one and a half minutes.

Cooking Rolled Oats

Regular rolled oats are cooked in much the same way as their quick-cooking counterparts, and they only take a little longer. Use the same ratio of half a cup of oats to a cup of liquid, but let the oatmeal cook about five minutes on the heat before serving. You can also cook them in the microwave for two and a half to three minutes.

How to Cook Steel-Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats are the least processed oats and thus take the longest to cook. The best way to cook steel-cut oats is to start the night before in your slow cooker. Combine two cups of oats with six cups of water and a pinch of salt, and cook on low for six or seven hours (or on high for three to three-and-a-half hours).

Seasoning Options

Don’t buy oatmeal in a preseasoned packet. It’s not as tasty and you’ll end up eating a lot more salt and sugar than if you just made it yourself. There are a lot more options if you do your own mix-ins: my family’s favorite sauteed diced apple and pecans with a little maple syrup served on top.

Other great options include:

  • cinnamon or other spices
  • nuts
  • peanut butter
  • jelly or jam
  • honey
  • dried fruit
  • applesauce—plain or flavored

Don't be afraid to take the time to cook oatmeal for yourself and your family, and get everyone started with a healthy and delicious breakfast: 12 Incredibly Easy and Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Featured photo credit: Closeup of nutritious oatmeal topped with raisins and nuts for a healthy breakfast. Also for healthy lifestyle, diet and nutrition, and food and beverage concepts. via Shutterstock

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