Quick Oats, Steel Cut Oats, or Regular Oats: What’s the Difference?

Crock Pot Oatmeal:Quick Oats vs. Steel Cut Oats


quick oats.jpgVS.

steel cut oats.jpg

When I talk about the benefits of whole grains, I often mention oats. They’re easy, contain the phytochemical terpenoid and most people like them! In order to really understand which is better, we need to define what each type of oat is.

  • Steel-cut oats are the whole oat kernel, which is cut into two or three pieces using steel discs. They are a better source of fiber than rolled oats, but take longer to cook.
  • Rolled oats have the bran mostly removed and are rolled flat to make them easier to cook. With the bran removed, they have less fiber than steel-cut oats.
  • Quick-cooking and instant oats are rolled oats that have been cut into smaller pieces and rolled thinner, thus cook quickly. They are an easy source for preparing many oatmeal dishes.

When comparing the different types of oats, the steel-cut oats are definitely less processed and have a higher nutrient content. However, when we make them it can take a LONG TIME (20 minutes or more).

Quick cooking oats are still considered a whole grain and have less fiber, but not by much. They are certainly more convenient and I would consider them very healthy. The ones you want to stay away from are the individual packets that contain sugar and other flavorings!

Your best bet is to cook your oatmeal and flavor it yourself. For a convenient chart that compares different products, check out Grains and Losses.

Personally, I like the texture and flavor of the steel cut oats but often eat the instant because it takes less time. If you want to save time though, try this recipe for steel cut oats in a crockpot. They can be refrigerated or frozen into individual portions once they are cooked.

Crock Pot Oatmeal:

Crock Pot Oatmeal
Crock Pot Oatmeal: *For non-dairy oatmeal, try adding applesauce, apple butter, or almond butter instead of dairy products.*
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup raisins, cranberries, or dried fruit of choice
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ cup milk, half and half, or buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons of cinnamon or pumpkin spice
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  1. In a crock pot, combine all ingredients.
  2. Cook on low heat (covered) for 7-9 hours.
  3. Stir and serve.

For your personal enjoyment, I have included a poem that my dad wrote about oats. Now you know where I get my writing skills!

A Toast to Oats:
Quaker Man, Quaker Man, in your box so round,
Taking nature’s oats and grinding them on down.
Sheaths with grains of goodness, waving forth and back,
Cut and ground and stored in boxes red and black.

But now I hear this oft refrain:
Steel-cut, Steel-cut, it is nutrition’s gain.
So tell me, Miss Fooditian, in your blog so soft and low,
Is this really right, or is it just not so?

I hope I’ve answered the rhyme master’s questions!
– Julie

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  1. Joseph says

    Those of us who eat instant oatmeal are not children of a lesser god. Instant oatmeal has never been scientifically proven to be less nutritious than other oats. There is an especially irrational avoidance of packets. I don’t know why. Also, instant oatmeal deniers paint all instant oatmeal with the same ( steel cut ? ) brush. I eat wonderful instant oatmeal frequently and it is free of the nefarious substances attributed to all instant oatmeal.

  2. michaelyitianwang says

    Julie, Have you got any evidence (other than anecdotal) to support your claim that steel cut oats are better?

  3. smithjsmith800 says

    What more proof would you need. At the very least, the steel cut oats should have the same nutrition as the rolled oats, but given that the steel cut are minimally process my guess would be that they are more nutritious. They taste a hell of a lot better…

  4. Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says

    Most of my information is actually not anecdotal. If it is, it should be very clear. I spend a fair amount of time verifying information from credible sites including the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember exactly what I read as background information for this particular article, as it’s almost 4 years old now. However, maybe I can do an update of the topic soon! Thanks for the comments! – Julie

  5. thasa001 says

    When you read Julie’s piece she wasn’t bashing rolled, packet oatmeal. I read it as saying they were both nutritious. My common sense tells me that if time is a factor I am going to cook rolled oats. If I have more time will prepare steel cut oats.
    I will say this as an fan of oatmeal, I like the taste and texture of the steel cut oats better than the more processed rolled oats.

  6. Tonya says

    I don’t think Julie was bashing the oatmeal packets. She was just telling the truth. They are filled with sugars and flavoring which on a regular basis is definitely not good for you. It is certainly not good for children, as they become accustomed to the sugars and processed flavorings. Then it becomes a lifelong “habit” of consuming foods that will wreck your body. Less sugars, less processed foods, less health problems in the future. We have to train our bodies to accept and love healthier versions of any food choice. After suffering from two massive heart attacks (and they hurt!) in a one month time span and having stent(s) surgery it was a no-brainer to me to change my lifestyle and food choices. I am still healing…and when I see those commercials on TV offering up bacon bowls, multi stacked hamburgers, pizzas with crusts filled with anything you can imagine (but not veggies, lol) restaurants offering multi-course menus filled with all kinds of drippy, greasy, cheesy stuff. They even now allow you to call ahead to have your order ready for you to pick up. anything to sell this unhealthy food that used to only be for special occasions. The way people respond (including myself in the past) is just the dumbing down of America. Shorter life spans, painful deaths, all in favor of fun eating. Today, I eat well and I enjoy it…but my life span has already been shortened by my prior choices. Little every day choices may allow you the chance of not just meeting and knowing your grandchildren someday, but perhaps your great-grandchildren too.

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