How to Cook Steel Cut Oats (4 Ways!)

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Learn how to cook steel cut oats in four different ways: microwave, stovetop, overnight, and slow cooking. Choose your preferred method based on convenience and batch size. This nutritious carbohydrate is a healthy and affordable meal to start the day!

How to Cook Steel Cut Oats

One of the healthiest grains you can eat

Nearly every household has a canister or box of oats stashed in their pantry, or at least they should. This shelf-stable cereal grain is packed with several health benefits in each spoonful. There are various types of oats to choose from at the store that it can be a little overwhelming. So I’m going to walk you through one of the most popular varieties called steel cut oats or Irish style oats.

These little bits have a delicious nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture that gets creamy as it cooks. Because they are one of the least processed varieties, they can take a longer time to cook. But not to worry! I have four easy methods you can try that vary in cooking time, hands-on activity, and yield. Choose the one that best suits your needs, and you’ll be an oatmeal pro in no time.

How to cook steel cut oats

  • Microwaving is the quickest method. Works well for single-serving portions only.
  • Stovetop is the most traditional method, giving you control of the cooking process. Best for those not in a rush, and want to feed more people.
  • Overnight combines soaking the evening before and quickly heating on the stovetop in the morning to thicken the oats. For those in a hurry but have a few minutes to spare.
  • Slow cooking is a great way to make a big batch with very little need for stirring. Just set it and let the machine do all of the work!
  • Pressure cooking makes oatmeal in about half the time compared to the stovetop. If you have this device, check out my separate Instant Pot steel cut oats recipe.

Microwave

Microwave steel cut oats

The most important thing to remember for this method is to use a large microwave-safe bowl that can hold up to eight cups of water. Even though you only add two cups of liquid, when the electromagnetic waves heat the liquid it starts to rapidly bubble and expands. If the bowl isn’t large enough, it will flow over causing a mess.

Cooking time is about 10 minutes, stirring once in between. If you’re just a personal-sized serving this is a good option. Compared to cooking rolled oats in the microwave, steel cut oats need more water and time.

Stovetop

Stovetop steel cut oats

This is the classic method that brings water to a boil, stirring in the oats, then reducing heat to a gentle simmer. It takes about 30 minutes for the oats to absorb the water, and become creamy. This is the most involved technique, requiring frequent stirring to ensure even cooking and heat distribution. You can easily scale the recipe up or down, just change the size of your saucepot.

Overnight

Overnight steel cut oats

Pour hot water over the oats and allow them to hydrate and soften the tough surface overnight. Make sure the water completely cools to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator.

In the morning, simmer the oat mixture on the stovetop for 5 minutes with an additional cup of water or milk, until the oats thicken. Let the oats sit for a few minutes before serving to create a porridge consistency.

Unlike soaking old fashioned rolled oats or instant oats in cold liquid to make overnight oatmeal, steel-cut oats need one more quick-cooking step. I tested just soaking, but the grains were still too hard and chewy to truly enjoy.

Slow cooker

Slow cooker steel cut oats

For those that want a completely hands-off method, the slow cooker is your go-to equipment. The temperature in the vessel typically doesn’t rise above 215ºF (102ºC), so it will not boil, and make the oats mushy. I use a 6-quart Crock-Pot for this recipe, and it creates a very large batch that’s perfect for feeding a family or meal prepping for the week.

Combine oats, salt, water and milk (or dairy-free like almond milk) in the vessel and place the lid on. Let it cook for several hours on high setting if enjoying the same day. The beauty of this method is you can prep everything the night before and use the low setting for 7 to 8 hours so when you can wake up, breakfast is served.

If your device automatically switches to the warm setting, you may have to add a little bit of liquid to thin out the consistency before serving.

Storing and reheating

If making a large batch of oatmeal, store in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Smaller portions can be frozen for up to 1 month then defrosted before reheating. The oatmeal can be reheated on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring and adding in more liquid to thin out the consistency as needed.

Small portions can be reheated in the microwave. Cook on high power in 30-second intervals, stirring and cooking until warmed through. You can add more liquid if needed after microwaving for the first 1-minute of reheating to make it easier to incorporate.

How much oatmeal will raw oats make?

One cup of steel cut oats yields about three cups of cooked oatmeal. A typical serving size is 1/3 to ½ cup dried oats, or about 1 to 1 ½ cups cooked. The reason for its substantial expansion is that oats contain about 40 to 60% starch (amylose and amylopectin). As the starches are heated and absorb water, the granules swell and thicken due to gelatinization.

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How to Cook Steel Cut Oats (4 Ways!)

Learn how to cook steel cut oats four different ways: microwave, stovetop, overnight, and slow cooking. Choose method based on convenience and batch size.
Pin Print Review
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings 3 servings
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Microwaved Steel Cut Oats

  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups water

Stovetop Steel Cut Oats

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 cups water, or milk
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 cups water, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

  • 2 cups steel cut oats
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions 

Microwaved Steel Cut Oats

  • Add oats and water to a large microwave-safe bowl. The bowl should be large enough to hold 8 cups of water, this is important! The oats will rapidly bubble, so if the bowl is not large enough it will flow over.
  • Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and cook for 5 minutes on high power in the microwave.
  • Carefully uncover, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes or until tender and thickened.

Stovetop Steel Cut Oats

  • In a medium saucepan bring water and salt to a boil.
  • Stir in the steel cut oats then reduce heat to medium-low.
  • Simmer uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and oats are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

  • Add oats and salt to a medium bowl. Add 3 cups of hot water, stir, cover with foil, and allow to come to room temperature. Store the oats in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Add the oat mixture plus 1 cup water (or milk) to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Stir and cook until the oats have thickened and still have a slight chew, about 5 to 7 minutes. Allow the oats to sit for about 5 minutes to absorb the rest of the water, then serve.

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

  • Add steel cut oats, water, milk, and salt to a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook until the oats are soft and thickened, 3 to 4 hours on the high setting, or 7 to 8 hours on the low setting.
  • Turn off the slow cooker and allow oatmeal to sit for 10 minutes before serving to absorb all of the water. The oatmeal will thicken more as it cools down.

Notes

  • Storing: Oatmeal can be portioned into smaller servings, cooled at room temperature, then covered and refrigerated for up to 4 to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Portion oatmeal out in single servings into quart sized bags. These can be stored for up to 1 month. Defrost the night before in the refrigerator or place bag in a warm bowl of water until no longer frozen.
  • Reheating: Reheat oatmeal in a microwave in high power in 30-second intervals until warm. On the stovetop cook over medium heat until warm. Add more milk or water as needed to adjust the consistency for both methods.
  • Yield: microwave (1 ½ cups), stovetop (3 cups), overnight (3 cups), slow cooker (6 cups).
  • Serving size: 1 cup cooked oats

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Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Steel Cut Oats (4 Ways!)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 206 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 17mg1%
Carbohydrates 35g12%
Fiber 6g24%
Protein 9g18%
Calcium 37mg4%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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6 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Cassy says

    Hi! Could I do the overnight steel cut oats method, and then cook it in the microwave in the morning? If so, how long would I cook it for?

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