how to cook steel cut oats

After explaining the differences between rolled oats and steel cut oats a couple years ago, it was plain as day which was more popular! Tons of comments poured in in favor of steel cut oats!

Nearly everyone loved the taste and texture, but there was this one little drawback – steel cut oats take longer to cook than rolled oats. And if purchased in bulk (the cheapest way to buy steel cut oats,) you don’t get cooking instructions!

Therefore, I have prepared these instructions on how to cook steel cut oats! Continue reading to discover the most popular preparation methods…


Cooking on the Stove

This is your standard method of preparing steel cut oats, but it’s also the most time consuming.

  • Start by bringing 4 cups water to a boil.
  • Then add in 1 cup oats, plus a pinch of salt. Mix well.
  • Once water returns to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover, but leave the lid tilted.
  • To ensure the traditional rich nutty flavor, avoid overcooking.

That does it.

You can also experiment to find your preferred style. For example, you might use a ratio of 3 cups water to 1 cup oats. Or maybe you prefer using 2 cups water and 2 cups milk to 1 cup oats.


Nuking In the Microwave

If you don’t want to mess with the stove just to make a bowl of oatmeal for yourself, you can use the microwave instead.

  • Mix 1/2 cup of steel cut oats with 2 cups of water in an 8 cup bowl (the size of the bowl is important as it must be large enough to allow the oats to bubble up without spilling over).
  • Microwave covered (I use a paper plate) for 5 minutes on high.
  • Stir. Finish cooking for another 5 minutes.
  • Enjoy.

Alternatively, use 1/4 cup steel cut oats and 1 cup water, if you only have a smaller bowl, or want a smaller breakfast. If you do this, you can reduce cooking times to 2:30 segments, rather than 5:00.

*Since microwaves vary in size and power, cooking times may need to be adjusted for different models.


Soak Overnight, Then Cook (On Stove)

This is the second method of cooking steel cut oats on the stove. You can soak your steel cut oats the night before and leave it on the stove overnight, for less prep time in the morning.

  • As before, use 4 cups water and 1 cup oats. First bring the water to a boil, then add oats.
  • Stir until it boils again then cover.
  • Turn off heat.
  • Let sit overnight.
  • When you do it this way, the oats should be ready in the morning as-is or with just 5 minutes cooking time, rather than 30.

The oats can sit out on the stove overnight without going bad. Just keep them covered.

Tip: Toast Oats On Stove Before Cooking

My favorite way to fix steel cuts oats overnight is to toast them in a teaspoon of butter or coconut oil, then add the water and bring to a boil.

In a large saucepot, melt the butter or oil and add the oats. Stir for 2 minutes to toast. Then you can continue with adding the water, etc.

Toasting before boiling brings out even more of that toasty, nutty flavor.


Cooking In a Slow Cooker (or Crock Pot)

Steel cut oats can be made in a slow cooker on low overnight and ready for breakfast!

  • Be sure to spray the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray first.
  • Add your 4 cups water and 1 cup oats.
  • Just put it on the “keep warm” setting and the oats cook overnight.

Note: If you have a crock pot with just “low” and “high” settings, use low, and watch them. You probably can’t cook overnight on low, it’s still too hot!

Like microwaves, each slow cooker may cook differently. So test it out during the day to get the timing right, before leaving them to cook overnight when you’re not watching them!!


Don’t forget to flavor your oatmeal!

Click here for my suggestions on additional ingredients to flavor your oats.

When doing steel cut oats, you would typically add the extras after they are cooked or close to the end of the cooking cycle. Dried fruit and such does not need a lot of cooking time like the oats themselves!


Just choose the option that is the most convenient for you. They all work, and if you make a good size batch on the weekend, it will probably feed you all week. Then all you have to do is reheat the oats in the microwave for a bit each morning.

Enjoy your oats!

Photo credit: belizardi

You may also like
  1. Thanks for the ideas on cooking steel cut oats and your previous post on the differences between them and rolled oats.

    I’ll chime in with my own tweak for steel cut oats…

    I make a week’s worth of breakfast oats at a shot. In a 3 litre pot I dump about an inch or so of steel cut oats and cover with about 2 inches of water and pinch of salt (similar to your above) I also sprinkle ground cinnamon to cover the water and stir in. Bring to boil, then simmer stirring often for min 22 minutes. I will add water if nec. to keep them fairly fluid but thick like pudding. I’ll then dump them into a large pyrex or Tupperware bowl and mix in some dried blueberries if I have them. Let cool and put in fridge. It will easily stay good for a week.

    Next and following days, you can cut slices of cooked oats like pie and put into a bowl, squish down and nuke for a minute. Then top with tablespoon of ground flax seed. If you like it sweeter or want some quick energy, pour a little maple syrup on top. You can also stir in some yogurt, fruit, etc.

    Add a touch of boiling water if you like a more traditional oatmeal consistency.

  2. I have a method of cooking steel cut oats that drastically reduces prep time. What I do is start out the same as your instructions – bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Then I turn off the pot and add 1-1/4 cups of oats and put the lid on all the way. (You need to use at least a 3 qt pot.) That’s it. I let it sit all day and soak, then I put it into a covered bowl and refrigerate it overnight. In the morning, I scoop out about 3/4 – 1 cup of oatmeal into a cereal bowl, sometimes I add about a tbsp of water, then zap it in the microwave for 2 minutes! It’s perfect. You don’t have to stand and stir the pot constantly while it’s cooking at all – and even better – the oatmeal doesn’t stick to the pot at all! The only thing you have to make sure is that the pot doesn’t boil over for a couple of minutes after you put the oatmeal in. If you use a big enough pot this isn’t a problem.

  3. @Spark E and Barbara K

    Thanks for sharing your tips and advice!

  4. A very simple flavor:
    Pumpkin pie spice and dark brown sugar.

  5. @Thom

    Yes indeed. I’ve used pumpkin pie spice and apple pie spice. A little bit of either one warmed up with oatmeal and the house smells like fresh-baked pie!

  6. is there a way to eat steel cut oats w/o any cooking at all???

  7. @Kate

    I wouldn’t recommend steel cut oats straight out of the bag, but there are two things I can suggest:

    1. Soak them before eating. That should soften them up a bit. But be warned, they will still be hard and pointy, and probably difficult to digest.

    2. Grind them up in a blender, food processor, or coffee grinder, and add them into protein shakes.

    But I still think cooking is the best method. 🙂

  8. I cook them with milk instead of water. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. No salt. Nothing else added. Taste great.

  9. Another tip for cooking steel cut in a crockpot: turn it into a Bain Marie (double boiler). Use a glass bowl that both fits down inside your crock w/lid on and that holds 4c water and 1c oats. Stir ingredients to combine in said bowl. Fill the crock halfway w/water and place bowl inside crock. Continue adding water to the crock (careful not to get extra water in the bowl) until water is level with the liquid in your bowl. Turn crock on low, put lid on crock and go to bed. In the morning there will be perfectly steamed oats w/no burnt sides! I got this idea from a blog (can’t remember which). Note: place a bit of balled up aluminum foil in between bowl bottom and crock as some people say there is a risk of crock cracking.

  10. @Bri

    Great tip, thanks!

  11. This is a great overview on steel cut oats. Once I first tried them I was hooked, and rolled oats started to taste like paste!

    I cook steel cut all the time now (normally doing a peanut butter flavor because that’s what my husband likes) and even started a website to collect recipes.

  12. Thanks for the wonderful article. I’m a recent convert to steel cut oats and want to make up for the lost years of my life before I got on to them. Tell me, where do you buy them in bulk? Best wishes.

  13. @Paula

    I meant to include that in the article! Here’s the link for more info:

  14. You can get steel cut oats from the bulk bin at Sprout’s, or Henry’s, whatever it’s called in your neck of the woods.

  15. All that is necessary to eat SCO is to soak them with enough water in the pan or bowl overnight, no heating cost is necessary. In the A.M. simmer them on the stove for a whole 2 minutes. End of mission. I add a big spoon full of Cream of Wheat and stir when the oats starts to boil. The COW adds nutrition.

  16. I don’t cook them at all. I soak them overnight and they are ready in the morning.

    2 cups steel cut oats
    2 cups liquid (apple cider is great here)
    1 cup unsweetened applesauce
    1 cup raisins
    whatever spices you desire

    This will last me about a week. They taste great.

  17. @Steven

    Great idea! I usually only do that with rolled oats, but it works with steel cut, too.

Leave a Reply