Steel Cut Oats are much larger pieces than Scottish Oats

Steel Cut, Rolled, Instant, Scottish?

by Cassidy Stockton in Featured Articles, Whole Grains 101

When we think of oatmeal, we typically picture good old-fashioned rolled oats (or maybe quick oats). When you visit the store, especially our store, you find many varieties that may make you wonder what the difference is between them. What makes steel cut different from rolled? What makes instant different than quick? What makes Scottish different than Irish? Here’s a handy little explanation that will *hopefully* clear up any confusion.

Oat Groats:

I just love that groat rhymes with oat! The groat is the de-hulled oat grain. Some grains are called berries, but oats are known as groats. Quite simply, the most intact form of the grain available in the market. Use this version of oats as you would other whole grains. Oat groats are a bit softer than wheat berries and make a wonderful addition to pilafs and soups. We have some wonderful recipes using oat groats, such as this Creamy Mushroom and Grains Soup- a favorite at my house!

The oat groat is the whole oat kernel with the hull removed. Photo borrowed from culinate.com.

Rolled Oats:

The most common form of oats, rolled oats are made from oat groats that have been steamed to allow them to pass through the roller mills without cracking and breaking. Rolled oats are available in many different varieties, each of which refers to the thickness of the flake and cooking time required. The smallest and thinnest oat product is Instant, followed by Quick Cooking, Regular (Old Fashioned) and Extra Thick.

Instant oats have also been pre-cooked to make them truly instant. Just add hot water and you’ll have oatmeal. Most brands add sweeteners to their instant oats, but ours are simple, plain oats.

Most recipes calling for rolled oats are referring to quick cooking or regular, but using extra thick will add an extra chewiness that some find quite appealing.

The most common oat product, rolled oats are flat flakes.

Steel Cut Oats:

Steel Cut= Pinhead= Irish Oats. Steel cut oats are made from whole oat groats that have been chopped into two or three pieces, making for a much chewier cereal. They are almost exclusively used for breakfast, as they do not soften very well in baking applications. These are the oats used in the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship and you will find that they are cooked prior to being used in any recipes. You can find many wonderful recipes on the Golden Spurtle website, as well as our own, using steel cut oats.

What makes steel cut oats particularly attractive for breakfast, and the reason we tout them as the perfect fuel for your day, is how the body breaks them down. Because of their size and shape, the body breaks them down more slowly than rolled oats, preventing spikes in blood sugar and keeping you full longer.

Steel Cut Oats are much larger pieces than Scottish Oats

Scottish Oats:

The true oatmeal, Scottish oats are ground on our stone mills from whole oat groats. They are not rolled, they are not cut, they are ground. The texture of Scottish oatmeal is fairly fine, though more coarsely ground than flour. In the United Kingdom, this is what they imagine when you say oatmeal. In the United States, this is what we imagine when we use the term porridge. It’s creamy, thick and almost instant when combined with boiling water. This is what people would have made hundreds of years ago, before modern roller mills were invented.

Scottish oats are wonderful for baking, as they are truly a more coarsely ground flour- like cornmeal. Oatmeal, cornmeal, flaxseed meal- get it? Meal is the next grind up from flour and below farina. We have some great recipes on our site using Scottish oatmeal, including one of our favorites- Scottish Oatcakes.

Scottish Oatmeal is very finely ground. Photo borrowed from recipetips.com

I hope this has helped answer the question of what makes each variety different. If you’ve still got a question or two, please leave it in the comments and I’ll find you an answer.

About The Author
Cassidy Stockton Google: Cassidy Stockton
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49 Responses to “Steel Cut, Rolled, Instant, Scottish?”

  1. I loved this explanation! Honestly, I have had all, but the Scottish and I had no idea they were finely ground like that. I am a true lover of oats and sneak it in to almost everything I can. I used to be more of a quick oat person, but since I have been buying your gluten free varieties for my husband, I have changed my opinion. I love the chewiness of steel cut and rolled oats now. I need to get more oat groats so I can make oatgurt again. Thanks for sharing the specifics on this Cassidy!

  2. If Bob’s steelcut oats have 170 calories per 1/4 cup of uncooked oats does that mean if I eat a 1 cup serving of cooked oats that’s 340 calories?

    • Hi Sandra,

      Yes, it would be around 340 calories. If you want to get really scientific about it, you can make the whole batch and measure into four parts- with each part being about 170 calories.

  3. Help, I need the basic cooking instructions for Bob’s THICK CUT ROLLED OATS. I repackaged them into an airtight container, cut the label off to attach it to the container but didn’t get the directions for cooking. I’m unable to find the basic cooking directions here on your site.
    Thanks in advance.

  4. I have been eating redmill oats for breakfast for years and never get sick of them. Each morning my wife chuckles as I eat my oatmeal… I easily eat 340 calories worth (probably more) yet I remain fairly thin; I think the oats keep my hunger away far longer than other breakfasts.

    Dale

  5. Dear Sandra S. :

    If you are measuring out 1 cup of the oats beforehand, that will be equal to about 3 cups cooked, which will equal 680 calories. If you measured out 1/4 cup beforehand, it’ll make 3/4-1 cup cooked and will be 170 calories (if using water of course).

  6. I am trying to a make a higher protein instant or with only a few minutes cooking time oatmeal… I was going to try adding some additional Whey Protein Concentrate or Soy Protein Powder
    maybe some finally ground/navy beans-organic soy beans or adeuki beans…anything to up the protein content…I wanted to end up with 9 grams or more of protein per serving and be able to make it in large batches to store it for daily use…Has anyone tried anything like this…Any thoughts…

    • Hi Barbara,
      Have you tried chia seeds? They are very nutrient dense, with 3 grams of protein per tablespoon, plus fiber, calcium and iron. They are a great addition to oatmeal and, unlike flax seed, you do not need to grind chia seeds before eating in order to get the nutritional benefits.

      You can find more information about chia seeds here:

      http://www.bobsredmill.com/chia-seed

      We are currently out of stock but should have chia seeds available again soon.

      Thanks,
      Amanda C.
      Bob’s Red Mill

  7. OK, I am flummoxed. I have a recipe for individual baked oat cups which calls for “quick” steel cut oats. What does that mean, and do Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut oats qualify as “quick”?

    Thanks,
    Laurie C.

  8. Thanks Amanda!
    I will look for them at our Fresh Market, or maybe I’ll make the trek to Whole Foods. I’ll let you know how the recipe works out.

    Laurie

    • Hi Kristina,
      We haven’t tried this, but I think the outcome would be rather different from granola made with rolled oats, because the oats in Scottish Oatmeal have been ground to a meal. You could probably expect a much finer texture than a traditional granola. If you’re using a recipe calling for rolled oats, you may need to make some adjustments to the cooking time as well, since the Scottish Oatmeal may bake more quickly than rolled oats. If you try it, we’d love to hear how it turns out!
      Thanks,
      Amanda C.
      Bob’s Red Mill

  9. I am confused by various sources that seem to imply different reasons for steel cut oats having a better health value. Do steel cut oats have more soluble and insoluble fiber than rolled? Is there more d-beta glycan in steel cut oats, and does this help to slow stomach emptying and cause a slower carb load in digestion? Are rolled and steel cut oats entirely nutritionally equivalent? Thanks.

    • Hi Miguel,

      Steel cut oats and rolled oats are made from the same thing, whole oat groats, and the nutritional values are very similar. Rolled oats are more processed since the groats get steamed to soften before rolled, whereas for steel cut oats the groats are just cut into pieces.

      Amanda C.
      Bob’s Red Mill

  10. Hi Everyone at Bob’s! I have to tell you how much I love your philosophy and approach! I may be asking the same question as Miguel, but I wanted to know if Steel Cut Oats are more nutritious than Scottish Oats? I ask bc I recall comparing the 2 bags and thinking the Scottish oats had more nutritional value noted on the package, but have always been told Steel cut have the most nutritional value?? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Jodi,
      They are both made from the whole Oat Groat, the Scottish Oats are ground groats and the Steel Cut Oats are groats that have been cut into pieces. They are nutritionally very similar.
      Thanks!
      Bob’s Red Mill

  11. Can anyone advise as to which is the most nutritionally beneficial one? I don’t have 20min-1/2 hour in the morning to boil groats or even the steel cut ones. I like all types of oatmeal, but I need to know which ones of the quicker cooking varieties are the healthiest. I’ve seen quick cook Steel Cut and this morning I tried Scottish and found them good as well. Can anyone help out on this one? Thanks
    Jennifer

    • Jennifer,
      Scottish Oatmeal or Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats are nutritionally very close to each other, and to regular Steel Cut Oats. They all both made from the whole Oat Groat, but the processing is different: Steel Cut Oats are groats cut into pieces, Scottish Oats are ground groats and the Quick Oats are Oat groats that have been steamed and rolled thinner than regular oats for quicker cooking times.
      Hope this helps!
      Amanda C., Bob’s Red Mill

  12. As far as which is “best nutritionally” seems the answer from the article is: “What makes steel cut oats particularly attractive for breakfast, and the reason we tout them as the perfect fuel for your day, is how the body breaks them down. Because of their size and shape, the body breaks them down more slowly than rolled oats, preventing spikes in blood sugar and keeping you full longer.”

    @Jennifer, I agree, time is short in the morning! At home, we actually get the oats going the night before by bringing them to boil for a few minutes in the pot and leaving them to soak, covered, overnight. Then they finish cooking in 5 minutes the next day!

  13. I’ve been eating steel cut oats for 12 years and I prepare them the night before. I boil my water, add oats, stir, turn off, go to bed. In the morning just warm them up.

  14. Hello! I am looking at an oatmeal cookie recipe from Fannie Farmer from 1896. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of fine oatmeal. Do you think the Bob’s Red Mill Scottish Oatmeal would be the proper choice? Something in the back of my mind is telling me that buzzing rolled oats in the food processor is not the same thing. Thanks!

    -AJ

    • AJ, you could use Scottish Oatmeal, but running rolled oats through a food processor would work, too. Whichever you do, we’d love to know how it works out. Thanks! – Amanda

  15. Just thought I mention here that your steel cut (or pinhead) oats are just the ticket for making Goetta – a meat-and-oats product somewhat like ‘scrapple’ that’s popular in the Cincinnati area. It may sound odd to folks who’ve never tried it but my friends from that area swear by it. This crockpot version looks easy to make. They swear it’s one of the best breakfast foods you can imagine!

    http://www.food.com/recipe/crock-pot-goetta-17274

  16. As a Scot, this is so untrue. When we hear Oatmeal we think of the American style porridge (ie Quaker Oats style – very smooth, no texture).

    • Yes, the nutritional information is the same for quick cooking and regular rolled oats. The oats are the same, just one is rolled thinner. As long as you compare the same weights, all of our oats have the same nutritional information.

    • Jimmy,

      Our quick cooking steel cut oats are cut into slightly smaller, flatter pieces than conventional steel cut oats. This allows them to cook faster. They are not precooked.

  17. Your honey oatmeal bread recipe calls for Scottish Oatmeal. Is it ok to substitute quick cooking steel oats?

    • Any of our rolled oats, oat bran or muesli cereals can be eaten uncooked. Try letting the oats soak for a few minutes in yogurt or milk before eating, to soften.

  18. I really consider this particular blog , “Steel Cut,
    Rolled, Instant, Scottish? | Bob’s Red Mill Blog”, incredibly entertaining plus the blog post ended up being a remarkable read. Thanks,Leoma

  19. I love the Scottish oatmeal! But I’m stuck with a bunch of steel cut oats and am wondering if I can make them into ‘Scottish oatmeal’ by putting them in a blender for a bit so they’re ground up more like the true Scottish oatmeal. This would sort of grind them, no? Any help is appreciated in helping me turn steel cut oats into proper oatmeal.

    Thanks!

  20. I love steel cut oats, but your comment that they are exclusively used for breakfast is very wrong. Steel cut oats make a wonderful, delicious savory “risotto.” And it much easier, because you don’t have to stir, and stir, and then stir some more as you do in actual risotto. There are endless possibilities for flavoring.

  21. This is an absolutely wonderful article. I am on a quest to eat more healthy, trying new recipes using oats. This article has given me first hand insight into the use of the different varieties and applications for different recipes. I will definitely share this information.

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