“Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.” Samuel Johnson

"That's why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!" Scotsman

I haven’t always been a fan of oats. I was introduced to salted, unsweetened oatmeal when I was young, and that put me off of the stuff until I was well into my teens. I disliked it so much back then I referred to oatmeal as wallpaper paste! These days things are very different. After eating flavored instant oats for years, I am now in a serious love affair with steel cuts oats. I eat them for breakfast 5 days a week for the 7 coldest months of the year. I don’t desert oats in the summer though. I simply switch to rolled oats and make homemade granola or muesli.   Buying plain oats and making them into cereal or oatmeal has changed everything, I have total control. It’s never too sweet or too pasty, it’s just the way I like it every time. Knowing that you are waking up to a good breakfast makes it easier to roll out of bed on workdays. 

Oats have been around for a very long time. The oldest cultivated oats were found in Europe and have been dated back to the Bronze Age. Throughout the years this simple grain has been used to fuel both people and animals. Historically it was used a lot as livestock feed; these days it is known to be a healthy way to start your day while being mindful of heart disease and cholesterol.

Steel cut oats on the left, rolled oats on the right. They don't even look like they come from the same grain!

Steel cut oats on the left, rolled oats on the right. They don't even look like they come from the same grain!

If you have a look in your local bulk store you will notice a brunch of different varieties. Here are the differences:

Whole Oat Groats: These are the least processed of all oats. Groats have the whole kernel intact. They are a bit nuttier and chewier then other types of oats. Use them for pilafs, stuffing or cooked for breakfast.

Steel Cut Oats: These are my personal favorite! Steel cut oats are also called Irish Oats. Here the groat has been cut with steel blades into a few pieces (thus the name). Steel cut are my choice for a hot breakfast cereal. They also work well for overnight oats or in slow cookers.

Scottish Oats: These are oats that are stone ground as opposed to cut. They cook up a bit faster than groats or steel cut. The texture is creamier as well.

Rolled Oats: These are also known as regular or old fashioned oats. These oats are steamed and rolled into flakes (that's how they got their name). Because of their thin, flat shape they cook faster than the other varieties. These are widely available in grocery and bulk stores. They are great to have on hand for baking, hot breakfasts, granola or muesli.

Instant Oats: These are more processed then rolled oats. They look and taste a lot like rolled oats, they just cook up faster. Instant oats are precooked and then dried; because of this they are not always a good substitute for rolled oats in baking.

Oats Bran: This is the outer bran layer of the oat groat. It has been ground up into a meal which can be used to make a hot cereal. Oat bran is also used simply to add fiber into other foods; it can be used as a topping for other cereals or yogurt. It can also be added into baked goods, smoothies, or coatings.