All members of the oat family start off as oat groats, the whole kernel that comes from an oat plant after it is harvested and husked. They are all loaded with nutritional value—oats are full of protein, and their fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. But beyond that, each type of oat, whether quick-cook, old-fashioned rolled, or steel-cut, has its own characteristics. How to choose? It all comes down to your personal preference and the recipes you want to make.
Quick-cook oats are cooked, dried, cut into small pieces and then thinly rolled so they will cook fast when you prepare them. This production changes their overall texture so that when you cook them at home, quick-cook oats produce a mushier oatmeal than other types of oats, they also may have a gram or two less fiber than rolled oats but they are ready in five minutes or less. Their texture means they aren't often used in baking recipes because they lack the necessary crunch but they do work wonderfully in this Chocolate Coconut Skillet Cookie, and this recipe for Blueberry-Oatmeal Muffins calls for either quick-cook or regular rolled oats.
Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
Often simply called rolled oats or regular oats, old-fashioned rolled oats are made by steaming oat groats, pressing them flat and then rolling them into flakes. They are similar to quick-cook oats but larger and thicker. If your mornings are a rush, know that rolled oats can be made into quick-cook by pulsing them in a food processor. Another way to speed up morning oatmeal is to make chilled overnight oats. Old-fashioned rolled oats are a very versatile oat—they are the type most often called for in baking but can also be used for breading for chicken or as a delicious spicy topping for roasted vegetables or eggs, grain bowls, and salads.
These mild, nutty oats are the least processed, smallest type of oat and are denser, with twice the nutritional punch of other varieties. They have more texture and chewiness than quick-cook or rolled oats , too. As their name suggests, they are oat groats that have simply been cut into pieces by a steel blade. Steel-cut oats take the longest to cook: 20-30 minutes to cook compared to roughly 5 minutes for rolled oats and instant oats. Also called Irish oats, they are most often used for a traditional morning bowl of oatmeal or porridge.
Watch how to make creamy steel-cut oats in less time: