oats [ohts] noun
Left to Right: Quick oats; Rolled Oats; Steel-cut oats
Avena sativa. A cereal grain that comes in several forms. From the heartiest and least processed to the most processed:
- Oat groats: The whole grain that has been cleaned, toasted and hulled. (Any whole grain that has been hulled is a groat, so there are rye, wheat and barley groats as well.) They are rarely incorporated into a baking recipe, but are used for hot breakfast cereal or to grind into oat flour.
- Steel-cut/pinhead/Scotch oats: Groats that have been chopped into a few pieces. They are still very hearty and mostly used as a cooked breakfast porridge.
- Rolled/old-fashioned oats: Groats that have been steamed and rolled. These are the typical “oatmeal” that is most common in the baking kitchen and is the basis for classic oatmeal cookies and oat crisp toppings.
- Quick-cooking/1-minute oats: Rolled oats that have been chopped up into a finer texture and also rolled more thinly. They cook much faster when made into oatmeal and are featured in some recipes. If you substitute them in a cookie recipe that calls for regular rolled oats, expect the texture to be less hearty and with a finer crumb.
- Instant oats: Thinly rolled oats that have been processed practically into a powder.
Recipes should specify which kind to use, but unfortunately, sometimes they don’t. Regular rolled oats are the most commonly used in baking, so if you have to guess, this would be the safest bet. Quick versions would be our second choice, although the wonderful hearty quality that rolled oats bring to oatmeal cookies, for example, would be lacking. Instant oats can be quite pasty and are not recommended, while steel-cut, our choice for breakfast oatmeal, are hardly ever used in sweet baking either.