Written by Julie Christensen; Updated March 29, 2018
Serve oatmeal with fresh fruit, flaxseed or chopped nuts.
Nutritionally, steel-cut oats and quick oats are the same, with the exception of instant oatmeal packets, which often contain added sugar. The main differences between the two lie in taste and texture as well as cooking time. Keep both on hand in the kitchen for various uses, including breakfast cereals and baking needs.
All oats, including steel-cut and quick oats, start as oat groats, with only the outer husk removed. The main difference between steel-cut oats and quick oats lies in the processing. Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces, for a relatively unprocessed product. Rolled or old-fashioned oats are made by steaming and rolling oat groats for faster cooking. Quick oats are rolled oats that have been chopped into smaller pieces for even faster cooking.
Steel-cut oats and quick oats have the same nutritional profile because they're both made from whole oat groats. In general, both contain 74 calories, 3 grams of protein and 2 of grams fiber per 1/2-cup serving, according to registered dietitian Leslie Beck, author of "Foods That Fight Disease." The nutritional value may vary greatly, depending on the brand, however. Steel-cut oats and quick oats are high in vitamins E, B-1 and B-2. Eating three servings of whole grains, including steel-cut oats or quick oats, reduced the risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease by 30 percent, according to Harvard University's Nurses' Health Study. Although steel-cut oats and quick oats are nutritionally identical, watch out for instant oatmeal cereals, which usually contain large amounts of sugar and sodium.
Quick and Easy
The main advantage quick oats has over steel-cut oats is convenience. You can cook quick oats on the stove top or in the microwave in two to three minutes. Steel-cut oats cook in 20 to 30 minutes on the stove top. Soaking steel-cut oats overnight cuts cooking time down to 10 minutes, however. You can also cook steel-cut oats overnight in a slow cooker. Combine steel-cut oats with water at a rate of 1 part oats to 4 parts water. Cover the slow cooker and cook the oats on the low setting for seven to nine hours, or on the high setting for four to six hours.
Steel-cut oats and quick oats have decidedly different textures. Steel-cut oats retain the individual grains for a slightly chewy texture, similar to brown rice. Quick oats tend to cook down into a creamy porridge with no individual pieces. Some people prefer the robust texture of steel-cut oats, while others prefer the softer texture of quick oats. Try both to discover which one you like best.
Cooking Vs. Baking
Although you might prefer steel-cut oats for oatmeal, quick oats are usually better for baking in cookies or muffins. In baked goods, steel-cut oats retain their rough texture, while quick oats create soft, yet chewy results. Quick oats can also be easily ground into oat flour in a blender or food processor. Steel-cut oats create a coarser flour. Rolled oats and quick oats can be used interchangeably, but do not use steel-cut oats in baking unless a recipe specifically calls for it.
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