You can buy oatmeal in three forms as a cereal: instant, rolled (old fashioned), and steel-cut. Instant oats cook quickly--in a minute. Rolled oats take [update: anywhere from around 5 to 15 minutes depending on the fluid you cook it in--blog post forthcoming!]. Though, really, it's more of a gradient from instant to quick-cooking to rolled just varying by how thin the grains are rolled (with instant crumbling into pieces because it's been rolled so thin), as described in kitchn's breakdown of the varieties. And then there's steel-cut, which takes some 30 minutes or so.
I like all three, from the formless mush of instant oats, to the more substantial rolled, to the thick and hearty steel-cut. When it comes down to it, though, I prefer rolled oats over instant for their lower glycemic index and because I like more body in my grains, and rolled over steel-cut because steel-cut just takes so freakin' long to cook--not helpful at any time, but especially for breakfast when convenience is a bigger factor.
Enter the rice cooker. Or more specifically, the rice cooker with timed cooking feature. If yours doesn't have it, tough luck! Even better, rice cooker with timed cooking feature and porridge setting (meant for slower cooking applications like xi fan/congee and steel-cut oats). Add the oats and water to the rice cooker, set it to finish cooking when you wake up, and then press "cook". Go to sleep and wake up to perfectly cooked steel-cut oats!
If you've got a nicer one (as opposed to the basic kind that just has a glass lid with hole for a steam vent) then you may need to be more careful not to cook too much at a time to avoid foaming and clogging the vent. Zojirushi has this handy recipe for a 5-cup model. Note that they're using their rice-cooker "cups" and not standard cups (roughly 1 rice-cooker "cup" to 3/4 standard cup). I measured out the weights, though, and have included that in the "recipe" below. I mean, it's about the least involved recipe you can have.
But that's not all! Pictured above are steel-cut oat "cakes" I pan-fried with chilled, cooked steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats are very thick once cooked, and after refrigeration can hold their shape pretty well. You still need to be gentle with them, though. Plop them out of their container and slice into flat pancake-like shapes, and then you can cook them as you would fry or brown any old pancake, filet, or steak. The result is a delicious crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside oatcake without any flour needed to bind it (as all the recipes online seem to have). I topped it with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkle of blueberries.
Rice Cooker Steel-Cut Oats
~110 grams steel-cut oats (about .75 cups)
~450 grams water (about 1.8 cups)
salt to taste
splash of soy milk
brown sugar, honey, other sweetener if desired
squeeze of lemon juice if adding sweeteners
thai basil (my favorite is with pineapple)
- Add oats and water to 5-cup rice cooker (I think these measurements are scaled to Zojirushi’s 5-cup model rice cooker to avoid foaming action’s clogging the vents), set to "porridge" setting, and press cook. Note Zojirushi's warning that if yours doesn't have a "porridge" setting, you should watch it while it cooks since it my overflow while cooking (and in that case isn't so handy a method over the normal stove-top method). Alternatively, set timer to finish cooking when you wake up, if your rice cooker has the function.
- Add pinch of salt and splash of soy milk and mix well. Garnish with desired additions. Serve immediately.