3 Tips to Help You Make Perfect Oatmeal

In the warmer months, yogurt and granola are my go-to breakfast. As fall approaches, I start making more and more oatmeal and each year I aim to perfect this relatively simple breakfast. With these three main tips, we're pretty close to perfection.

People like their oatmeal in very different ways. Not just the toppings, but the preparation itself. Some like it uber-creamy and soft while others prefer oats that are more chewy and toothsome. For creamier grains, you need to work with more liquid, so if you're in the Creamy Camp, tip #3 may not be pertinent for you. But I happen to be in the Chewy Camp and like my oats perfectly steamed and not at all soggy. In my opinion, good oatmeal should be as good cold as it is hot, while creamier, softer oats can cool ever so slightly and become gluey and unpleasant. So here are my best tips to achieve oatmeal perfection.

3 Tips for Perfect Oatmeal

1. Toast the Oats First
My boyfriend Sam got me into toasting my oats in the pan for a good 5 minutes or until fragrant. While you can do a dry toast, I like to use a bit of butter to add a little extra flavor. Toasting the oats will not only lead to a more pleasant flavor but it will help with the potential sog factor, too.

2. Keep Your Hands Off
The mistake most people make with oatmeal, I think, is stirring it. Once you add the oats to boiling water (or milk or whatever cooking liquid you're using), cover the pot and don't touch, stir, or even peek. Stirring can break up the compounds in the oats and will lead to a weaker, soggier oatmeal.

3. Boil Water First and Use Less of It
With most whole grains, a sure-fire cooking method is to add the grain and the water together, bring to a boil, cover and cook on low for the appropriate amount of time. Not so with oats. Boil the water first. Then add the oats. And I favor using far less water than is often called for (for 1 cup of oats, I use a little over 1 cup of liquid).

How do you work towards oatmeal perfection? Got any tips specifically for rolled oats, or steel-cut oatmeal?

Related: How to Make Your Own Flavored Instant Oatmeal

(Image: Faith Durand)