Why You Should Cook Your Oatmeal Like Laura Ingalls Wilder

published Oct 14, 2015
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

We are all busy people in our own ways. Some of us have busy jobs, some manage busy families, others go to school or volunteer — for most of us, there’s no shortage of things to fill the day. So it’s a bit daring then to write about an oatmeal method that takes two hours — even for me, someone who writes about whole grains and experiments with different recipes as part of my job.

At first this one seemed like a stretch — that is, until I finally tried it.

Cooking Oatmeal Like a Pioneer

A few years ago, Emma wrote about a method for slowly cooking oatmeal much like Laura Ingalls Wilder probably did — or should we say, how oatmeal was really cooked by early American pioneers and our porridge-loving friends back in England. Back then, the grains were cooked very low and very slow in plenty of water until they turned into a silky porridge.

→ Read the Original Tip: Rethink Your Oatmeal by Anne Mendelson

This week I figured it was finally time to try this old-fashioned method for myself: Would it really work? Would it be worth the extra time?

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

How to Cook Your Oatmeal Like a Pioneer

Here’s what to do: Combine 2 tablespoons of steel-cut oats with 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring them to a boil, then lower the heat to a very, very low simmer and cook for two hours.

Yes, two hours. I should also mention that the oats for this method must be steel-cut oats; if you use anything else, you’ll just have an undesirable pile of mush on your hands.

As I set the pot on the stove to begin, I was skeptical: This is such a small amount of oats we’re working with and so much water! How could this possibly work? But curiosity fueled me and I continued on. I stirred the oats every so often. When I saw the oats starting to stick to the pot, I stirred in some extra water to loosen them up a bit. This happened a few times during cooking; I also added a generous pinch of salt after about an hour.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Result: The Creamiest, Silkiest Porridge Ever

According to Anne Mendelson, food historian and the original source of this tip, cooking the oats low and slow allows time for their starch and fiber to fully dissolve into the water, leaving a super-decadent, silky porridge.

And that is exactly what happened. The oats plumped up to about twice their size and transformed into an incredibly creamy, wonderful porridge. Some stayed a touch chewier, which was nice, as I love the toothsome nature of steel-cut oats and you still get a little of that here. I added a splash of maple syrup and an extra sprinkle of salt when the oats were done and it felt nothing like my traditional morning oats. These were special-occasion oats, for sure.

Was It Worth The Wait?

As incredible as this slow-cooked oatmeal turned out to be, two hours is a very long time. Will I start using this method every day? Not very likely. This is definitely not a weekday recipe.

No, this is a weekend oatmeal. More importantly, this is the oatmeal to make if you really want to treat yourself to something special on a chilly Saturday morning, or to make if you have friends or family staying overnight and everyone is sitting around chatting happily over coffee while the oatmeal bubbles its way to silky perfection.

This oatmeal takes time and is all the more special for it.