Oh, the oatmeal and the Crockpot will be friends.....
June 17, 2009 9:26 PM   Subscribe

I have a 5-qt slow cooker and would like to make as much Steel-Cut Oatmeal as I can in it for a breakfast for a crowd. What are the correct ratios and amounts of water and oats? Also interesting mix-in ideas are welcome.

I'm providing breakfast for about 30 adults and one of the dishes we're doing is Steel-Cut Oats with a variety of topping available. In the interest of efficiency, I'm thinking it makes sense to put the oats in my 5-qt crockpot the night before so they'll be ready in the morning but I have no clue as to correct water/oats ratios. I make oats on the stove all the time and usually do 1/4 cup oats to 1 cup water for single serving but does that scale up in the exact same proportions? Are there different ratios for slow cookers due to the longer cooking time? And how many servings do you think I can get in one batch?

Also, I usually just make the oats plain,maybe with a little cinnamon and vanilla but any ideas for interesting ingredients to cook with the oats or to have available as a topping would be helpful.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Caterers assume a formula of 1 - 2 for oats.(So, 1 cup of oatmeal+2 cups liquid.)

Consider using juices for your liquid, and dried fruit as cook-in addins. I like to use apple juice, and dried apricots, raisins and blueberries. Or pineapple juice, dried mango and banana. Yum. I love me some oatmeal.

I've never tried it with a slow cooker, so I have no idea how or if that will work. I'll have to remember to check back with you later and see how it turned out.
posted by dejah420 at 9:35 PM on June 17, 2009

This Alton Brown recipe is for overnight oatmeal. It's awesome.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:36 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: According to Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, the ratio is one part steel-cut oats to four parts water, as on the stovetop. You can do them overnight on low for 8-9 hours.

A suggested variation in this book includes dried cherries or cranberries, dried figs, and dried apricots (1-2/3 cup each), and recommends adding another half cup of water per cup of oats, presumably to hydrate the fruits.
posted by padraigin at 9:38 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: You can toast the oats a bit before making them [in the toaster or by roasting them in a pan with some butter] and adding some cream in the final cook down and your oats will be very luscious tasting. I usally mix in toasted nuts, dried fruits or sometimes spices like cardamom and/or sweet curry [just a bit!] to sort of bring out the savory flavors.
posted by jessamyn at 9:51 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lots of helpful stuff so far. I guess I'm most interested in now is what I can yield from a 5-qt cooker. If you assume each serving is made up of .25 c oats and 1 c water then a serving is 1.25 c in volume. Is that right? There are 4 cups in a quart and therefore I have 20 cups of volume in my cooker (5qts x 4 cups) so I can make 16 servings. But I recall that my serving size is pretty big and so maybe it'll be okay for a breakfast that has lots of other stuff available.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:15 PM on June 17, 2009

The recipe in the above-mentioned cookbook claims that one cup of dry steel-cut oats plus four cups of water yields two servings. I would say that's about right based on my experiences with rolled oats. I'd figure one cup per serving, and with the other stuff available and with fruit to mix in, you're probably good.

For what it's worth, the recipe also indicates that Scottish people eat their oatmeal with a nice glass of stout, or drizzled with single-malt whiskey and brown sugar. I have no idea if this is actually true.
posted by padraigin at 10:24 PM on June 17, 2009

That should be, one cup prepared oatmeal per serving, in case that was unclear. I was too busy thinking about whiskey.
posted by padraigin at 10:25 PM on June 17, 2009

We usually split for a light breakfast for 2 just 1/2 C sco to 2 cups liquid--and it's great if you make it with 1 cup water and 1 cup oat milk. I think if you're serving a lot of other dishes that could be plenty for 3 or 4 people. This is based on the Cooks Irritated recipe, however, which takes 30 minutes on the stove, so not sure what the slow cooker version will be like. Still, think toasting the oats and using oat milk is a great (vegan) idea.
posted by Mngo at 10:25 PM on June 17, 2009

Do two batches over two nights. Put one 5qt batch in the fridge. Combine them both in a stock pot, with a bit more water. Oats don't go off once cooked, but they do soak up more water.
posted by holgate at 10:27 PM on June 17, 2009

Oh, it occurs to me that crockpots generally are most efficient if they're only about 2/3-3/4 full. Do you know anyone with a 6-quart pot you could use, or an extra smaller pot to use in addition?

Not that I haven't filled mine to the brim and had everything work out fine. But I've never done massive quantities of oatmeal and I wouldn't want to set you wrong.
posted by padraigin at 10:28 PM on June 17, 2009

Now that you've figured out the oatmeal issue, may I suggest toasted slivered almonds, apple chunks or chunky applesauce, brown sugar and cinnamon set out in bowls for people to dress up their cereal? So good!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:41 PM on June 17, 2009

Also some real, honest maple syrup. That's my kids' #1 go-to for their oatmeal.
posted by padraigin at 10:44 PM on June 17, 2009

In addition to the topping suggestions above, how about a bowl each of warm apple, peach and berry compotes to choose from? (Apple or berry pie filling and canned peaches will do in a pinch!) Also, raisins, sliced fresh fruit, and a small pitcher of cream. Ahh, oatmeal heaven!
posted by platinum at 10:51 PM on June 17, 2009

As far as I'm concerned, a water bath is absolutely essential to making steel cut oats in the slow cooker. The oats will burn and/or stick to the sides of the slow cooker otherwise. I make it using a oven-proof mug thing I found at Target, although you can also use a regular bowl.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:54 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

As far as I'm concerned, a water bath is absolutely essential to making steel cut oats in the slow cooker

Very interesting. I've never actually done steel-cut in the crock, only rolled, and never had the crusting problem.

I do see that oatmeal can also be done baked, in a dutch oven. Here the crusting seems to be considered a feature rather than a bug. But it looks super easy and might be a way to get a few more servings if additional crocks aren't a possibility.
posted by padraigin at 11:10 PM on June 17, 2009

emilyd22222 is right: you definitely need to go pot-in-pot with water bath for slow-cooker oats, otherwise you end up with a layer of burnt oaten gloop around the sides. (I use a stainless steel bowl.)

So, if you do have a stock pot that'll hold 10qt, how about you soak the oats overnight in the right amount of cooking water, and cook them on the stove in the morning? Should cut the cooking time down to a manageable length.
posted by holgate at 11:40 PM on June 17, 2009

I love oatmeal, but I really don't like addins of cream, fruit, nuts, and especially sugar, to be cooked in. Consider providing dried fruit, cream, milk, nuts and sugar for people to mix in as they choose.
posted by theora55 at 8:43 AM on June 18, 2009

Never done oats in a crockpot, but my favorite steel-cut oat stir-ins include a couple crushed cardamom seeds (toast with the dry oats), a drop of vanilla (add with the water), and a finely diced cooking apple (add with ten minutes to go). I make my oats with just water and salt, so I finish this with a splash of milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar in each bowl. Really yummy

Another idea is to provide a big crock of plain water-and-salt oats and bowls set out to dress stuff up with.

Sweet: toasted sliced almonds and hazlenuts; chopped dried fruits (cherries and blueberries and apricots and apple rings, omg!); fresh fruits (various berries, chopped apples tossed with a little lemon juice; sliced mango); spiced white sugars (vanilla sugar would be nice, as would cinnamon/clove/orange zest sugar); brown sugar; honeyed greek yogurt; maple syrup; light molasses.

Savory (unusual but AWESOME): finely grated hard cheese (cheddar and parm); chopped fresh herbs; deeply caramelized onions; very crisp cooked and crumbled bacon; cooked and crumbled sausage; herbed salt; a pepper grinder; chopped toasted walnuts; sunflower kernels.

In both cases, set out a little pitcher of whole milk and a dish of butter.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:02 AM on June 18, 2009

Response by poster: Just as a post-meal note, I used 12 cups of water and 3 cups of oatmeal in my 5-qt cooker and had tons of leftover oatmeal, as not everyone in the group of 35+ had oatmeal. That amount fit perfectly well in the crockpot. I put a little bit of vegetable oil on the inside of the crock prior to filling it and cooked it at low for about 9 hours overnight and didn't have any burning. There was a slight crust on some surfaces but it wasn't bad to clean at all. I didn't cook it with anything in it but had available toasted almond, granola, dried blueberries, dried apricots and reconstituted warm apricots, raisins, brown sugar, maple syrup, almond and soy milk, cream, milk, and some other stuff I'm forgetting. It was yummy.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:47 AM on June 22, 2009

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