What Am I Missing With Rice Cooker Oatmeal?
February 8, 2021 8:38 AM   Subscribe

This is my usual instant oatmeal brand: I add boiling water and it's ready in 5 minutes - it's not amazing but it's decent. I recently bought this Zojirushi rice cooker and tried cooking this oatmeal in it: it took an hour, and the result was a stodgy mess which stuck to my ribs. I don't understand why the extra effort and time produced a worse result - am I missing something, or perhaps this is just not a good way to cook oatmeal?
posted by my log does not judge to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless I'm missing something, that Zojirushi specifies steel cut oatmeal, and you're cooking Extra Thick Rolled Oats. Have you tried cooking steel cut oats in it?
posted by zamboni at 8:51 AM on February 8, 2021 [13 favorites]

The Zojirushi oatmeal setting is optimized for steel cut oats -- rolled oats are oat groats that are steamed and flattened before production, whereas steel-cut oats are groats chopped into smaller pieces and not steamed. (In a way, they're more similar to rice than rolled oats, which makes sense given the machine's primary intended usage.)

As you can imagine, these will cook up differently, and a machine that is optimized for enough moisture for steel-cut oats is probably going to add too much water to rolled oats and produce the mushy, stodgy result that you experienced.

If you have enough rolled oats and/or a willingness to try a couple of batches, one thing is to try adding less water than what is called for and see if that produces a more desirable texture.

Finally, on the time issue -- it's worth knowing that Zojirushi "fancy" micom (microcomputer) rice cookers are always going to be slower than the stovetop. They can take nearly two hours to cook a full batch of brown rice, for instance. The trade-off and the reason that people buy them is that they are a completely hands-off item once you load them and (in general, though not always as we can see in this situation!) they produce excellent results.
posted by andrewesque at 8:51 AM on February 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

It’s just not a good way to cook (rolled) oatmeal. I mean if you cook anything for 12 times longer than you’re supposed to, you generally can’t expect it to come out the same.

The whole point of rolled oats is they cook fast. I once made gruel for a school project and I just put oatmeal in a slow cooker. If you want to try using the rice cooker, give steel-cut (non-rolled) oats a try.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yes, I came in to say what zamboni had to offer. Your instant oatmeal uses quick oats. Thick rolled oats are thick and meant to stick to your ribs! Try the steel cut oats as per Zojirushi's suggestion.
posted by nathaole at 8:53 AM on February 8, 2021

I would only use the cut of oatmeal Zojirushi recommends AND they have very specific water ratios in their recipes - this is also critical to making successful rice in their machines as well. Start there to make sure that does get you acceptable oatmeal, and then play with the variables from there.

Like others say, it seems unlikely that a fast-cooking oat is going to thrive in a slow-cooking machine.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:54 AM on February 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

if the setting is for steel cut oats, no other kinds of oats will work. They cook extremely differently.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:55 AM on February 8, 2021

Response by poster: Quick note: my rationale for using those oats vs steel cut was that the top youtube hit for "rice cooker oatmeal" used them, and in a Zojirushi.
posted by my log does not judge at 8:59 AM on February 8, 2021

Yeah, but there's almost no comments about results, just people saying "looks good!" I suspect this is an SEO "top hit", not a "popular recipe that works" top hit.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on February 8, 2021 [9 favorites]

My personal rule is never trust a cooking video that doesn't show a live human person eating the end product. I need to see their whole face. I need to see it in their eyes. Otherwise the recipe is probably trash is likely to have flaws.
posted by phunniemee at 9:07 AM on February 8, 2021 [17 favorites]

Also, don't forget that one person's "stodgy mess" is another person's morning ambrosia, especially when it comes to oatmeal!
posted by Hellgirl at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Zojirushi makes a lot of different rice cookers, which are programmed differently - you can't really generalize one set of instructions to another.

The video you linked to is using a NS-DAC10, which does have a porridge setting (although it's probably more intended for congee than oat porridge), it's going to be quite different to the steel cut oats setting on your model.

Something folks aren't necessarily aware of is the Zojirushi grains page, which specifies the exact proportions of water to different types of grain for every active Zojirushi model. Your model does have instructions for Rolled Oats, but counterintuitively, you need to use the White Rice setting.

Here's what the NLBAC-05 specifies:
Steel Cut Oatmeal
Liquid: Fill to the corresponding water-level line
Rice Cooker Capacity: 3 cups
Rice Cooking Capacity*: Minimum 0.5, Maximum 1.5
Rinse: No
Keep Warm: No
*Minimum and maximum cooking capacity in the supplied rice measuring cup.

Rolled Oats
Liquid per 1 Cup of Rice/Grain: 1 1/2 cups
Rice Cooker Capacity: 3 cups
Rice Cooking Capacity*: Minimum 0.5, Maximum 2
Setting: WHITE
Rinse: No
Keep Warm: No
*Minimum and maximum cooking capacity in the supplied rice measuring cup.

Also, phunnimee's advice about trust levels for most youtube cooking videos is spot on.
posted by zamboni at 9:23 AM on February 8, 2021 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: @zamboni - oh!
posted by my log does not judge at 9:27 AM on February 8, 2021

Given the potential variation in different kinds of rolled oats, you may have to tweak things a bit by adjusting amounts, but that ratio and cooking setting should at least get you in the ball park.
posted by zamboni at 9:40 AM on February 8, 2021

For the ultimate non-mush porridge, try full oat groats. They normally take an absurd amount of soaking, but the rice cooker method might make lovely nutty porridge from them
posted by scruss at 10:05 AM on February 8, 2021

Instant oatmeal is likely to be pasty. I recommend using a large bowl, several times larger than the amount of cooked oatmeal that will be produced, because oatmeal wants to boil over. 1 scoop regular (original, rolled, long-cooking) oatmeal, 3+ scoops water(I like wet oatmeal). Microwave on 30% power for 15 minutes. Low power reduces boiling over. Takes 15 minutes but requires no interaction. Pop the oatmeal in and go take a shower.
posted by theora55 at 10:55 AM on February 8, 2021

I’ll just echo that it actually works quite well for steel cut oats. I really recommend trying that at some point when you have a chance.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:29 PM on February 8, 2021

You can't cook instant oatmeal in a rice cooker. Instant oats are processed for hot water method only. They are generally rolled and pressed thinner, so hot water can saturate them faster, thus making them edible quicker.

As others have explained rice cookers with oatmeal setting are designed for steel-cut oats, which are the LEAST processed of all edible oats... Basically, the oat groat was cut into several pieces via a steel blade, instead of rolled using a roller (i.e. rolled oats). Since most of the oat stayed intact, this will take the longest to cook, and retains a chewy texture.

Thus, if you cook instant oatmeal with the rice cooker, you'll end up with overcooked gruel or worse.

So what are steel-cut, rolled, and instant oats?
posted by kschang at 1:18 PM on February 9, 2021

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