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4 Tips for Better, More Satisfying Oatmeal

“Oats are a sturdy sort and they aim to please,” writes Peter Miller, author of Lunch at the Shop and, fittingly, of one of our favorite make-ahead lunches (and dinners) of all times.

But still, Peter laments, oats are “part abandoned, stuck out in the margins, with almost no agent at all.” Poor, fussy-seeming oats—always second fiddle to breakfast cereal. They could use some dignifying—and some demystifying.

Photo by James Ransom

Look no further: With Peter’s 4-step plan, you will give oatmeal the respect—and butter—it deserves, and oatmeal will give you a satisfying, dare-we-say-easy, 30-minute breakfast (for 10 of those, you can be in the shower):

1. Chill out on the measurements.

  • Use 2 cups of cold water for every 1 cup of oats (and every 1 cup of oats for every 2 eaters). Precision is not necessary here: Peter uses a squat drinking glass, which he fills once with oats, twice with water.

2. Take the time to soak your oats.

  • Soak the oats in the cold water (remembering the ratio above), along with a good pinch of salt, for 10 minutes. (“Go take your shower,” Peter suggests.)
Photo by James Ransom

3. Treat it like risotto. Yes, risotto.

  • “Treat it with a small nod to risotto and grain,” advises Peter, so that you can monitor and control the consistency: Heat a small kettle or pot of water and leave it to simmer, “as you would stock for risotto,” alongside the soaking oats, simmering over medium-heat.

  • As the oatmeal bubbles and thickens, add hot water from the kettle or pot, 1/4 cup at a time, directly into the pan. Let the oatmeal gel—if it’s too thick, drizzle in a bit more of the boiling water. Your oatmeal should be ready in no more than 5 minutes. “You will see that it has unified, and thickened—choose the consistency you want, adding a little more water until you get there.”

4. You’ve come this far: Finish with a bang (and a pat of butter).

  • “When you have the oatmeal where you want it, turn the heat off and cover well. Add a good pat of cold butter and let it sit, covered, for 2 minutes.

  • Ladle the oatmeal into hot bowls—”silly to come this way and then use cold bowls,” writes Peter. It’s simple to heat them up: Simply pour over a bit of the hot water from the kettle you heated alongside the oats.

  • Add brown sugar first, so it has time to melt, then fold in a tablespoon of whipped cream (which, magically, lightens and enriches) and garnish with good, fresh granola and dried fruit.

  • Cinnamon bread, or monkey bread, toasted, buttered, and then broken into pieces can—and should—also be added at the last moment. Sweet croutons.

And Peter’s last bit of advice? “Work quickly, so the oatmeal is hot when you serve it.”

Share your best oatmeal tip in the comments below.

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