March 16, 2015

Product name: Quaker Steel-Cut Quick 3-Minute Oatmeal

Varieties: Blueberries & Cranberries and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon

The cereal aisle is undergoing a revolution. Granolas and grains are replacing cartoons and toys. As more and more breakfast cereal makers begin looking for new ways to keep customers coming back to the cereal aisle, expect more products that promote grains, protein, and fiber. For example, Quaker just launched this new line of quick (read: practically instant) steel-cut oatmeals.

Steel-cut oats are a notoriously time-consuming grain and rarely an option for busy mornings unless you think ahead. (We suggest you make a big batch on the weekends, spoon out a bit every morning, and reheat for an instant hearty breakfast.) Unlike rolled oats, whole steel-cut oats require around 20 minutes to cook thoroughly. Even then, they remain very chewy, toothsome even. Rolled oats are smooth, or creamy at best after just a few minutes on the stovetop.

So how can quick-cooking steel-cut oats exist? Quaker (and other manufacturers) grind the whole steel-cut oats into slightly smaller pieces so they cook rapidly.

My Take: My bowls of oatmeal were soupy after the suggested cook time (2 1/2 to 3 minutes at 50% power and a 2-3 minute rest for thickening). The instructions are based on an 1100-watt microwave oven. Mine is 1100 watts, but microwave strengths vary, so don't be put off if your grains need more time. I cooked the grains an additional 30-45 seconds at full power, and they were perfect. The first time you cook a bowl, I suggest tinkering with the time and strength to find a setting that works for you and your oatmeal preferences.

Taste and Texture: I prefer oatmeal on the sweeter side, and these did not disappoint. That said, they are not full of fake flavorings, "fruit" pieces, or sweeteners (the Blueberries & Cranberries variety has dried pieces of fruit), so the sugar flavor is very minimal compared to many instant oatmeal packets. The texture is not a traditional steel-cut (i.e. chewy) texture. The tiny bits of grains have more texture than an instant option, though, which is great for people who detest the sometimes-gluey instant oats.

Nutrition Note: You're not really gaining any nutritional benefit with these steel-cut oats compared to their traditional instant variety. A package of Quaker's Instant Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal has identical numbers for fiber and protein.

Each steel-cut oatmeal packet contains 1 serving of whole grains. (The instant varieties do, too.)

Important: Microwave versions of steel-cut oats must be cooked in larger bowls because they tend to swell more than instant varieties while cooking. Don't forget that, or you'll have a mess.

Verdict: If you're not a fan of instant oatmeals, I don't know if these will change your mind. You're not gaining anything nutritionally by jumping from the instant variety to this one, but the texture is a bit better. All things considered, it's a good product for people who need their breakfast to happen quickly every single morning and love a bowl of steaming oats.

The Numbers:B&C 1 packet: 170 calories, 2.5g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 210mg sodium, 34g carb, 3g fiber, 12g sugar, 4g protein

BS&C 1 packet: 180 calories, 2.5g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 260mg sodium, 36g carb, 3g fiber, 11g sugar, 4g protein

First Ingredient: whole-grain steel cut oats

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