Have you ever wondered about the oats that you eat every morning for breakfast and where they came from or what the difference might be between the many different types? Two main types of oats compete for the most consumed: rolled oats and quick oats.
They may look similar when cooked, but there are a few main differences between quick oats and rolled oats. Primarily, the main difference between quick oats and rolled oats is how they are processed.
The different ways the oat groats are processed impacts the texture of the oats as well as its cooking times.
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What are Oats?
Let’s start at the very beginning. What exactly are oats? Oats are whole grains that are filled with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. They contain higher amounts of healthy fats and protein than other grains.
Oats are also gluten free and can even lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar because of their low glycemic index.
Besides these health benefits, oats also have the ability to take on the flavors of what they are cooked in or with, which makes them great to cook with for any meal.
Oats start out as oat groats, or whole-grain oat kernels that have been hulled and ready for processing. Quick and rolled oats are then processed in different ways at this point, leading to different cook times as well as textures.
Oats are cereal grains that are typically grown in temperate areas as they grow best in cool climates and can tolerate more rain than other cereal grains. Although typically used in cereals and baked goods, they can be used in soups and even livestock feed.
How Are Quick Oats and Rolled Oats Processed?
Quick oats and rolled oats are both derived from the same whole grain source. The key differences between the two, and all other forms of oats, is in how they are processed from being hulled, cut, rolled and ground.
Oat groats are removed from their outer shell to expose the seed or groat. These groats are edible and used for items such as cereals, stews and soups. The key difference in rolled or quick oats are how they are treated after being hulled or removed from the hard outer shell.
Cooking oats or quick oats are rolled thinner than a rolled oat. This means the amount of time it takes to cook them is reduced to a few minutes, making them easier and quicker to prepare.
Quick cooking oats are first steamed and cooked through completely. Once they are cooked through, they are dried and pressed. This pre-cooking and pressing means that they take even less time to cook than other forms of oats.
This pre-cooking and pressing technique does mean that quick oats do not hold their texture as well as other types because of their thinner texture. This loss of texture can cause you to miss the crunch you’d get with other oats. Quick oats can typically have a more subdued flavor than other oats.
Rolled Oats are also known as old-fashioned oats or whole oats. They typically look flat, round-ish and slightly textured.
This type of oat is also made by first steaming oat groats that are then slightly pressed by a mill. The steaming process allows the groats to be pressed without cracking, which helps them keep their oval shape.
Pressing the oats helps them retain their healthy oils, allowing them to stay fresh longer. Typically, rolled or old-fashioned oats can keep for 6 to 9 months after you open them.
Rolled oats can take longer to cook than quick oats, but do cook quicker than steel-cut oats or Irish oats because of their slightly larger surface area thanks to their pressing.
Rolled oats also maintain a thicker texture than quick oats, ensuring they keep a better crunch than their quick counterparts.
This type of oat is great for overnight oats, the no-cook form of oatmeal that sits overnight in a liquid of your choice in your refrigerator. It gives a porridge-like breakfast option that you can take on the go.
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How To Cook Quick Oats vs Rolled Oats
Because of the differences in texture, quick oats and rolled oats are cooked differently, depending on what you are trying to cook or bake them in. Let’s use traditional oatmeal as an example.
For rolled or old-fashioned oats, you would bring 1 cup of water or milk to a boil with ½ cup of rolled oats. Then, you’d reduce to medium-low heat and cook the oats, occasionally stirring, for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and rest for 2 to 3 minutes before consuming.
You could also mix 1 cup of water or milk with ½ a cup of oats and microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl. Let cool before consuming.
For quick oats, you would bring 1 cup of water or milk to a boil, then add in ½ cup of rolled oats. You then reduce to medium or medium-low heat and stir occasionally. Cook the oats for 1 to 2 minutes and remove from heat. Let rest for 2 to 3 minutes before consuming.
For microwave cooking, mix 1 cup of milk or water with ½ cup oats and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes.
Either way, keep a close eye on quick oats as they tend to cook quickly and could easily be overcooked on both the stove and in the microwave.
What Oats Should I Use To Cook With?
When it comes to nutrition facts, both rolled and quick oats are a nutritious source of whole grains and contain fiber and other minerals that are beneficial for your diet.
When choosing the right oat to incorporate into your diet or meal prep, consider which type best fits your lifestyle or schedule.
The most significant factor to consider when cooking or baking with rolled oats or quick oats is texture and cook time. Rolled oats keep and offer more texture, while quick oats have a mushier result.
If you tend to be on the go and need something quick while you’re running out the door, then quick oats may be better for you. If you’re looking for thicker, firmer oatmeal, then old-fashioned oats may be the better choice.
Which Type of Oat is Healthier For You: Rolled vs. Quick Oats
Although they differ in texture and cook time, rolled and quick oats both have similar nutritional value because they both come from the same source: Whole oat groats.
There are numerous health benefits you can derive from both rolled and quick oats. Those benefits include being a great source of dietary fiber as well as plant-based protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Oats are also gluten-free, making them an excellent option for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Both rolled and quick oats also offer beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that is known for lowering LDL and overall cholesterol levels. This can help your heart health and reduce heart attack and stroke risks.
Beta-glucan can also help you feel full longer by slowing the process of stomach emptying and slowing the rate of digestion. Oats can even support weight loss due to their soluble fiber content and prevent type 2 diabetes.
According to the American Heart Association, at least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains, which means oats are a great way to incorporate whole grains into your diet.
Overall, both types of oats offer numerous health benefits, including lowering cholesterol levels and leaving you feeling fuller longer. They are also a great source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants.
If you consume uncooked oats like overnight oats, you consume resistant starch. These starches resist digestion in the small intestine and ferment in the large intestine, which means these fermented fibers can act as a prebiotic and will feed good bacteria to your gut.
Numerous studies have also supported the multiple claims of the health benefits of consuming oats on a regular basis. One study of 80 people with high cholesterol found that when participants consumed 70 grams of oats for 28 days, an 8% reduction in total cholesterol was achieved, and an 11% reduction in LDL cholesterol was also recorded.
Are Instant Oats The Same As Quick Oats?
Quick oats are not the same as instant oats. Instant oats typically come in prepackaged bags with pre-mixed flavors. Instant oatmeal does not need to be cooked on the stove and typically can be whipped up with some water in a microwave.
Be careful to read nutritional labels for instant oats, as they tend to have large amounts of sugar and preservatives. Overnight oats with rolled or quick oats would be a great on-the-go option that is easy to grab and requires a little pre-planning or prep.
What Can You Cook Using Rolled and Quick Oats?
Other than oatmeal, you can use both rolled and quick oats for a number of recipes for both breakfast and other meals throughout the day. Rolled oats are great in soups and stews, as well as meatless or veggie burgers. You can also make cookies and bars as well if you’re a baker.
An important thing to keep in mind when choosing what you want to cook with the various types of oats is the texture and flavor. Rolled oats will keep a chewy texture and nutty flavor more so than quick oats. Quick oats will tend to fold into baked goods easily but will not retain their shape or texture, resulting in a mushier finish.
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Can I Substitute Rolled Oats For Quick Oats?
Yes. The great thing about rolled and quick oats is that you can interchange them in most recipes.
Some key differences to keep in mind: rolled oats will add chewiness and texture to the end product, while quick oats will blend better and leave less texture due to their overall thinner texture and, therefore, blend-ability.
If your recipe calls for quick-cook oats, but you only have rolled oats on hand, you can also pulse the rolled oats in a food processor to get an oat that’s more like quick oats in texture.
How Can I Include More Oats Into My Diet?
Although typically seen as a breakfast food, oats can be consumed in numerous ways throughout the day. For example, you can add raw oats to your smoothie for a fiber boost or use them as a substitute for breadcrumbs to coat chicken or fish. You can even use them instead of rice when making risotto or top veggies with cooked oats for more texture.
What Are The Other Types Of Oats?
Another popular type of oat is steel-cut oats, also known as Irish or Scottish oats. These oats are typically processed by crushing the oat groat into pieces rather than rolling them. These types of oat usually have a similar shape to rice.
Steel-cut oats require the longest cooking time and also retain much of its shape even after it is cooked. It is used for porridge and has even been used to help meatloaf retain its shape.
Unlike rolled and quick oats, which can be interchangeably used in recipes, steel-cut oats can not be substituted with any other type of oat.
How Do You Store Oats?
To keep your oats in the best possible shape between uses, store them in a cool, dry place within a tightly closed container.
To keep your oats safe from pantry pests, freeze the oats before you store them and/or store them in an oxygen-free environment.
Also, to avoid mold growth, avoid storing your oats in a place with high humidity. Oats are like little sponges and can easily absorb liquids as well as smells from their nearby environments if not stored correctly.
Oats can last a long time if stored correctly but should typically be consumed within 12 to 24 months of purchase. Store them in air-tight containers such as mason jars or food-safe plastic containers.
Because rolled and instant oats are steamed and flattened, which helps stabilize their natural oils, they will typically last longer than steel-cut oats.