Q. I have seen a few recipes around that use oats but they don’t seem to suggest you have to cook them first. Is this OK?
A. Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull responds:
Like other grains such as wheat, rye and barley, oats come from a group of grass plants grown for their edible seeds. When the oat grains are harvested, they are shaped like large grains of brown rice and they are very hard. These are called ‘oat groats’, which are most commonly available in health food or specialty stores. You may also see ‘steel-cut oats’ in the shops as they are becoming more popular. These are basically oat groats which have been cut up into chunks. Whole oat groats and steel-cut oats both need cooking before eating.
Rolled oats, however, are flat and have an oval shape because they have been steamed and then rolled flat. The size and thickness of rolled oats – which are sometimes called wholegrain oats, porridge oats or quick-cook oats – will vary depending on whether the oats have been cut up, how long they have been steamed for and how thin they have been rolled. The smaller ones will generally cook more quickly than the larger ones, which is good for busy people wanting porridge in the morning.
All these varieties of ‘rolled oats’ are suitable for eating without additional cooking first. You will often find these in natural mueslis, and people are now more commonly also using them without cooking in other ways, too.
You will also find that the texture of oats varies depending on the brand or type you buy, as there are many varieties, much as there are many different types of rice, such as jasmine, basmati and arborio.