Steel cut oats (also called pinhead oats, Scotch oats, or Irish oats) are such a step up taste and texture that there’s no comparison to rolled or instant oats. That’s because steel cut oats are made from whole oat groats that have been cut into smaller pieces. In comparison, instant oats are steamed and rolled so they cook more quickly. Instant oats also have a taste and consistency similar to glue. Ick.

Our instructions will make more sense after you quickly read through our thermos cooking basics.

Basic Recipe

Ratio: 1 part steel cut oats to 3.5 parts water
To taste – try 1/2 teaspoon per cup of oats to start (put the salt in after the oatmeal is cooked)
Cooking Time: 40 minutes (approx.)


  1. Boil enough water to fill up your thermos. I like to use an electric kettle, but use the stove or whatever else you have.
  2. While it’s heating, get your ingredients ready.
  3. Once your water boils, fill up your thermos, close the lid, and set aside.
  4. Measure out your water, keeping a 1:3.5 ratio. You can use between 3 and 4 cups water for each cup of oats, but I think 3 1/2 cups is perfect.
  5. Boil your measured water.
  6. When your water is about ready to boil, pour the water out of the thermos.
  7. Put the oats in the thermos and pour the boiling water over them, close it up, give in a few shakes, and lay it down on the counter.

Timing (40 minutes) is approximate. It partly depends on what kind of oatmeal consistency you’re after. Just give the thermos a shake every once in a while. It will slosh around at first, then it will slowly thicken.

You can always open the top and check inside once or twice until you get a feel for it. Remember that you can’t overcook oatmeal in a thermos, so don’t worry about watching the thermos or emptying it when it’s done. Just leave it on the counter and eat it when you’re ready. You can even put it out the night before – convenient, isn’t it?


  • Don’t add the salt until the oatmeal is cooked. This produces a creamier oatmeal because an element within the oat – pentosan – can combine with the water and make a creamier texture. Using salt during cooking will keep the water from interacting with the pentosan. Just sprinkle the salt on the oats in your bowl or into the thermos.
  • Toast the oats before cooking. While you’re waiting for the water to boil you can toast the oats in a pan with a bit of butter or oil (I use a bit of olive oil). Toasting produces a nice flavor (subtly sweeter and caramelized). Try it out.
  • Make a lot! There’s no reason to make a cup or two of oatmeal. Make as much as your thermos can hold and leave the rest in the thermos for someone else to discover or put it in a container in the fridge and eat it tomorrow. It heats up great in the microwave.
  • Make it the night before. What would be better than waking up and having a nice thermos full of hot oatmeal waiting for you. Just prepare it the night before and leave it on the counter. It’ll be hot and delicious whenever you’re ready for it.

Learn about the nutritional value of oats.


Watch this excellent show from Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” about why you hold the salt until the oats are cooked. Alton Brown is my personal hero.

Be Sociable, Share!