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Rolled oats, a type of oatmeal
Alternative namesWhite oats
Main ingredientsOat groats
Cookbook:Oatmeal  Oatmeal
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For other uses, see Oatmeal (disambiguation).
Rolled oats, a type of oatmeal
Alternative namesWhite oats
Main ingredientsOat groats
Cookbook:Oatmeal  Oatmeal

Oatmeal, also known as white oats, is ground oat groats (i.e., grains, as in oat-meal, cf. cornmeal, peasemeal, etc.), or a porridge made from oats (also called oatmeal cereal or stirabout). Oatmeal can also be ground oats, steel-cut oats, crushed oats, or rolled oats.


Baked oatmeal in a dish

The oat grains are de-husked by impact, then heated and cooled to stabilize the "Oat groats", the seed inside the husk. The process of heating produces a nutty flavour in the oats.[1] These oat groats may be milled to produce fine, medium or coarse oatmeal.[2] Rolled oats are steamed and flattened whole oat groats. Steel cut oats may be small and broken groats from the de-husking process; these may be steamed and flattened to produce smaller rolled oats. Quick-cooking rolled oats (quick oats) are cut into small pieces before being steamed and rolled. Instant oatmeal is pre-cooked and dried, usually with sweetener and flavouring added.[3][4] Both types of rolled oats may be eaten uncooked as in muesli or may be cooked to make porridge. It is also used as an ingredient in oatmeal cookies, oatcakes, British flapjack bars and baked oatmeal, or as an accent, as in the topping on many oat bran breads and the coating on Caboc cheese. Oatmeal is also sometimes porridge with the bran or fibrous husk as well as the oat kernel or groat.[5] In some countries rolled oats are eaten raw with milk and sugar or raisins. Oatmeal is also used as a thickening agent in savoury Arabic/Egyptian thick meat plus vegetable soups.

An oatmeal bath, made by adding a cup of finely ground oatmeal to one's bathwater, is also commonly used to ease the discomfort associated with such things as chickenpox, poison ivy, eczema, sunburn and dry skin.[6]

Breakfast cereal health benefits[edit]

There has been increasing interest in oatmeal in recent years because of its health benefits. Daily consumption of a bowl of oatmeal can lower blood cholesterol, because of its soluble fibre content.[7] After it was reported that oats can help lower cholesterol, an "oat bran craze"[8][9] swept the U.S. in the late 1980s, peaking in 1989. The food craze was short-lived and faded by the early 1990s. The popularity of oatmeal and other oat products increased again after the January 1997 decision by the Food and Drug Administration that food with a lot of oat bran or rolled oats can carry a label claiming it may reduce the risk of heart disease when combined with a low-fat diet. This is because of the beta-glucan in the oats. Rolled oats have long been a staple of many athletes' diets, especially weight trainers, because of its high content of complex carbohydrates and water-soluble fibre that encourages slow digestion and stabilizes blood-glucose levels. Oatmeal porridge also contains more B vitamins and calories than other kinds of porridges.[10]

Regional variations[edit]


Oatmeal has a long history in Scottish culinary tradition because oats are better suited than wheat to Scotland's short, wet growing season. Oats became the staple grain of that country. The ancient universities of Scotland had a holiday called Meal Monday to permit students to return to their farms and collect more oats for food.

Samuel Johnson referred, disparagingly, to this in his dictionary definition for oats: "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." His biographer, James Boswell, noted that Lord Elibank was said by Sir Walter Scott to have retorted, "Yes, and where else will you see such horses and such men?"[11]

A common method of cooking oatmeal in Scotland is to soak it overnight in salted water and cook on a low heat in the morning for a few minutes until the mixture thickens.

In Scotland, oatmeal is created by grinding oats into a coarse powder.[12] It may be ground fine, medium, or coarse, or rolled, or the groats may be chopped in two or three pieces to make what is described as pinhead oatmeal.[13] Ground oatmeal, rolled oats, and pinhead oatmeal, are all used (throughout Britain); one Scots manufacturer describes varieties as "Scottish Porridge Oats" (rolled), "Scottish Oatmeal" (medium ground), and "Pinhead Oatmeal".[14] The main uses are:

Oatmeal is a prime ingredient of haggis, seen here at a Burns supper


The Staffordshire oatcake is a local component of the "full English breakfast". It looks like a plate-sized pancake, and is eaten with bacon, sausage, mushrooms, kidney, baked beans or whatever else is deemed suitable. (It seems not to work with eggs.) It's made with a 50:50 mixture of medium oatmeal and wheatmeal (flour), along with frothing yeast. Once the whole mixture has risen, to produce something similar to a Yorkshire pudding batter, it is ladled onto a griddle or bakestone, and dried through.


In the U.S. state of Vermont, oatmeal making has a long tradition originating with the Scottish settlement in the state. While there are variations, most begin with steel cut oats. The oats are soaked overnight in cold water, salt, and maple syrup. Early the next morning, before beginning farm chores, the cook adds ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, and sometimes ground ginger. The pot is placed over heat and cooked for 90 minutes or more, and served after the chores with cream, milk, or butter. As most contemporary Vermonters no longer have farm chores, the recipe is simplified to a briefer 10 to 30-minute cooking at a higher heat. Vermont leads the U.S. in per capita consumption of cooked oatmeal cereal.[17]

Nordic Countries[edit]

The havregrynsgröt, havregrød or kaurapuuro (in Finnish) - is a porridge made from rolled oats, water and/or milk and often added raisins. It is a traditional breakfast staple in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Porridge made from rye (vattgröt) or barley (bjuggröt) was more common during the Middle Ages.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How Oats are Processed". buzzle.com. 
  2. ^ "Nairn's (2010)". Nairns-oatcakes.com. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  3. ^ Trowbridge Filippone, F. (2007) "Oatmeal Recipes and Cooking Tips" About.com
  4. ^ Hosahalli Ramaswamy; Amalendu Chakraverty; Mujumdar, Arun S.; Vijaya Raghavan (2003). Handbook of postharvest technology: cereals, fruits, vegetables, tea, and spices. New York, N.Y: Marcel Dekker. pp. 358–372. ISBN 0-8247-0514-9. Retrieved Feb 13, 2010. 
  5. ^ Prewett's (manufacturer of oatmeal)
  6. ^ Forester, Elizabeth (2009-08-20). "Discovery Health "Other Uses for Oatmeal Baths "". Health.howstuffworks.com. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  7. ^ Mayo Clinic Staff. Cholesterol: The top five foods to lower your numbers. MayoClinic.com
  8. ^ "Spokane Chronicle - Jan 24, 1990". News.google.com. 1990-01-24. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  9. ^ "How I Made $812 in the Oat Bran Craze". CNN. 1989-10-09. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  10. ^ New Standard Encyclopedia, 1992 by Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; page O-8.
  11. ^ The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Including a Journal of His Tour to the Hebrides. Volume 3 by James Boswell. New York: Derby & Jackson, , 1858. Page 11.
  12. ^ The Food Journal. London: J.M. Johnson & Sons. 1874. Retrieved Feb 14, 2010. "The grain of oats, intended for human food, is generally prepared by being ground into meal; although it is also used in the form of groats, that is, of grain denuded of its husk, and merely broken into fragments. Oatmeal is of two kinds, both common in all shops in which it is sold, fine meal, and coarse or round meal. For various purposes, some prefer the one and some the other. There is no difference in quality, but merely in the degree in which the grain has been triturated in the mill." 
  13. ^ a b Sybil Kapoor (2010-01-07). "How to make perfect porridge | Life and style". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  14. ^ Oatmeal product list of a Scots manufacturer
  15. ^ McNeill, F. Marian (1929). The Scots Kitchen. Paperback: 259 pages, Edinburgh: Mercat Press; New Edition (25 Oct 2004) ISBN 1-84183-070-4, p202
  16. ^ Mairi Robinson, ed. (1987). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen University Press. p. 648. ISBN 0-08-028492-2. 
  17. ^ "Oatmeal Facts, Figures, and Sites". Mahalo. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  18. ^ Ohlmarks, Åke (1995). Fornnordiskt lexikon. Tiden. p. 115