Steel cut oats, also known as Irish oats or pinhead oats, are whole oat groats that have been chopped into large pieces and make a minimally processed cereal with a good oat flavor and a hearty texture. They are different from regular oatmeal because of the way that the oats are processed. Most oatmeal is made by rolling the oats under heavy rollers until they are flat, then lightly steaming and toasting them. This process makes the oatmeal cook quickly and have a soft, tender texture to it. Steel cut oats resemble very small, coarse grains of rice. They have a coarser texture than rolled oats and the oatmeal has a chewier texture, as well as an even more pronounced oat flavor to it.
Rolled oats are generally better for baking because they do not need to be cooked before being incorporated into cookies and cakes. They are flavorful and tender in baked goods, while steel cut oats can be overly coarse and can add a heavy texture to baked goods. Steel cut oats make a great breakfast cereal, however, and take on a lovely texture after a long, slow cooking process. Since making steel cut oats isn’t as fast as turning rolled oats into breakfast, it is best to make a big batch and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. With a little water or milk, the chilled steel cut oats can easily be reheated in the microwave without having to make a whole new batch.