What Are Rolled Oats, Are They Actually Just Instant Oats?

When I wake up in the morning with a deep hunger in my belly and I’m out of eggs, don’t feel like making pancakes or French toast, and still haven’t gotten around to buying a waffle maker, the first thing I do is make a big old honking bowl of oatmeal! There are three different kinds of oats you can use for oatmeal: steel-cut, quick, and old fashioned aka rolled oats. But what are rolled oats? Are rolled oats gluten free? Are they the same as quick oats? And most importantly, and the question I ask myself with every food I encounter, can I eat them raw? Let’s roll out like some oats and find out!

What are rolled oats?

Rolled oats are oat groats that have been steamed then rolled out and flattened. They’re dried in a kiln and lightly toasted. Rolled oats are also called old-fashioned oats and they’re probably the most common type of oat out there. Now, let me backup a minute and talk about groats. No, I didn’t mean goats. No goats were hurt in the making of your morning oatmeal. The oat starts out with a tough outer husk covering each individual grain. Once that husk is removed, what’s left of the oat is called a groat. 

Are rolled oats the same as quick oats? 

Rolled oats and quick oats are similar, but not exactly the same thing. The big difference is that you can cook quick oats on the stove a lot quicker than rolled oats. Rolled oats are steamed, and  rolled. Quick oats are steamed a little longer and rolled thinner, which increases the speed at which they can absorb liquid, thereby speeding up cook time. Instant oats are steamed even longer and rolled even thinner—and often cut up as well. These are the oats that you can make in the microwave. There are also steel-cut oats, or Irish oatmeal. These aren’t steamed or rolled at all. The groats are sliced up using a sharp blade. This chewy oat takes the most liquid and the most time to cook

Can you eat rolled oats raw? 

Yeah, sure. Technically, the rolled oats you buy at the store aren’t completely raw. They’ve already been cooked during processing since they are steamed and dried. The final toast in the kiln adds flavor and is also important as it deactivates a naturally occurring enzyme in the oat that breaks fats down into fatty acids. That can give oats a rancid taste. So, you can rest easy knowing that those oats are perfectly safe to eat right out of the box, no cooking required. Go ahead and feel free to pour some into a jar with almond milk to make your favorite overnight oats.

Are rolled oats gluten free? 

Yes, but it’s complicated. Uncontaminated oats are completely gluten free. However, it is incredibly easy for oats to become cross-contaminated. Oats and wheat are grown in rotation, and oftentimes the same equipment is used to harvest them. So if someone is seriously gluten adverse, they may need to look for specially labeled gluten free oats. 

After researching oats so much, I am officially moving rolled oats to the top of my list of morning foods. See ya later, eggs! In the words of Fred Durst, “I did it all for the rolled oats!”

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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