Rolled oats, a type of oatmeal

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



The oat grains are de-husked by impact, then warmed and cooled to stabilize the "Oat groats", the seed inside the husk. The process of heating produces a nutty flavour to 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 and oat cakes, 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.

"Oatmeal baths" are also commonly used to ease discomfort associated with chickenpox.

Breakfast cereal health benefits

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 fiber content.[6] After it was reported that oats can help lower cholesterol, an "oat bran craze"[7][8] 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; given oatmeal's 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.[9]

Cultural associations


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?"[10]

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.[11] Various grades are available depending on the thoroughness of the grinding, including Coarse, Pin(head) and Fine oatmeal.[citation needed] The main uses are:

  • Traditional porridge
  • Brose: a thick mixture made with uncooked oatmeal (or medium oatmeal that has been dry toasted by stirring it around in a dry pot over heat until it turns a slightly darker shade and emits a sweet, nutty fragrance) and then adding butter or cream. Brose is eaten like porridge but much more filling.
  • Rolled oats, crushed oats, and other "instant" variations are often used for this purpose[clarification needed] nowadays, because they are quicker to prepare.
  • Gruel, made by mixing oatmeal with cold water that is strained and heated for the benefit of infants and people recovering from illness.
  • as an ingredient in baking
  • in the manufacture of bannocks or oatcakes
  • as a stuffing for poultry
  • as a coating for Caboc cheese
  • as the main ingredient of the Scottish dish skirlie, or its chip-shop counterpart, the deep-fried thickly-battered mealy pudding
  • mixed with sheep's blood, salt, and pepper to make Highland black pudding (marag dubh).
  • mixed with fat, water, onions and seasoning, and boiled in a sheep's intestine to make "marag geal"' Outer Hebridean white pudding, served sliced with fried eggs at breakfast. A sweeter version with dried fruit is also known.
  • as a major component of haggis.
  • in sowans, not strictly made from the meal itself but a porridge-like dish made from the fermented inner husks of oats[12][13]


The Germans and Swiss prepare a cold oatmeal called Bircher Muesli as a breakfast cereal based on uncooked oats, fruit and nuts. The oats are combined with milk, honey and spices (e.g. cinnamon), mixed and soaked in the refrigerator overnight to soften (unnecessary with already softened rolled oats). In the morning before eating, nuts and fruit are added. The dish is not cooked.


In the U.S. state of Vermont, oatmeal making has a long tradition originating with the Scottish settlement of the state. While there are variations, most begin with heavy 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 will add ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, and sometimes ground ginger. The pot is placed over heat and cooks for upwards of 90 minutes, being 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.[14]


The havregrynsgröt – porridge made from rolled oats, water and often added raisins – is a traditional breakfast staple in Sweden. Traditionally, porridge made from rye (vassgröt) or barley (bjuggröt) was more common, at least during the Middle Ages.[15]


  1. ^ Buzzle.com®(2011) http://www.buzzle.com/articles/how-oats-are-processed.html
  2. ^ Nairn's (2010) [http://www.nairns-oatcakes.com/about-us/to-the-mill/
  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. http://books.google.com/books?id=Y4N54Wn618YC&pg=PA358#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2010 Feb 13. 
  5. ^ Prewett's (manufacturer of oatmeal)
  6. ^ Mayo Clinic Staff. Cholesterol: The top five foods to lower your numbers. MayoClinic.com, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002.
  7. ^ Spokane Chronicle - Jan 24, 1990
  8. ^ "How I Made $812 in the Oat Bran Craze". CNN. 1989-10-09. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1989/10/09/72556/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  9. ^ New Standard Encyclopedia, 1992 by Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; page O-8.
  10. ^ The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Including a Journal of His Tour to the Hebrides. Volume 3 by James Boswell. Publisher: Derby & Jackson, New York, 1858. Page 11.
  11. ^ The Food Journal. London: J.M. Johnson & Sons. 1874. http://books.google.com/books?id=-XgBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA422#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2010 Feb 14. "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." 
  12. ^ McNeill, F. Marian (1929). The Scots Kitchen. Paperback: 259 pages, Edinburgh: Mercat Press; New Edition (25 Oct 2004) ISBN 1841830704, p202
  13. ^ Mairi Robinson, ed (1987). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen University Press. p. 648. ISBN 0080284922. 
  14. ^ Maholo: Oatmeal Facts, Figures, and Sites
  15. ^ Ohlmarks, Åke (1995). Fornnordiskt lexikon. Tiden. p. 115

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Oatmeal — Oat meal , n. 1. Meal made of oats. Gay. [1913 Webster] 2. (Bot.) A plant of the genus {Panicum}; panic grass. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • oatmeal — (n.) late 14c., from OAT (Cf. oat) + M.E. mele (see MEAL (Cf. meal) (n.2)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • oatmeal — ► NOUN ▪ meal made from ground oats, used in making porridge and oatcakes …   English terms dictionary

  • oatmeal — [ōt′mēl΄] n. 1. oats ground or rolled into meal or flakes 2. a porridge made from such oats …   English World dictionary

  • oatmeal — [[t]o͟ʊtmiːl[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT: oft N n Oatmeal is a kind of flour made by crushing oats. ...oatmeal biscuits. 2) N UNCOUNT Oatmeal is a thick sticky food made from oats cooked in water or milk and eaten hot, especially for breakfast. [mainly AM] …   English dictionary

  • oatmeal — /oht meel , meel /, n. 1. meal made from ground or rolled oats. 2. a cooked breakfast food made from this. 3. a grayish fawn color. adj. 4. made with or containing oatmeal: oatmeal cookies. [1350 1400; ME; see OAT, MEAL2] * * * …   Universalium

  • oatmeal — n. to cook oatmeal * * * [ əʊtmiːl] to cook oatmeal …   Combinatory dictionary

  • oatmeal — 1. noun a) Meal made from rolled or round oats b) A breakfast cereal made from rolled oats, cooked in milk and/or water. (porridge in UK) 2. adjective …   Wiktionary

  • oatmeal — noun Oatmeal is used before these nouns: ↑cookie …   Collocations dictionary

  • oatmeal — noun 1》 meal made from ground oats and chiefly used in porridge or oatcakes.     ↘N. Amer. porridge made from oatmeal or rolled oats. 2》 a greyish fawn colour flecked with brown …   English new terms dictionary

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