Healthy Living on June 13, 2013 by

The Oatmeal Compendium

Oats come in such a dizzying array of cuts and rolls, it’s easy to get lost and confused. I mean, what IS the difference between Scottish and Steel Cut Oats? What is an oat GROAT? and What makes the Gluten Free oats different from regular oats? Wonder no more, here is a comprehensive breakdown on oats.

Generally speaking, we’re going to start with the least processed and go towards the most processed oat product. I’m going to leave oat flour out of this conversation, since most folks don’t eat it as a cereal. Other items that I won’t be covering are granola and muesli. We’re talking just plain oats, folks.

Oat Groats: Quite simply, groat is the old Scottish word for the entire oat kernel minus the husk. These are the basis of every oat product that follows. You can take a groat and cook it like a chewy hot cereal or turn it into a luscious pilaf. Oats are high in soluble fiber, making them creamy when cooked.

Steel Cut Oats: Steel cut oats are whole oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces. That’s it. They take longer to cook than a rolled oat, but have a wonderful chewiness that often surprises folks who have sworn off oatmeal. This is not gruel. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories of people converted to oatmeal after a lifetime of hating it. Our steel cut oats won the Golden Spurtle in the 2009 World Porridge Championships in Carrbridge, Scotland, earning them the title of World’s Best Oats.

Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats

Quick-Cooking Steel Cut Oats: These are steel cut oats that have had some pieces rolled flat. They are a hybrid between rolled and steel cut oats, giving them the chewiness of a steel cut oat while cooking a bit more quickly than traditional steel cut oats.

Scottish Oats: Scottish oats are made in true Scottish style- we take whole oat groats and mill them on our stone mills. This produces a creamy, fine oatmeal that is closer to what we think of as porridge. Scottish oats cook up quickly and are a great addition to baked goods. Try our recipe for Scottish Oatcakes— one of Bob’s all-time favorite snacks.

Rolled Oats: From Extra Thick to Instant, rolled oats are whole oat groats that have been steamed and flattened (or rolled) to varying thicknesses. In order of the thickest to thinnest, the order goes Extra Thick, Old Fashioned Regular, Quick Cooking and Instant. Extra thick and old fashioned taste best when cooked on the stove top, quick and instant can be ready in a matter of minutes when combined with boiling water or cooked in the microwave.

The Oatmeal Compendium: Bob's Red Mill

Gluten Free Oats: The main thing that makes gluten free oats special is the way they are grown and handled. Our Gluten Free Rolled Oats are made from oats grown by farmers who know and care about growing oats that are free from gluten. Each farm delivery is sampled and tested with an R5 ELISA gluten test to ensure the absence of gluten. Advanced color-sorting removes undetected impurities. Finally, the oats are packaged in our 100% gluten free facility and tested for gluten again to ensure their purity. We offer these as Old Fashioned, Steel Cut, Extra Thick and Quick Cooking.

Oat Bran: Finally, the most processed oat product we offer, but one that is incredibly nutritious and versatile—Oat Bran. Unlike wheat bran, oat bran offers some of the bran and the germ. It can be cooked like a hot cereal or added to baked goods to add the wonderful nuttiness of oats and boost the fiber content. Oat bran is incredibly high in fiber and a good source of protein.

No matter what preparation you choose, oats are an incredibly nutritious food that can be served sweet or savory for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Browse our extensive collection of recipes for turning this staple grain into culinary masterpieces or simple comfort food.


Kaitlyn says:

Thank You Cassidy! Great Post!

Jenny smith says:

What is the difference of steel cut oatmeal vs your high fiber oat bran. Is the oat bran a steel cut oatmeal? Thanks jenny

Hi Jenny,

Great question. Oat bran is the bran and germ of the oat groat (i.e. only part of the grain), whereas steel cut oat is a whole oat groat that has been chopped into several pieces (i.e. the whole grain). Oat bran will be more like a creamy porridge, where steel cut oats will be chewier. Nutritionally, oat bran will be higher in fiber, because it’s a higher concentration of the fibrous part of the oat.

Don Leitner says:

What oatmeal is non-hybrid in your cereals?

We use conventional oats in our cereals.

Keisha Brewster says:

I love the Scottish Oats! They are the “Key” to a great creamy style of oatmeal.

J.Tiedemann says:

So essentially there is no difference genetically in GF vs. non-GF oats? The only difference between the 2 is the special methods used to ensure they are not contaminated with rouge gluten from other grains that naturally contain gluten, correct?

Yes, the only difference is how they are grown and processed. Gluten free oats have a few extra measures in place to ensure they stay gluten free.

Bill says:

Thanks for the helpful information on oats…not explained anywhere else that I could find. But what about the differences in nutritional value? What does one process lack or the other gain in contributing to our health?

Hi Bill,

All of our oats (except oat bran) will give you the same nutritional benefits, as they are all made with whole grain oats.

Walt Eager says:

Question: Can steel cut oats be stored without refrigeration without becoming rancid? Can oat groats be stored with going rancid? Can rolled oats be stored without going rancid?

Yes, all three of those types of oats- steel cut, groats, rolled- can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place without going rancid. They’ll last about 18 months that way.

Howard Weinberg says:

Is there any difference in milling between the product labelled Oat Bran and the product labelled Oat Bran Cereal?

No, there is no difference between our two products that are oat bran. It’s likely just a labeling update.

Carolyn Hoganson says:

Are the oats grown and processed in the U.S./Canada? Is a foreign country (i.e.China) involved in either of these 2 things?

Yes, all of our oats are grown and processed in the United States and Canada. No other country is involved.

Howard Weinberg says:

Umm…actually there appears to be a difference between the product labelled “Oat Bran” and the product labelled “Oat Bran Hot Cereal”. The grind of the Hot Cereal is clearly coarser. I bought the Oat Bran Hot Cereal because the retail price I paid was half the price of the Oat Bran. I mix it in yogurt for breakfast, so the grind doesn’t make much difference to me, but those two products are clearly milled differently.


I’m not sure, but we only carry one product. The packaging may have changed, and I’m not sure why the grind would appear different.

ben smith says:

Is there no combination of gluten free and organic in any of your oat products?

Hi Ben,

We just launched Gluten Free Organic Oats! This post is a bit out of date. You can view these new products here:

Rami says:

What is the glycemic index of each of these categories ? Thanks !

I’m sorry, but we do not have that info for these Rami. They would be pretty similar from category to category, though.

Debbie says:

I am making baked oatmeal with your quick cooking steel cut oats and wondered if I should be cooking it less time and if I should alter the liquid to oats ratio? Thank you.

Depending on what type of oats the original recipe calls for, you may not need to change anything at all. If the recipe uses old fashioned rolled oats, you really do not need to make any major changes, although I would recommend keeping an eye on it. It may cook faster. If the recipe calls for traditional steel cut oats, it will definitely cook faster, though the water should be about the same.

Kathleen Miller says:

When you say your oat bran is “the most processed” of your products, what do you mean? The organic oat bran is processed? Please explain.

By processed, we mean that it has had some of the endosperm of the grain removed. Oat bran is, by nature, only part of the whole oat grain- the bran layer. It often has a bit of germ, as well, but distinctly less of the endosperm.

Kathleen Miller says:

In other words, how is it both “organic” and “processed” ? I thought processed was a negative thing.

Processed does not have to be a negative word. It simply means that something was done to it to change it from the way it was grown. In this case, processed means that the oats have been rolled, cut or ground. That is all.

Sunny says:

Bob’s Red Mill Oat Bran is definitely creamier & whiter than other oat brans. Is it because you steam it first like with rolled oats? If not steam, what makes the creaminess?

Our milling process is what makes it so creamy.

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