“Bring it in authentically,” she says. “If it’s Deep South
oatmeal, make sure it is Deep South, and don’t twist it to
another region. Make sure you don’t give it a Chicago spin.”
The type of oatmeal used is trending toward steel-cut and
heartier-based oatmeals, says Lynn Rogers, co-owner of
Coach’s Oats, Yorba Linda, Calif. He founded the company
in 1993 on a different way to produce the oats, baking them
before grinding, which gives them more texture and a nutty
flavor. They don’t get soggy or pasty and cook in only a few
minutes. Those characteristics are the reason some restaurants
use Coach’s oats as a binder in their turkey meatloaf, Rogers
adds. And because the brand’s oats puff like rice and are
slightly crunchy, they add a unique quality to cookies.
OATS AT THE CENTER
Other considerations for oatmeal applications depend on
your intended preparation method—as in boiling, roasting
or smoking, says Badaracco. “You could cook the oats so
you capture the moisture, but then you can smoke (them)
afterwards or use some other secondary method.” For
roasted vegetables, use oats as part of the coating.
She suggests using oatmeal in pizza crusts or any bread, muffin
or scone recipe. “Veggie burgers commonly have oats, or use
them in whole-grain salads. When you cook steel-cut oats, they
hold their form and act like a grain of rice.” On the sweet side, she
recommends oats as part of the crust for New York cheesecake.
Other than in casual-dining restaurants, oatmeal mentions on menus
have increased substantially over the past three years. While it is
mentioned most on family restaurant menus, its greatest increase
has come in the quick-service realm, up nearly 213% in three years,
according to Mintel Menu Insights.
RestaurantSegment Q3 2008 Q3 2009
INCIDENCES OF OATMEAL MENTIONS ON RESTAURANT MENUS
BY RESTAURANT SEGMENT, 2008-2011
Quick Service Restaurant
Source: Mintel Menu Insights
OATS BY MANY NAMES
Oats currently available in the market can be broken down into four
categories, says Cassidy Stockton, marketing specialist with Bob’s Red
Mill Natural Foods, Milwaukie, Ore.
ROLLED OATS This is the most
common oatmeal variety and
comes in varying degrees of
thickness from instant to extra-thick. Differences are in the
thickness of the rolled oat. Most
rolled oats can be cooked on the
stove top or in the microwave,
although extra-thick should be
cooked on the stove top for the
best results and instant simply
needs boiling water to cook.
STEEL-CUT OATS This comes
in varying sizes, but the most
common variety is primarily
cooked on the stove top, not in
the microwave. Steel-cut oats can
also be prepared in a rice cooker
or slow cooker, but the best
results come from the stove top.
MILLED OR GROUND OATS This
is the true oatmeal that originates
in ancient Scotland. Whole oats
are ground on stone mills or other
grinding equipment into a light,
powdery meal. It can be cooked
in the microwave or on the stove
top and produces a creamy
WHOLE OAT GROATS (the whole
oat kernel with the husk removed)
This cooks similarly to any other
whole grain and can be prepared
on the stove top or in a rice cooker
or slow cooker. It takes longer
than any other oat type to cook,
and yields a plump grain good for
use in soups, sides and salads.
Oatmeal also makes a great thickener for stew and an
economical way to bulk it up, says Todd Mohr, founder of
WebCookingClasses.com and chef-instructor at Stratford
University, Baltimore. He says if you grind oats, the resulting
flour doesn’t contain protein, as does wheat flour, so it doesn’t
develop the gluten that is helpful in baked goods. However,
oat flour also doesn’t have a floury, pasty flavor in sauces.
While flour must be mixed with fat to make a thickening
roux, oat flour can be dissolved directly in the liquid.
When used like a panko crust coating on a chicken breast,
added to meatloaf or used as a stuffing for game birds,
oatmeal gives a rustic country-inn feel, Mohr says.
Another savory oatmeal application Mohr recommends
is oat ravioli. If you choose to make your own ravioli
dough, consider oat flour. Neither the traditional semolina
flour nor oat flour contains gluten, so they could be used
interchangeably for pasta dough. For a filling, he believes
mushrooms and oatmeal are an ideal flavor combination.