Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always preferred to eat my oats while they’re boiling hot. I’m pretty certain that countless mornings of being forced to slurp down poorly absorbed cocktails of oats and water while my high school swim coach screamed “Get a move on!” during that very brief period of time between the end of morning practice and the start of school has something to do with it. Regardless, I’ve never once considered embracing an oat-consumption method that would require me to forgo the right to instantly devour my oatmeal.
And yet, that’s the essence of what overnight oats require: patience. Not to mention, oats, like revenge, might actually be best served cold, not at the high temperatures I’ve grown to prefer.
What are overnight oats?
Don’t let the name of overnight oats fool you — they aren’t required to be prepped and stored over the course of an entire night in order for them to be sufficiently prepared. Instead of rapidly producing consumption-ready oatmeal by pouring scalding hot water onto dry oats, or by warming the oats in a microwave shortly after cold water has been added to them, you allow raw oats to rest in milk or water for at least a few hours, preferably in a refrigerator if you use milk, unless you enjoy the acute stomach cramping associated with food poisoning. However, a surefire way to guarantee perfect milk-soaked oats is by permitting the process to unfold over the course of an entire night, hence the “overnight” moniker.
Can I add other things to the oats?
Absolutely. In fact, you can use the healthy base of the overnight oats as a pretext for dumping in sugar, candy pieces, cookie crumbles, chocolate syrup, peanut butter and a whole bunch of other fattening ingredients that will transform your healthy canvas into an unholy creation worthy of the Cheesecake Factory. But tamer additions include yogurt, crushed nuts and fruit.
Can I use instant oats or quick oats to make my overnight oats, or do I need to use the standard ones?
Technically, you can use whatever oats you want, but the people who seem to know what they’re talking about almost universally recommend standard oats. This is owed to the fact that standard oats haven’t been put through the same flattening and lengthened pre-cooking processes that instant oats and quick oats have, so they’re able to maintain their texture better without becoming mushy. For what it’s worth, no less of an authority than Quaker advises the use of standard oats in its semi-official guide to the preparation of overnight oats.
On the other hand, if you don’t care if your overnight oats turn to mush as long as they convey all of the healthy mixture of carbs, dietary fat and protein present in the combination of oats and milk, then you’re free to prepare them with whichever oats you like.
As for me, I plan on joining you in a bowl of overnight oats just as soon as I overcome the expectation that oatmeal is intended to be a hot, hasty and hostile experience.