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Whenever I cook oatmeal (whether steel cut oats in a rice cooker or pan, or rolled oats in the microwave), it always overflows. How do you prevent this?

Do you just use a bigger container? Do you just take the pan off the heat or bowl off the microwave when it's about to overflow? I've also heard that if you put dried fruit or something like that along with the oatmeal while cooking, that helps prevent it from overflowing -- is this true?

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Do you use water or milk? – ElendilTheTall Oct 22 '11 at 19:32

A bigger container is definitely the 'instant' solution.

I've never hear of fruit preventing overflow. I'd guess the theory there is that it has something to do with the fruit interfering with the bubble to prevent them from forming...but I'd doubt it without A LOT of fruit.

Generally I've done two methods:

  • Reduce the power and increase the cooking time. Cut the power by 30% or so and increase the cooking time, this seems to prevent as much of a rapid boil and alleviates the problem.

  • Determine the time right before it starts to boil over, cut power off, cover it tightly and just let coast the rest of the way. This is particularly effective if you're cooking in a vessel with good thermal retention.

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I have a cheap digital thermometer that I put into liquids. When it reaches 95ºC it'll beep. I have no idea at what temp the oat will overflow. – BaffledCook Oct 22 '11 at 21:50
@BaffledCook good call! – rfusca Oct 22 '11 at 21:51

What liquid are you cooking your oatmeal in? I ask this because when i first started eating oatmeal i was using milk and the microwave and i was having the same exact problem. Recently, i started just cooking the oatmeal in water and haven't had that problem since. I use a flavored oatmeal (i recommend the Maple and Brown Sugar weight control from Hy-Vee!!!) and it tastes just as good to me whether i cook it with milk or water.

rfusca is right about the larger container being an instant solution. I also have a theory about the type of container you use. I'll spare the details but at first, i was using a plastic bowl, overflow like clockwork, i switched to a porcelain bowl since, no overflow. It seems to cook better in the porcelain also. Haven't tried glass yet.

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I never have an issue with oatmeal boiling over when I put cinnamon in the oatmeal before cooking it (in the microwave). I use extra thick rolled oats. I set the microwave at 60% power for 4:30 minutes, but even so, if I forget the cinnamon it will boil over.

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Why does this sound so like an "old wives tale"? Do you have any idea what the cinnamon could possibly do - physically, chemically or otherwise. Interesting answer nevertheless & welcome to Seasoned Advice! – Stephie Jan 16 at 20:08

Bowl size is important. With milk or starchy products go for a wider bowl to stop overflowing

Generally ceramic or glass bowls work better than plastic, as they seem to absorb heat from the rising bubbles as slow them down

Add sugar after cooking, sugar will make for more sticky bubbles that will keep rising

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I am wondering if in some cases anyway, it's not something with the microwave. I say this because I have been making oatmeal in a bowl for years, the same way, and only for the past few months has it started to overflow, even at 80 percent power. I plan to start by giving the interior a thorough cleaning. Our machine is over ten years old, and the lights on the board have really faded anyway, so at the very least it might be a sign to shop for a new one.

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The key is the amount of liquid. If you have a real preference for mushy oatmeal then cinnamon and power reductions (although the latter not alone I've found) can help, but only adding a little over 1/2 liquid works perfectly. For me it makes a perfect consistency for adding some milk after and never overflows. I have it almost daily.

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It's surprisingly EASY!

As I explained in a blog post, it's very easy to get it well. It never boils over for me when I do it that way.

  1. Place oatmeal and 1/2 C water/milk in a bowl in microwave.
  2. Set your microwave to 2 minutes and then hit the ‘Power’ button. Choose 8 or 80% power.
  3. Then hit start and go deal with your screaming toddler/teen/puppy. When you think… oh crap! I forgot to watch the oatmeal so it doesn’t boil over… You’ll remember… oh yeah, it NEVER boils over anymore!
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Hello Carissa, and welcome to Seasoned advice! We are glad that you chose to share your method with us, but the way you chose to do it annoyed our users, reflected in downvotes and spam flags. We never accept link-only answers, but require at least a summary of the linked information, so 1) users can judge the solution at a glance, and 2) our information doesn't degrade when links die. Also, we allow people to link to their own products or blogs when they contain a direct answer, but aggressive promotion, or insufficient explanation in the answer itself, is not allowed. – rumtscho Jan 3 '15 at 11:42

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