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Most of the recipes I've seen (including Good Eats') recommend simmering the oats in 4 cups of liquid for 1 cup of oats. AB recommends 3 cups of water for ~25 mins and then (1/2 cup of milk + 1/2 cup of buttermilk) for ~10 mins.

However, I would like to do away with water entirely (just curious). Could I just simmer 1 cup of oats in 4 cups of milk for ~40mins? Or is the first ~25mins of simmering in water designed to maximize water absorption?

Also, if anyone has cooked oats mostly in milk before, I'd like to hear their opinion as well.

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I would imagine it would be almost impossible to do this without burning the milk. However, if you somehow did manage it, the results ought to be absolutely delicious. –  Marti Sep 11 '13 at 13:52
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you might try a double boiler - this would reduce the chance of burning the milk... –  dax Sep 11 '13 at 14:13
    
Oats are inexpensive, and milk not terrible so... why not just try it with half a batch? –  SAJ14SAJ Sep 11 '13 at 14:20
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I've successfully done this in a rice cooker once... The second time I did it, the rice cooker kind of exploded because some oats got stuck in the valve that helps release pressure. But the first time was really delicious! –  Jacob G Sep 11 '13 at 15:28
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@Marti The main concern isn't burning, it's boiling over. –  Jefromi Sep 11 '13 at 15:45

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes, you can entirely replace water with milk. The main thing to be aware of is how prone it is to boiling over. Milk will eagerly do that on its own, and starchy water will too, so the combination has to be cooked on very low heat to avoid making a huge mess. (I think this is why the original recipe starts with water: less time with potential for boiling over, and more stable temperature when you add the milk.) You'll also probably want to be more careful about stirring the first time; if the heat is a little higher than you realize, you will start accumulating a layer on the bottom of the pan.

If you want them to cook faster and have less potential boiling over to worry about, you can always presoak in milk beforehand. I've done this overnight in the fridge, which was enough to let me make (admittedly slightly chewy) steel-cut oats in the microwave the next morning.

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Yes, this is possible. From my childhood experience, oats were always cooked in milk, never in water. I can't tell you specifics of how to do it, because it was my mother and grandmothers who made them.

But based on the behavior of other grains cooked in milk, from complete kernels to flours, I don't think that you need to make any changes as compared to cooking in water. Take for example polenta - both the ratio and the method stay the same for cooking in water vs. milk. The resulting product is creamier and tastier. For oats, it is also slightly slimy (but not unpleasant), I don't know if this happens with water.

As for water absorption, some grains do well if soaked before cooking, others don't need it. This shouldn't change in the milk vs. water scenario.

The comments mention burning the milk. It never happened with my mother's oats and I am sure she did it on a stove, not in a slow cooker. Obviously, you want it to simmer, not boil. I assume that this is how you do it in water too, but if you don't, change your method for the milk, or you'll have a disaster on your hands. The mix may need stirring while it simmers, but maybe you can do it without stirring too, polenta in milk does not need it if you don't turn your burner too high.

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I'm not quite sure what your goal is, but the standard recipe for porridge which I grew up with is 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of milk, stirring frequently to avoid burning. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to cook, and is done when it starts bubbling. The result is usually already fairly thick, and it thickens as it cools.

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Steel cut oats seem to require much more liquid and time in the cooking process, it's a different cut to standard oats. A 4:1 ratio for steel cut would fit my personal experience. –  GdD Sep 11 '13 at 16:46

You could always do it in a covered dish and put it in a low temp oven. You could start low maybe at 200 and bump up the heat if it doesn't get anywhere in 40 mins.

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My mother always made the rolled oats in milk as my parents wanted us to have the extra nutrition that the milk offers. As an adult, I discovered steel cut oats and haven't gone back to the rolled type since. The first and last time I made the steel cut oats, I used water as the package called for. I think I gave it to the dogs. No comparison to making it with the milk. I use the same amount of milk as the recipe calls for water (4 c milk to 1 c oats), pinch of salt, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Yes, I have scorched the bottom of my pot at times but I attribute that to difficulty with setting my gas stove to simmer. Also found it best to use a bigger pot. Today I made a batch in a 2 1/2 qt pot and had no trouble with it scorching or boiling over. Towards the end of cooking time, I added a handful of golden raisins. It came out great! Didn't even need to add any sweetener to my bowl.

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