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I'd always made oatmeal according to the "traditional" method of bringing the liquid to boil first, then adding the oatmeal. I recently discovered a recipe that calls for adding the oatmeal to cold liquid first, then bringing the mixture to boil - the claim is that that technique results in creamier oatmeal.

Upon trying this recipe, I found that, indeed, the resulting oatmeal was creamier than the traditional method. Can anyone explain the food science behind why cooking oatmeal starting from a cold liquid yields a creamier end result than by dropping the oatmeal into already-boiling/simmering liquid?

  • I'm not certain there's one single traditional method. porridgeclub.wordpress.com/recipes has several, some from hot, some from cold. Scott's was unfortunately swallowed by Quaker then Pepsi a long time ago - Quaker can't even manage a simple 'just cook the damn porridge' recipe these days - recipes.quaker.co.uk/oat-and-porridge-recipes/breakfast-recipes though I think the answer is somewhere between how long it soaks & how much you stir it. – Tetsujin Jun 18 at 19:13
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    Cooking oatmeal from water makes them creamier, I'm not sure about adding everything before the boil though. When trying this recipe was that the only diffrence from your "traditional" method? – Halhex Jun 18 at 19:15
  • @Halhex - I actually tend to use milk (for kids) or almond milk (for myself) when making oatmeal instead of water. But other than that, yes: I tried making just plain oatmeal: (1) my "traditional" method of adding oatmeal to boiling liquid, and (2) the "new" method of adding oatmeal to cold liquid then boiling, and I did observe the latter resulted in a creamier texture. Not exactly a scientific, controlled experiment, but it does seem, more or less, to be true, by casual experimentation. – StoneThrow Jun 18 at 19:21
  • @StoneThrow I'll have to try that out myself tomorrow! The only thing I can think of would be that the oats might get cooked for longer. – Halhex Jun 18 at 19:24
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    I think there may be a soaking time aspect. When camping I add boiling water to premixed oats+milk powder (no need for a fridge), stand for about 10 minutes and return as gently as I can to simmering. This gives a lovely creamy result. – Chris H Jun 18 at 19:35
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Flour and cornmeal are well known to clump when added cold to boiling water. Such clumps arise when starch molecules unball and forming a mesh that traps other starch molecules, preventing them from hydrolysing in the same way. Hence lumpy gravy and sauces.

For oatmeal I've observed similar clumping behaviour, but not to the same extent. Anyway I suspect the same mechanism is at work. Since starch hydrolysis is the main reaction making oatmeal creamy, I'm not surprised that slow and steady heating is considered best.

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    This makes sense. The starch would have a chance to dissolve into the water before it gels. – Sobachatina Jun 18 at 20:09
  • Would that mean adding starch to the liquid would result in creamier oatmeals? – Halhex Jun 19 at 13:51

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