Steel-cut oats refer to oats that undergo minimal processing; farmers simply cut groats, or grain kernels, into small pieces to produce these oats, while quick or rolled oats undergo a treatment involving steaming and flattening the oats. Steel-cut oats are also referred to as Irish oats, and they represent a thick, coarse variety of oatmeal. These oats appear as small grains, created by slicing through groats with metal blades, but they absorb water relatively easier, making them cook more quickly than plain grains.
Although the harvesting and preparation technique remains the same for quick and steel-cut oats, some companies enhance their products for sale. Manufacturers such as Bob's Red Mill toast steel cut oats before releasing to the consumer to enhance flavor and color. These oats, upon packaging, contain simply oats, water and some salt.
Quick oats, or instant oats, undergo a slightly more complex preparation process. After harvesting oats, farmers heat groats by steaming, and then press them into long, flat flakes. The nutritional content of these oats stays the same as steel-cut oats, but the texture and cooking speed varies. These oats appear in long, thin pieces and absorb water more quickly, making them cook faster. Both types of oats produce nutritional benefits such as low cholesterol and high protein, making them popular choices for eating alone or substituting in rice and risotto dishes.