Taste Test: The Best Oatmeals
We taste-tested dozens of oatmeals from the grocery store to stir up our favorites.
McCann's Original Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal
Good things come to those who wait: This 30-minute oatmeal blew away the competitors -- traditional and instant -- in our blind taste test. Unlike rolled oats, which are steamed, pressed and toasted, steel-cut oats are removed from their kernel casings and sliced in half, resulting in a "nutty, complex" flavor. "You barely need salt or butter," one judge said. You have to love the pretty package, too: The 207-year-old Irish company still uses old-fashioned tins. ($7 for 28 ounces, at grocery stores)
BEST PLAIN INSTANT
Nature's Path Original Organic Instant Hot Oatmeal
Zap this instant mix and you'll end up with a great bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal in 75 seconds; each packet contains organic rolled oats and a pinch of sea salt. Testers were most impressed by the "thick, creamy" consistency: "Wow, this came from a microwave?" ($3.80 for 14 ounces, at grocery stores)
Quaker Instant Oatmeal Apples & Cinnamon
This runaway favorite stood out for its "amazingly plump" chunks of apple and "just the right amount of cinnamon." One impressed taster said, "It smells like someone's baking an apple pie." ($4 for 12.3 ounces, at grocery stores)
McCann's Instant Irish Oatmeal Fruit & Cream
Fruity oatmeal can taste artificial, but this one contains "surprisingly real-tasting" dehydrated fruit. The variety pack includes peach and banana flavors as well as the judges' favorites, strawberry and blueberry. "It tastes like a homemade blueberry muffin!" ($4.50 for 12.3 ounces, at grocery stores)
Mom's Best Naturals Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal
This brand easily beat the cloying competitors, winning over judges with its "subtle maple flavor" and "balanced sweetness." The smooth, creamy texture sealed the deal. You'll feel good buying it, too: The family-owned Minnesota company uses 100 percent recycled cardboard for its packaging. ($2.60 for 21.3 ounces, at grocery stores)
Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in February 2008.