"Frozen steelcut oatmeal—three words you never thought you'd hear together—and it's ready in less than three minutes."

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

You have to respect Trader Joe's for addressing such an important issue: that steelcut oatmeal takes forever to cook. Sometimes up to 45 minutes, it's just too long to justify outside of a weekend breakfast luxury. Sure there are shortcuts like the overnight soaking method, but sometimes you fall asleep and forget.

First Joe came out with Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats. A great product. It comes in a cylindrical container with a plastic lid and allows you to get your steelcut on—either via the stovetop or microwave—in just eight minutes. But wait. Joe has really outdone himself here. He made frozen steelcut oatmeal—three words you never thought you'd hear together—and it's ready in less than three minutes.

Cruising the freezer section, I wasn't expecting to see my pal oatmeal hanging out next to the lime popsicles. Aren't you supposed to be in the cereal aisle next to all your fibrous friends?* But there it was in a box.

* Now, if they start putting popsicles in the cereal section, then we have a problem.

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For $1.59 you get two plastic-wrapped hockey pucks of cooked-then-frozen steelcut oatmeal. Hard as a rock, they go into a bowl and into the microwave for two minutes on high. Then there's a brief pause for stirring (*stir motion) and back in they go for another minute or so.

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Bam. Done. Steelcut oatmeal. And really, it doesn't taste or look much different from the real deal.

So what's all the fuss over the steelcut? Why is it so superior to the normal oat flakes? It's oatmeal at its best. It's how every bowl of oatmeal would taste if we all had an extra 45 minutes to kill. It's what I feed people when they scowl at the mention of oatmeal. It has a nutty texture (kind of like risotto) that pops in your mouth and doesn't turn into a pile of soupy glop. It feels more substantial. More of a meal.

This one is sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup, but doesn't taste candy-sweet. And the ingredients keep it real: water, steel cut oats, brown sugar, maple syrup, rolled oats, and salt. Nothing you can't pronounce, so you still feel wholesome eating it. And like all oatmeal scenarios, the real fun comes in doctoring it up (try dried cherries or roasted apples).

My next thought bubble: what if you made a batch of steelcut oatmeal yourself, then divvied it up into an ice cube tray. Depending on your hunger levels, you could go for a couple cubes, or like six. Zap them in the microwave, and there you have it. Oatmealsicles, anyone? Is reheating frozen oatmeal the next big thing in the oatmeal world?

More in the Oat Department

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