Types of Oats in Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are a classic treat, but they can be made with different types of oats: old-fashioned or quick-cook. Some recipes are written only for old-fashioned oats, while others leave the choice up to the baker. In this experiment, we wanted to see what would happen if we substituted quick-cook oats for old-fashioned oats in an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.

Experiment Overview

Goal: To see and taste differences in cookies made with old-fashioned (OF) versus quick-cook (QC) oats
Recipe: Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies by Sally’s Baking Addiction
Method: Prepare the cookie dough. Add old-fashioned oats to half the dough and quick-cook oats to the other half. Bake and taste!
Results: Compared to the cookies made with rolled oats, we noticed that the quick-cook oats cookies had
– Drier dough
– Less visible oats
– Less spread and more height
– Lighter color
– More even distribution of oats
– Softer, cakier texture
Conclusions: The recipe may require minor tweaks if you change one type of oat for the other, but both old-fashioned and quick-cook oats make delicious cookies.

Testing Method

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Ingredients as listed in Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Instead of 240g rolled oats, use 120g Millville Old Fashioned Rolled Oats and 120g Millville Quick Cook Rolled Oats.
  • Stand mixer
  • Lined baking sheet

Baking the cookies

  1. Prepare the cookie dough as described in the recipe up to Step 2. After adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, divide the dough into two portions, each weighing 481g. To each portion, add 120g old-fashioned or quick-cook oats. Cover and chill both doughs in the refrigerator for one hour.
  2. From each dough, portion seven cookies, each 43g, roll into balls, then place on the same baking sheet. Bake and cool as directed in the recipe, then taste and compare!
  3. To make cookies that were aged one day, cover the remaining dough and refrigerate overnight. Repeat Step 2 the next day.
Cookie dough balls made with old-fashioned (OF) and quick-cook (QC) oats

Results

Drier dough

As you can see in the picture below, the quick oats created a drier dough than the old-fashioned oats.

Quick-cook (QC) oats made a drier dough than old-fashioned (OF) oats.

Both types of oats are rolled oats. They are so named because they were made from oat kernels that were steamed, then rolled flat. Each flake of an old-fashioned oat is made from a single oat kernel, but to make quick-cook oats, each kernel is cut into smaller pieces before steaming and rolling. Quick oats cook faster than old-fashioned oats because they are thinner. In the picture above, you can see the difference in the size of the flakes as well.

In our cookies, this means that in the same mass of oats, 120 grams, the quick oats have more surface area than the old-fashioned oats. We can think about surface area in terms of cake and frosting. If you bake a sheet cake and frost the top and sides, you need much less frosting than if you cut the same cake into 20 individual pieces, then frosted the tops and sides of each piece. The more times you cut the cake, the more surface area you create to frost.

Similarly, with the oats, the more the oat kernel is sliced, the more surface area the oats have. Since the quick oats are sliced smaller than the old-fashioned oats, they have more surface area to absorb water. This means that they can absorb more water than the old-fashioned oats, so they create a drier dough. The difference was noticeable both when the oats were first added to the batter and after the hour-long chilling period.

Less spread and more height

Because the dough made with quick oats was drier, the cookies spread less and retained more height.

Compared to old-fashioned (OF) oats, quick-cook (QC) oats made a taller cookie that spread less.

This difference was reduced after chilling both doughs for a day, which gave the old-fashioned oats time to absorb more water. (Click here for the post on letting cookie dough chill overnight!)

After aging both doughs in the refrigerator for one day, there was no noticeable difference in cookie size.

Lighter color

The quick oats cookies were also lighter in color than the old-fashioned oats cookies. Because the quick oats cookies remained thicker, they cooked more slowly and had less time to brown. On the other hand, the old-fashioned oats cookies spread thinner, cooked more quickly, and browned more in the oven.

Compared to old-fashioned (OF) oats, quick-cook (QC) oats made cookies that were lighter in color with oats that were more evenly distributed.

More even distribution of oats

Because the quick oats cookies spread less, the cookie remained centered around the oats. However, as you can see in the photo above, in the old-fashioned oats cookies, the dough spread more and left the oats in the center. This created crisper edges in the places that didn’t have any oats. As we discussed in this post, however, this problem was solved after chilling the dough in the fridge for a day.

Softer, cakier texture

The quick oats created a cookie with a softer, cakier texture, while the old-fashioned oats made a chewier cookie. Because the quick oats are thinner, they absorb enough water to fully soften. Old-fashioned oats, on the other hand, are larger and thicker, making it more difficult for water to penetrate through the entire oat. Just as your morning oatmeal is hard if you don’t add enough water, the drier old-fashioned oats created a chewier cookie.

Most recipes that use old-fashioned oats want this texture, but one taste tester and I preferred the softer quick oats cookies. We found the old-fashioned cookies too hard. Granted, we grew up eating oatmeal raisin cookies made with quick oats, so it may be a preference established by habit!

Conclusions

Both old-fashioned and quick-cook oats can make delicious cookies. However, because quick oats absorb more water, they make cookies that spread less than those made with old-fashioned oats. Cookies made with quick oats are also softer, whereas old-fashioned oats create chewier textures. With these differences in mind, we can make oatmeal cookies with our favorite texture just by swapping out the oats!



References

Crosby, G. Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of our Favorite Ingredients; America’s Test Kitchen: Brookline, 2016.

Figoni, P. How Baking Works, 3rd ed.; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, 2011.

McGee, H. On Food and Cooking, 2nd ed; Scribner: New York, 2004.

The Perfect Cookie; America’s Test Kitchen: Brookline, 2017.

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