Toasting turns up the flavor to 11

Organic Rolled Oats
Credit: Getty: Lew Robertson

Many were the times I’ve started eating a bowl of oatmeal and craved more robust flavor. That is, until I started toasting oats before cooking them. While this works like a charm with oats, this trick actually extends to all grains. Toasting grains adds a delightful nutty note to everything from oats to quinoa to farro and everything in between. To make things even better, toasting takes barely any time, so you won’t risk being late to work for the sake of a more flavorful breakfast. You can toast grains in large batches in advance—not quite meal prep, think of it as meal-enhancement—or add about 5 minutes to your morning routine. Either way, it’s a win-win.

The simplest way to toast grains like oats is on the stove, right in the pot that you’ll cook your oatmeal in. Simply pour in the oats, turn the heat up to medium, and let them go. Give the grains a little toss every couple minutes to make sure all the surface area is toasting evenly, and cook until the grains smell nutty and look golden, about 3-5 minutes, depending on your stove and cooking vessel. From there, add milk, water, or whatever liquid you plan to cook your oatmeal in, and go forth with your breakfast.

Of course, the easiest grain to toast are rolled oats, as they require no advance prep. With other grains, if you like to rinse them before cooking (a trick helps get rid of excess starch and bitter coatings that often cover grains like like quinoa or rice), toasting will still work, you must simply adjust the method a bit. After rinsing, drain the grains as best as you can in a fine mesh sieve, then spread the grains out onto a sheet pan. To toast, bake the grains at 350ºF for 15-25 minutes; the time will vary depending on the grain and how long it takes your oven to absorb the excess water. Toss the grains every 10 minutes or so to ensure even browning.