Baby, it’s cold outside so let’s make the best porridge ever

Colder weather brings a few attractions, cosy fires, bracing walks, and snuggling in bed longer than usual, but one of the best ones for me is an overindulgence in porridge.

Porridge really shouldn’t be a thing when you think about it. Mushy grains for a meal sounds about the least appealing start to the day. Even the name is unattractive. But somehow it works. 

I have fantastic memories of my grandfather making porridge for breakfast after sleepovers. Cooked to perfection, the dish was elevated to another level by the liberal addition of brown sugar that melted on the surface, and it was an exact science for five-year-old me to get a decent load of sugar in every bite. My mother was going through her manic health food phase in the ’70s and sugar was hard to come by at home.

And it’s not like Australians are amateur porridge makers. In 2023, Sydney chef Toby Wilson was a finalist in the World Porridge Making Championships in Scotland. 

So how do you make the best porridge?

We have combed the internet for tips so you don’t have to. 


Oh boy, looking up which oats to use opened a whole new world to me. Unfortunately, we don’t have much choice in Australia, but there seem to be a few basics.

Don’t use instant oats for your best porridge. Yes, they are more convenient, but you are not going to get as good a texture. Actually, the technical term is ‘mouth feel’ but that always makes me feel a bit nauseous so I’m abandoning it.

Then there is the argument for steel-cut vs whole oats.

I mean, who even knew this was a thing? Anyway, let’s cut out the guff. Steel-cut have been less processed and have a coarser, chewier texture (dare I say mouth feel). The big downside is a much longer cooking time.

Rolled oats have been steamed and yes, that’s right, rolled, and only take a few minutes to cook.

My advice? Go with what you can easily find. However, a tip for beginners: hunting down steel-cut oats is bothersome and they cost more. 

In the pan

Now to cooking. Traditionally they were cooked with water only, but that makes me want to make a sad face.

No, they should be cooked with milk, otherwise you are just setting yourself up for a disappointing day. 

There is a simple way to measure your oats to liquid ratio, and it’s one serving of oats to three servings of liquid (when I really mean milk).

Add a generous pinch of salt and, because you can, a knob of butter. I’m not sure of the remarkable chemistry going on with salt and porridge, but it’s a simple, effective way to elevate the flavour.

Put on the heat and stir occasionally until it simmers and then stir until it has reached the texture you like. 

Serve it up

I like it with a sprinkling of brown sugar and cream, which of course negates all health benefits, but it’s my breakfast and I’ll do what I want with it.  

Other good ideas and more healthy options include just milk, which is also delicious, fruits and nuts, berries and cinnamon. 

I know those pre-made sachets with all weird and wonderful flavours are handy and quick, so no judgment, but be aware they are packed full of sugar and additives. Avoid if you can. 

Using the above recipe, you require three just three ingredients – maybe four if you use butter. After a quick lookup of a ‘flavoured’ porridge sachet, I counted 10 ingredients.

And as for that hideous name, it’s a variation of the word pottage, which was a thick soup of the result of boiling vegetables and grains and meat if it was available. Pottage comes from Old French, and not surprisingly means ‘food cooked in a pot’. It was a staple of both the French and English medieval diets. 

How do you like your porridge? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

Also read: How to improve your fried rice game

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


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