Saturday, January 31, 2009

Word to the Wise: Steel-Cut Oats Can Go Rancid

As you might recall, a few weeks ago I posted about the preponderance of steel-cut oats I discovered in our kitchen cabinet.

This morning I thought that I should use some of these oats, so I made myself some nice oatmeal with the John McCann steel-cut irish oats (the ones that come in a metal can). If you have ever made steel-cut oatmeal, you'll know that it's a much longer process than usual oatmeal. You can't make them in the microwave. You must boil 4 cups of water, add 1 cup of oats, and stir until they start to thicken...and then simmer for 30 minutes.

When I took the oats out, I thought I detected a slightly rancid odor, but I thought it was probably my imagination or the can. I was wrong.

After eating a whole bowl of oatmeal that didn't taste quite right, I googled "steel cut oats rancid," and sure enough, discovered that they can indeed go rancid!!

There was no expiration date on the tin, so who would have known? But obviously, we have had them for a long time--they are such a hassle to make, plus they were buried back behind all the vases and I forgot we even had them!

Most web sites advise keeping steel-cut oats in the refrigerator to prevent this from occurring. Already, we keep our flour in the fridge (to prevent mealy bugs), so I guess this will free up more cabinet space! And yuck--I think I need to go eat something else to get rid of that taste!! They weren't inedible (and I had put pieces of chrystallized ginger and dried apricots in them, so they masked the flavor somewhat), but the knowledge that I ate rancid oatmeal bothers me more than anything!


  1. Found my unopened steel cut oats to be rancid today. Bummer. No mistaking the smell, though. I even cooked them, and tasted them. Rancid. Yuck!

  2. I had some almonds go rancid recently in my cupboard. I mixed up batter for eggnog almond bread, and I thought it smelled funny. Then I sampled it and realized that they were indeed rancid! Ugh!

  3. I'm glad this was searchable by Google because I was in the process of cooking some brand new oats for my children, even though I thought they smelled like oil gone bad. I decided to double check online! I wonder why the cans don't have an expiration date. Thanks!

  4. Glad you found it helpful! Yes, I think the cans should note that they should be kept in the refrigerator, don't you?

  5. I too could not find an expiration date on the bottom of my can. I emailed the company, and was told this:

    "The 6-digit code you provided indicates this was manufactured by the company that previously owned the McCann's brand. Because Sturm Foods purchased the McCann's brand and implemented our coding system in 2008, the product you have has definitely expired."

    They also said:
    "The natural oils inside the oats will begin to spoil, and this will cause a rancid smell/taste which will render the product inedible."

    Mine had gone rancid too. It smelled like old oil.

  6. Thanks for your comment. It's amazing how many things can go rancid!

  7. I have been mixing large flacked oats with Red Mill Old fashioned Steel Cut Oats in a large glass jar.
    I cook the porridge for 10 minutes and let it sit after adding either raisins or blue berries along with a few chunks of tofu , a bit of apple and banana.After it has sat for 1/2 - 1 hour I add soy milk and warn it up in the microwave . Once heated I add a small amount of flax seed.
    The other day I could smell a terrible odour coming from the jar . I washed it out and put the oatmeal mix back in . The odour was still there.
    I asked a druggist if she would lookat the jarand oatmeal . I approached the grocery store and was told oatmeal has no odour.

    I'm glad the word rancid came to me as you have now answerd the source of the smell.

  8. Cleaned out pantry today and found 2 cans of steel cut oats VERY rancid. You will never forget the smell of rancid once you have smelled it.

  9. Steel cut oats cook up very fast if you soak them in water for 12 to 24 hours first. This also neutralized enzyme inhibitors naturally found on grain seeds that make them difficult to digest. Adding either yogurt or whey or apple cider vinegar greatly increases the digestion and nutrition

  10. I did not detect an odor, but saw a green tinge to the "foam" as it was cooking. A repeat using the same package resulted in identical green foam. A fresh bag solved the problem. Now it will be stored in the fridge.
    Thanks for this.

  11. Barf! I am about five bites into a large batch of McCanns I just spent 45 minutes making with all kinds of dried fruit and milk butter and brown sugar all to waste. I was hoping the smell that was coming from the pot would go away once they were done cooking. (It's been a couple yrs since I made them last, and I didn't remember well enough what they smelled like during cooking to be sure something was amiss). But the sharp and moderately vile taste made me google and thankfully there is always an answer on the web..

  12. What u wrote about is exactly what happened to me this morning. I didn't eat the whole bowl but spent the 45 minutes peeping and cooking . Thanks for the post.

  13. I had a similiar experience. In fact, that's what brought me to this site. Thank you for confirming my suspicions! This AM, I felt like having some of my McCann's Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal(Less than a year old, by Sturm Foods), but when I popped open the lid, I was greeted by that rancid oil smell. I'd never really intentionally smelled them before, and though opened, the can wasn't that old. So I checked the date at the bottom and it said that they should be ok until March of 2015. I was literally doubting my own senses at this point, so I cooked them (and you CAN do them in a microwave, if you're careful), but the odor persisted. So I did a side by side smell comparison to some Quaker's Oatmeal, and the difference was unmistakeable, so I tossed the McCann's and navigated here.
    Sturm foods says NOTHING about any special storage instructions on the can. Aggravating to have to discard 3/4 of the can of oatmeal 10 months before its date, and the Quaker Oats are older and STILL good. Both were stored same way, same place, and I'm in Arizona. It pretty much gets no drier than here. (Though I realize that rancification is an oxidative process.)
    I think that we consumers may have a legitimate gripe against McCann's/Sturm Foods.

  14. We have the Coach brand steel cut oats and I thought I noticed something slightly off about the last bowl of them I had. Today, however, there's no mistaking that rancid oil flavor - not that I've tasted rancid oil, but they taste exactly like rancid oil smells! Who'd have thought it? I sure hate that too -- these oats come in 3 lb. bags!

  15. Just opened a can of McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal and made up the whole thing this morning - first mouthful tasted awful and the whole batch went into compost.
    The sell by date is over 3 months away ... no expiry, just "sell by".
    We've enjoyed this brand for years and will give it another try.

  16. Same here! I just opened a new can....6 months until the sell by date of Jan 2017....but they are rancid. Ugh....

    1. Oh, same here in Japan! Just opened a new McCann's Irish steel cut. Sell by date of Jan 2017. They smells and tasted funny smell. Then here I found all answers! Wish I knew before letting it go bad like this!

  17. Just opened a brand new can of McCann's steel cut Irish oatmeal with a "sell by" date of march 2018, a year and a half away, and it is full of webs and mealy worms. Didn't check for rancidness but it may say something about their quality control process!

  18. I had not had a problem with several containers but this last one which I opened a couple months ago and doesn't expire til July 2017 seemed rancid. I decided to mostly finish it but decided to throw out the last bit. Even now I sit eating some from this batch and not sure I can finish it. Also, earlier this year while visiting my parents, they had a huge container of McCann's that was many months before expiring and made some up.There was no mistaking the rancid smell and taste coming from the oats! I took a couple bites and couldn't stomach the rest. Had to toss it. I did not know about refrigeration but that seems to be a possible solution to prevent the problem. That is, if it's not already rancid to begin with.
    Thanks for writing this post so others can be aware that irish oats can indeed go bad.

  19. I just made 1/2 cup of McCann's quick cooking Irish Oatmeal (non GMO). They have been in my cupboard for a while, although they are within the "sell by" date.
    They didn't smell (in their dry form) but after I cooked and tasted them, I felt the rancid taste. I went straight to the web to find out details, and here I am. They went bad before the displayed "sell by" date. I guess I will have to keep them in the fridge from now on.
    Good blog. Thank you for posting it.

  20. I just opened a can of McCann's that's dated almost a year and a half off into 2018. Rancid. I got it at Grocery Outlet. To make matters worse the clerk charged me for two cans and I only bought one. The price was $2, but that is no bargain for rancid food.