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How to prepare porridge the right way – stir porridge like the pros

March 2, 2020
  • Breakfast
  • Healthy lifestyle
How to prepare porridge the right way – stir porridge like the pros

Preparing porridge is quite simple. But all porridge recipes focus on the ingredients. In addition to the basic porridge recipe, which consists only of oat flakes, milk or water and a pinch of salt, there are now countless variations in the most diverse flavours.

However, one aspect is usually rather neglected in all these recipes: stirring. But a good porridge has to be stirred well. In this article we will therefore devote ourselves to stirring, such a fundamental activity in cooking that one usually carries it out without giving it much thought.

Find out in this blog post why stirring is so important when cooking, what you should pay attention to when preparing your oatmeal, and how the so-called spurtle can help you with this:

Why do we even stir while cooking?

With this question we dive right into the physics and chemistry of cooking. Stirring is important for mixing ingredients on the one hand and warming up food on the other hand.

Heating up food properly – by stirring

Heating up food, for example over a hotplate, does not happen evenly. Heat is transferred from the stove to the pot or pan and from there to the food that is being heated up. The lower thermal conductivity of the contents of a cooking vessel – compared to the stove or pot – means that the contents near the bottom heat up much faster than everything above it.

Every cook is familiar with the result of overheating: scorching. By stirring while heating up food, we can prevent scorching and still heat up food to a high temperature. But what helps when heating, can also be useful when cooling things down. Food that is stirred cools down faster.

Stir, stir, stir

The second reason for stirring is mixing the ingredients. Through stirring, solid substances in liquids such as milk or water dissolve faster. Furthermore, the speed of chemical reactions between ingredients or during the heating of ingredients increases.

Spurtle von Verival
Spurtle von Verival

Preparing porridge the right way – that’s what it is all about:

In order to understand how creamy porridge can be made from oat flakes and water, one has to look at the preparation of porridge from a (kitchen) chemical point of view. One of the basic chemical processes involved explains the relationship and effect of heating on the thickness (viscosity) of the porridges.

Why does oatmeal get thicker when it boils up?

When oat flakes get mixed with hot water, molecular bonds between the oat starch grains are weakened. The oat starch begins to absorb the water and swells, causing the porridge to thicken. This process is known as gelatinization. Gelatinization starts at about 60 degrees Celsius and reaches its peak – with maximum thickening of the porridges – at about 90 to 95 degrees Celsius.

With further heating beyond this point, however, a reversal of the thickening begins, because then a process of disintegration of the oat starch begins, which in turn leads to a decrease in the thickening of the porridges. The swollen starch grains dissolve into smaller particles that can move faster and therefore have higher flowability (lower viscosity).

Stirring – the secret of a good porridge

In order for the porridge to reach the perfect consistency, a well-dosed heating must be ensured. If the heating does not reach the point of gelatinization, the result is a crumbly mixture of oat flakes in a liquid. However, if the heating of the porridge is continued for too long, the porridge will become thinner again and thus possibly too thin.

This brings us back to stirring. Even stirring of the porridges during heating supports the process of an even gelatinisation.

The Spurtle – the tool of porridge pros

What’s a spurtle?

The Scots, who claim the authorship of the porridge, use a special kitchen utensil called “spurtle” to stir the porridge, which has been handed down since the 15th century. A spurtle is a stirrer made from wood. Preference is given to spurtles made of beech, maple or cherry wood. Unlike a spatula or putty knife, the spurtle does not have a spoon or shovel-like end, but only a rounded tip. This stirrer sits well in the hand and with its rounded end it is easy to work into the corners and edges of pots.

The spurtle compared to the wooden spoon

The spurtle is suitable for pots of all kinds and leaves no scratches on coated cooking vessels. The rod shape is said to allow stirring without becoming stiff and forming lumps. In contrast to a spoon, which would have a dragging effect during stirring, the small surface of the spurtle reduces the probability of porridge sticking to the instrument and clumping.

Random spurtle facts

  • Based on form and function, the spurtle also appears in other contexts in Scottish use of language: For example, someone with thin legs is called “spurtle-legged” or one complains about a “spurtle-shot” when one feels side stings.
  • The spurtle is so closely associated with the preparation of porridge that the winner of the annual World Porridge Making Championship is awarded the “Golden Spurtle” as the main prize.
  • Its resemblance to a magic wand also explains the great number of Scottish myths and legends surrounding the spurtle. Among other things, it says that porridge may only be stirred clockwise with the spurtle and only with the right hand, otherwise you would be chased after by the devil. However, porridge professionals are not put off by this and move the spurtle like a whisk to make porridge particularly creamy.
  • This explains why spurtle owners allegedly never lend this simple kitchen appliance, because whoever borrows it would love it so much after a short period of time that they would never return it.

The Spurtle – a magic wand for your porridge

How to best clean a spurtle

Wooden tools in the kitchen, such as cooking spoons, chopping boards or even spurtles, are debated for hygienic reasons. Therefore, care is required when cleaning. A spurtle is best cleaned immediately after use by brushing and rinsing under running water. After cleaning, the spurtle should be able to dry well. Under no circumstances should the spurtle be washed in a dishwasher, as the wood of the stirrer would be exposed to the rinse water for too long and swell up. It is also recommended that wooden kitchen tools are occasionally rubbed with a little vegetable oil to keep the wood smooth. 

Why we recommend the use of a spurtle

Verival Porridges are super easy to prepare. They are ready for consumption just by adding hot water, milk or vegetable drinks. Without question you can also use the next best spoon to stir. But if you want to prepare your porridge particularly creamy, with style and in the knowledge of old porridge traditions, your spurtle will soon become an essential porridge tool.

Spurtles can be easily bought online, for example in the Verival Online Shop:

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