You might think that it doesn't matter which oatmeal packet you buy at the store. After all, they're oats! How different can they be? You're just searching for a simple, store-bought breakfast, and instant oatmeal couldn't be any quicker to make. But when it comes to instant oatmeal packets, there's a lot more variety on the shelves than you might think.
The cuts of the oats differ. Mix-ins may vary from a syrupy concoction of refined sugar to a hearty blend of nuts and natural flavors. Even the price tags differ quite a lot depending on the brand, even if the label implies that the products are exactly the same.
So which packets are worth buying and which will have you gagging at first spoonful? Our editors bravely taste tested 12 store-bought varieties of single-serve instant oatmeal packets - so you don't have to. Armed with plastic spoons and a midmorning appetite, we sampled 12 brands to judge the flavor, texture, and overall experience of the oats. Some packets were a cinnamon-spiced delight. Other samples tasted more like gruel.
To keep things fair, we chose oatmeal packets of the same flavor: maple. Some were maple and brown sugar. Others had additional mix-ins. But the basic flavor profile of each was the same.
To the dismay of our coworkers hoping to heat their actual lunches, we hogged the communal microwave (talk about an office lunch faux-pas) and prepared each packet of oatmeal exactly as the brands intended. We made sure to follow the package instructions to a tee. Then we gave each oatmeal packet a rating on a scale from 1 to 10. Here are the oatmeal packets that came out on top.