Suppose you make a curry with milk but it turns out a bit odd because the milk curdled. The solution is to know how to heat milk without curdling. The question is, “Is this even possible?” Let’s find out.
To heat milk without curdling, make low heat and keep stirring. Also, higher-fat milk does not easily curdle since fat insulates denatured protein molecules when milk curdles. Thus, preventing them from clumping.
If you turn to higher-fat milk to prevent curdling, your aims may be defeated. You could consider using low-fat coconut milk though.
Why is my milk curdling when I heat it?
Suppose you have pasteurized milk. Heating pasteurized, homogenized milk should not curdle it. It is even the basis for cappuccino foam, rapidly heating milk with steam.
Meanwhile, your milk will curdle for the following reasons when heated:
Road to spoilage
Curdled milk is a sign that the milk is nearing spoilage. You will notice spoilage with milk containers approaching or that just went over their useful date.
There is no set specified number of days until your milk reaches spoilage. However, research shows storing unopened milk properly should be good for 5-7 days after the expiration date.
If you opened the milk, it should last between 2–3 days after the expiration date.
Healthline’s compilation shows that bacteria settled in the milk, and digests its sugar, converting them into mild acids.
The acids then result in the bonding of the protein of the milk chemically, which causes lumps and curdled milk.
Temperature rising too quickly
If the temperature of the milk is rising too quickly, it will curdle. Just measure the amount you need, allow it to come to room temperature, and heat with little microwave blasts at a time.
Salt can cause milk to curdle. The point is not for you to avoid using salt. However, consider adding salt at the end instead of cooking with the salt in it.
Experts advise against adding cold milk directly into a hot liquid. It is, however, recommended to flick small amounts of the hot liquid into your cold milk.
When the milk heats up, you can then add it to the hot liquid, which is a process known as tempering. Alternatively, you could just heat the milk gently using a saucepan before you add it.
Acidic ingredients in your soup or sauce, such as tomatoes, lemon juice, or wine, expose the milk to the risk of curdling. Adding starch, alongside acid, may be able to counteract the acid effect though.
If milk curdles when heated is it bad?
Milk is not bad if it curdles when heated. It is “far from useless” but you must not drink spoiled milk. If the milk is old and already curdling, slimy, or grows mold, throw it out.
Your milk flavor will not change, unlike how souring does when bacteria are present. The milk will taste the same but just not as pretty.
Curdled milk during heating is not necessarily bad for consumption. The milk is still food-safe. Moreover, lots of dairy products, including sour cream, yogurt, kefir, and some cheeses, are deliberately made this way.
Accidentally soured milk is still good, it makes a decent substitute for buttermilk in recipes leavened with baking soda. Milk acidity reacts with the soda, making baked goods, such as bread, cakes, pastries, etc., rise.
Whole milk also uses relatively low-fat quantities, usually between 3 and 4 percent. Fat-free or low-fat milk may use even less. The remainder comprises mostly proteins and water in the form of casein and whey.
Heating milk gently for custards or cocoa will not usually lump. However, the milk protein sticks together to form lumps at higher temperatures, especially if acidic ingredients are present.
How to heat milk without curdling
As emphasized in the sections above, milk curdling the protein component is coagulated as a result of increased acidity. The growth of microorganisms increases acidity, converting lactose or carbohydrate in milk to lactic acid.
It is important to know that microorganisms grow at normal temperatures when you heat your milk beyond 63°C. At 5°C, microbes neither grow nor die. They simply remain inactive until favorable conditions.
Do the following to heat your milk without curdling:
Determine if heating is necessary
You heat milk to eliminate microbes. But your milk could be safe to drink without heating, for example, pasteurized milk. However, you need to heat raw milk whenever possible.
Heat your pasteurized milk if it has been stored at room temperature. If you refrigerate it, boiling is not necessary to make it safe for drinking.
Spout the milk into a clean, sizeable pot
You need a larger or sizable pot for plenty of space to heat the milk. Milk tends to rise upward when heated, and can sometimes overflow if the pot is small-sized. You want to use a clean pot to prevent any residue from curdling the milk.
Bring to medium heat
Heat your milk over medium heat to prevent curdling. Give it your complete attention as well. You would think that heating at high heat is good for eliminating microbes but this would only destroy the milk.
You need to stir the milk constantly to prevent burning. Also, make sure the heat is distributed evenly in the pot.
Allow the milk to heat for at least 3-4 mins after foam appears.
Bring to cool to store
Bring your milk to cool after medium heating. You want to store it warm. Experts recommend refrigerating milk immediately when it cools to reduce the risk of spoilage. Refrigeration below 4°C will also keep the milk smooth and increase the shelf life from 2 to 10 days.
You can also delay milk curdling by some months when you seal and sterilize the milk container. This could eliminate 100% microorganisms.
Sterilizing the milk and container needs to reach 120°C for about 20 minutes till the milk color turns brown.
What milk does not curdle?
This section of the publication recommends already-made milk you need to cut off the stress of preventing curdles.
Consider buying any of the milk brands below:
NotMilk Whole | Full Fat | Plant Based | Lactose Free | Vegan | Non-GMO | Kosher 64 FL Oz
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NotMilk, as the name implies, in its whole fat version is milk but not. This means that this milk brand tastes just like milk, cooks like milk, but is completely plant-based. You can refer to it as vegan milk, and this is an excellent milk source for vegetarians.
NotMilk brand is the milk you will love. It is processed better to blow your mind, keeping you glued to your sips.
This is a gluten-free source of milk. It contains the needed calcium, vitamin D, and B12. Your body also gets the needed potassium for healthy living.
What we don’t like
Every single NotMilk we purchased and tasted contains less milk than mentioned by about half a cup, compared to dairy milk. Nonetheless, it is still good-tasting non-dairy milk for your money.
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Milkadamia Macadamia Milk, Unsweetened – 32 Oz, 6 Count
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Milkadamia Macadamia milk is the unsweetened, 0g sugar milk you need for your long storage. Rid of curdling, and contains a hint of vanilla.
If you are on Keto, this milk is the companion you want in your recipes. Completely plant-based, vegan, and dairy-free. Soy, gluten and carrageenan are not used in this non-GMO milk.
You would get just 50 calories per serving. Use it for your smoothies, coffee, smoothies, baking, or consume it as is.
What we don’t like
We purchased this Macadamia milk after tasting almond/cashew milk because we needed something different with low carbohydrates.
Although this milk is a decent alternative to regular milk, it is probably not okay for someone allergic to legumes. The pea proteins can result in an allergic reaction, but nothing too bad though.
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Reversing a curdled milk
If your milk curdles, there are ways to save it.
Discard the sauce
Simply, discard the sauce and restart. This can be wasteful and not always the go-to option. You can strain/ladle out the sauce, work on it separately and add it again. Use a starch thickener for this
Whisk the cornstarch or flour into your milk in a saucepan and simmer it. When it thickens, gently whisk in the salvaged sauce.
The thickener prevents it from breaking again but there would still be lumps, though not obvious in the finished sauce. Try to strain it repeatedly through a fine-mesh strainer to get rid of the lumps.
The cream can recover your curdled cream but do not use cereal or light cream to prevent adding curdled cream to your curdled milk. The solution is to heat the heavy whipping cream in a saucepan till it thickens.
Whisk the broken sauce slowly into the concentrated cream, pause, and add another cream splash if you notice the cream not coming together.
Heavy cream contains sufficient fat to prevent curdling while heating unless it is old and slightly acidic.
Final thoughts on How to Heat Milk Without Curdling
Lest we fail to mention, curdled milk is excellent for making ricotta cheese/paneer. Simply, boil the rest of the milk and add lemon to get paneer or cottage cheese. You could also use it to make a variety of Indian dishes, both desserts, and savory curries.