We all love chocolate. It might surprise you to learn that powdered milk is one of the common ingredients in milk chocolate. Powdered whole milk has so many uses. In fact, powdered whole milk is a staple ingredient in everything from baby formula to creme soups and instant oatmeal. You can carry it easily and use it anywhere you use regular milk. Using the shelf stable version of perishables is a smart move. Though you may think all that sounds great… always question what you put in your body. Powdered whole milk has a dark side.
Is powdered milk healthy? Powdered whole milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which is terrible for your arteries and causes heart disease. Additionally, it doesn’t always dissolve properly. Undissolved lumps are incredibly difficult to digest causing further damage.
So if you want to know if it’s good for you, the answer is basically no. However, there is good news. You can easily get healthy powdered milk that is not made from whole milk.
What is Powdered Milk
Just as powdered coffee is made from coffee, and freeze dried broccoli is made of broccoli, the same is true for powdered milk. Powdered milk is merely milk without water in it.
So, why doesn’t it taste exactly the same when you add water back into it? Well, that has to do with the process it goes through to become powdered. The very short version is that it’s put through a chemical change to remove the water. Change the chemistry and you change the flavor.
How to Make Powdered Milk
Powdered milk starts out simply: First, pasteurize milk (from a cow or even a goat). You can achieve this by heating it to exactly 145 degrees for 30 minutes. You’ll need to stir occasionally, but there’s nothing to it. Pasteurization kills bacteria, then you cool the milk. It’s that easy.
You can make powdered milk in four different ways. Two at home DIYs, and two industrial methods exist. Making it at home is easier and healthier with skim milk. While it’s true that you can make powdered milk from raw milk, it’s not the best idea. Raw milk is at risk for bacteria. This is why it’s pasteurized before most people drink it. Cooking might reduce some of the nutritional value, however the trade off is pretty fair.
DIY Powdered Milk
In the first method you need a food dehydrator with solid trays. Fill each tray about half full then turn on the dehydrator between 130 and 135 degrees. Check on your milk after 12 hours. If it is still mushy take the milk out and set it aside. Clean your trays and replace the milk then continue dehydrating until it is flaky and dry.
The second home drying method is only slightly more difficult. Place milk in a double boiler and simmer, stirring occasionally. This part of the process will take around 2 hours. Your milk should develop a creamy texture as some of the water evaporates, so keep an eye on it.
Preheat your oven to 150 (note, some ovens don’t go this low and cannot be used). You then take the pan out of the boiler and put it in your oven with the door slightly open. This allows evaporation to happen. Leave it to cook down for around 12 hours.
Once it is flaky simply cool your milk powder down. Afterward, run your cool flaked milk through your blender or food processor to get finely powdered milk. Making powdered milk is not difficult, it just takes time.
Factory Made Powdered Milk
For the first industrial method, milk is partially evaporated in a process similar to freeze drying. A vacuum chamber takes about half the water out. Unlike the cold of freeze drying however, to make this milk, you heat it to exactly 135 degrees. This prevents damage and scorching, and makes evaporated milk.
Evaporated milk, when sprayed through very fine nozzles, turns into mist. These nozzles are inside a heating chamber. The evaporated milk dries almost instantly and falls as powder. Hence, powdered milk.
The final method isn’t as common as it once was. Large steam heated drums get a layer of pasteurized milk inside. The milk heats up and water evaporates out of it as the drum turns. A layer forms quickly where the hot drum touches the milk. The layer of dry milk gets scraped off the drum and taken to a hammer mill which turns it to powder.
How Can I Use Powdered Milk
To make powdered milk into liquid you just add water. If you want to avoid lumps then you can try putting it in the blender or using an electric mixer. Once you reconstitute the milk it should be good for 4-5 days. Keep it refrigerated in the liquid form or it will go bad like any other milk.
In a pinch, or if you happen to have a taste for it, you can eat powdered milk as is. Most people use it as a liquid, but you can add it to recipes easily enough without mixing it up first to save time. Just add the necessary water to the recipe as well or the consistency may be effected.
Types of Powdered Milk
You probably aren’t surprised to find that there are several common varieties of powdered milk. Are they all the same? Well, no, in fact there are some really big differences. Though they are all made in a similar way, the health values vary wildly. Animal milks and plant milks, predictably, have different qualities.
- Whole- Whole milk powder, as mentioned, is exceptionally dangerous to your health. The oxidation of cholesterol in the milk fat is what blocks and hardens arteries leading to heart attack.
- Skim/Low Fat- Skim milk powder has an almost negligible amount of oxidized cholesterol. You can drink, or cook with this relatively safely.
- Soy- Because soy doesn’t have any fat, you can have powdered soy milk without concern for your heart. There is some evidence that soy may effect the estrogen receptors in a human body.
- Coconut- You can have powdered coconut milk worry free. Coconut doesn’t effect estrogen or have oxidized cholesterol. In cultures that eat a lot of coconut, heart disease is virtually nonexistent. It is also tasty.
- Rice- Rice milk lacks that extra creamy texture that fats and oils give to some milks, but you can use it safely in any recipe where you’d use milk. Rice is also one of the easiest grains to digest.
- Almond- Almonds are a superfood. In any form, including powdered almond milk, this nut is the opposite of whole milk powder in many ways. Packed with vitamins and minerals, almonds can help reduce cholesterol and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Pros and Cons
The Downside– When you drink whole powdered milk, you aren’t just gambling with your health, you are actively damaging your arteries and possibly your intestines as well. Also powdered milk doesn’t taste as good as regular milk.
You need to store your powdered milk somewhere cool, below 75 degrees. While some people suggest keeping it in the original package, others argue that you should place it in airtight containers.
Light exposure may also damage the nutrition value of your powdered milk. Photosensitive vitamins your body needs, like A and D, may be lost. Essentially, that means they break down when exposed to light. Be certain to store powdered milks away from light sources.
The Good News– Powdered milk will last you decades if you store it right. You can often use it well past the expiration date. Powdered milks are lightweight and portable, and you probably won’t taste the difference when you cook with them. Another bonus is the price. Powdered milk is cheaper than fresh.
Best of all, drinking some powdered milks may be great for your health.
Powdered milk is absolutely a useful pantry staple for preparedness, but the downside of powdered whole milk makes it more than a little dangerous to your health. It’s probably better to choose one of the alternate powdered milks like soy, coconut or even just low fat.
Powdered whole milk can be an ok short term option, and as long as you’re careful, you can store it for a long time (up to 20 years). You can carry it easily, and it doesn’t weigh as much as liquid milk. When it comes right down to it, you have to balance your needs and there is no need to kill yourself (literally) over powdered milk.
How can you tell if your powdered milk is bad? You can easily check to see if your powdered milk is off simply by using your senses. Look at the color, if it’s yellowish then it may have gone off. Smell the powder. Any unpleasant odor means you should not use the product. Better safe than sorry, so just throw it out if you think it’s questionable.
What other shelf stable milks are there? Simply known as ‘shelf stable milk’ or “UHT milk” there are several types of non-refrigerated milks under this umbrella. They come in the same varieties as regular and powdered milks, but remain liquid and are processed differently. To make shelf stable milk you need an ultra high temperature. That process sterilizes the milk in such a way that it is then safe to package in airtight containers and store without the aid of refrigeration.
Do all shelf stable foods have oxidized cholesterol in them? Not all foods contain cholesterol. However, if it has cholesterol then the powdered, dried or dehydrated form has oxidized cholesterol in it. Notable examples are butter powder, cheese powders and dehydrated meats. Basically, cholesterol doesn’t go away unless you remove all the fat and never ingest any to begin with. Even so, your body produces some cholesterol naturally.