You might be surprised to learn that powdered whole milk is used in many common foods including baby formula, instant oatmeal, creamy soups, and even milk chocolate! It is also a convenient alternative to liquid milk because it is easier to carry, can be used anywhere on the go, and is non-perishable.
These all sound like great benefits, and you might be asking yourself, “Is dry milk healthy?” While there are many conveniences associated with having it, dry whole milk contains calcium, vitamins, and minerals that you would find in liquid milk, Powdered whole milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which is the kind that builds up on your artery walls and can cause heart disease. Using it without it dissolving properly can also cause issues as the lumps are difficult to digest. so whole dry milk is generally not healthy for you. However, there are healthier alternatives to whole milk available to you.
What is Powdered Milk?
Powdered milk is simply milk that has been evaporated and dried to a powdered form, much like you would find powdered coffee. To consume it, you add water back into the powder form, but the truth is that it does not taste the same as regular liquid milk. This is because of the chemical changes that it undergoes when it is dried.
How to Make Powdered Milk
You can make your own powdered milk from whole milk pretty easily. The first step is to pasteurize the milk of your choice (it can be from a cow or goat, for example). To pasteurize, you need to heat the milk to 145 degrees for 30 minutes while stirring occasionally. This will kill the bacteria. Then simply let it cool. Of course, it is possible to make it from raw, unpasteurized milk, but it is not recommended because of the risk of bacteria.
After this step, there are four different ways to change the milk to a powdered form. Two methods you can do at home, and two methods are done in a factory. The at-home methods are both easier and can be made healthier by using skim milk.
DIY Powdered Milk
For the first at home method, you can use a food dehydrator. You will need to fill a solid tray about half full of your milk and turn the dehydrator on to 130 or 135 degrees. Leave the milk in the dehydrator for about 12 hours, and then you can check on its consistency to see if it is flaky and dry yet. If not, you will need to clean the trays, replace the milk, and continue dehydrating until it is fully dried.
The other method is a little more difficult but still fairly easy. For this one, you need to use a double boiler and simmer the milk for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Check on the consistency as it should become more creamy as the water starts to evaporate. After 2 hours, you will put the pan in your oven at 150 degrees. Not all ovens can be set to this low of a temperature, and in this case, you should not use it. Only use your oven if you can set it at 150 degrees.
Leave the milk in the oven to cook for about 12 hours. It is important to note that you should leave the oven door open a little bit because this will allow for more evaporation. Once it is dry and flaky, you can take it out of the oven and let it cool. After it is cool, it is a good idea to use a blender or food processor to smooth it into a finer powder. It’s that simple!
Factory Made Powdered Milk
One method of making powdered milk in a factory involves evaporating the milk in a vacuum chamber. This removes about half of the water, and the milk is heated at 135 degrees. It must be exactly 135 degrees in order to prevent burning. This gives you evaporated milk, which is then sprayed through small nozzles to create a very fine mist. As it is being sprayed, it is also being heated, which dries it immediately and turns it into powder.
With the second factory made method, pasteurized milk is heated inside of large steam drums which turn and allow the water to evaporate. This quickly creates a layer of dry milk inside the drum, and then it is scraped off and turned into a powder at a hammer mill. This method was used more in the past, but it is not very common anymore.
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How to Use Powdered Milk
If you want to make powdered milk into a liquid again, you can just add water. Using a blender or food processor is recommended to avoid having any lumps which, as stated before, can cause digestive issues. You can then keep this milk for 4 to 5 days for use as long as you keep it refrigerated.
Powdered milk can also be used as a powder in recipes. We mentioned at the beginning of this article that it is often used in such things as baby formula, instant oatmeal, or milk chocolate. In these cases, it would be kept in a powdered form and added directly to the recipe, and then water can be added later on to achieve the right consistency. Some people might eat powdered milk as well instead of turning it into a liquid first, but most people consuming it by itself would choose the liquid form.
Types of Powdered Milk
Just like there are several different types of liquid milk, the same goes for powdered milk. They are all made in the same way but have very different properties and nutritional values, so it is worth looking at what these different types are.
Whole – Whole milk powder, as mentioned earlier, is not considered healthy because of the risks associated with oxidized cholesterol.
Skim/Low Fat – This is considered a much healthier alternative to whole milk powder as it contains little to no oxidized cholesterol. It is preferable for cooking and drinking.
Soy – Soy powdered milk is considered safer as well since it does not contain fat. There are no concerns for your heart health when consuming soy powdered milk. There are some concerns with soy increasing estrogen levels, however, it is generally considered safe in moderation.
Coconut – Coconut powdered milk is a great, healthy option. You don’t need to worry about oxidized cholesterol or estrogen levels here, and many people prefer the flavor of coconut!
Rice – Rice powdered milk is another healthy alternative to use as it is very easy to digest. However, it is a different consistency because it does not contain the fats and oils that regular milk does, so it will not be as creamy.
Almond – Almond powdered milk is very healthy for you! It has a lot of vitamins and minerals, and it actually helps to reduce cholesterol. This is a much better option than whole milk, and it is better for weight loss or maintenance.
Pros and Cons
The only health-related con to using powdered milk is in whole milk, so as long as you choose one of the other alternatives, powdered milk can be healthy for you. Another downside is that it should be stored in a cool place, somewhat like liquid milk would be, but it only needs to be below 75 degrees. It is also advised to keep it in an airtight container and to keep it out of the light. Exposure to light could affect the vitamins in the milk and lower its nutritional value.
As far as pros go, if stored correctly, it can last a very long time. Some people even say you can keep it for decades in the proper containers. They are also easy to carry with you on the go and more cost effective than liquid forms. When cooking with them, you won’t be able to tell the difference between using powdered or liquid form, and some powdered forms can be very healthy for you.
Powdered milk can be a very useful product to have around. Whole powdered milk is fine to use in a pinch or just once in a while, but for more frequent uses, choose one of the lower fat or plant-based alternatives like skim, almond, or coconut.
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Is there a way to tell if powdered milk has gone bad? Yes, you can tell simply by looking at it or smelling it. Powdered milk that has expired will be more of a yellow color than white, and it will have a bad odor like spoiled liquid milk would. If you notice these things, it is better to be safe and throw the powdered milk away to avoid the risk of getting sick.
What other milks are shelf stable? There are several other types of milk that are shelf-stable and non-refrigerated. They are still in liquid form but are processed differently than regular milk. You can find just as many varieties of this form of milk as you would with any other. They remain stable by being heated to a very high temperature to sterilize it and then sealed in an airtight container.
Do all shelf stable foods have oxidized cholesterol in them? No, because not all foods contain cholesterol at all. If the fresh form of a type of food contains cholesterol, then the dried or dehydrated form will contain oxidized cholesterol. For example, butter powder, cheese powder, and dehydrated meats contain oxidized cholesterol because the fresh forms of these foods contain cholesterol themselves.