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Why is it that every time I try to heat raw milk in a microwave it curdles and becomes like ricotta after a few seconds?

  • 1
    Adjust power setting and/or don't place in centre of turntable – TFD Jul 5 '14 at 8:28
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The problem you are facing is that your microwave temperature is too high and boils your milk too rapidly. The microwave does not heat food evenly and boils the milk too fast. Milk shouldn't be boiled too rapidly and doing this causes the casein in it to clump together and that curdles the milk. It should instead be brought 'to a boil' by heating on a slow heat for longer until it starts to boil.

So, you can try a couple of different options:

  • You can bring the milk to a boil in a pan on a stove on slow heat, which will take long depending on the amount of milk. And I can vouch for this method. I've seen my dad do this for years and as long as your pan is clean and the heat is low, you'll have a successful result.

  • I haven't tried this myself, but you can Pour milk into a microwave-safe container and microwave on medium-high (70%) power, stirring every 15 seconds, just until steam begins to rise from the milk. To scald milk for custards or yogurt, heat 250 mL (1 cup) on HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. - Reference

  • I'll try using lower power and see how that works. If that fails I'll just heat it on the stove. It will be another week until I can get my hands on some more raw milk but I will keep you updated, thanks :) – Michael Jul 5 '14 at 8:22
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I have the same issue and it is NOT because the milk has approached the expiration date when it's a day old or too high of a microwave setting when it dues thus randomly. What I've found is that it may be a chemical reaction with the rinsing agent in your dishwasher and milk.

  • I'm not sure if I buy that - the OP doesn't mention anything about what he's heating the milk in. – logophobe Jul 11 '14 at 14:37
  • I doubt it's that. I haven't wash that particular container in a dishwasher for a very long time. – Michael Jul 12 '14 at 7:58
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As other answer says, you need to lower down power of your microwave. But if the minimal power is still to high (it can happen if you trying to heat very small amount of milk) use the lifehack: additionally put a glass of water into the microwave, it will absorb sufficient part of power.

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Check the temperature/heat rating that you are setting on the microwave. Very likely its a bit too high and that's the reason why it has a similar reaction as to when lemon juice or vinegar is added to milk.

  • Are you saying that high heat kills bacteria and within a few seconds a ton more lactose forms and curdles the milk? Or that high temperatures directly cause the same reaction as low pH? Those seem like two completely different explanations. – Cascabel Jul 4 '14 at 23:25
  • I am not sure about the rest of the explanation, but I do agree with the high temperature of the microwave. The microwave does not heat food evenly and boils the milk too fast. Milk shouldn't be boiled too rapidly and doing this causes the casein in it to clump together and that curdles the milk. It should instead be brought 'to a boil' by heating on a slow heat for longer until it starts to boil. – Divi Jul 5 '14 at 6:03
  • The mechanism suggested by this explanation is so strange, I can't even begin to unravel the wrong assumptions. For example, bacteria don't prevent milk from curdling. In fact, they do curdle it when there is enough of them, this is called yogurt. But the curdling is caused by the acid they secret acting on the proteins in the milk, and has nothing at all to do with lactose. And so on. – rumtscho Jul 5 '14 at 16:36

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