Can You Reheat Milk?

When it comes to reheating food, a popular question is can you reheat milk?

Reheating any food or drink can be controversial due to both taste and safety, but we all tend to bend the rules creating some contention about best practice. One such item that is widely debated is milk.

Whether you’re heating milk for cooking purposes, foaming it for a cappuccino, or warming it up for a toddler, can you reheat milk? Of course milk can be heated once, but what about multiple times?

The short answer is probably not. Reheating milk seems innocent enough, and you may have even done so once or twice without incident.

When an indecisive toddler decides he or she does not want freshly warmed milk, it seems completely fine to just put the milk in the fridge and reheat it later. While this is often done, it does still pose potential risk.

Milk, which requires refrigeration because it has the ability spoil, can be unsafe if it reaches certain temperatures which promote the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Such bacteria is usually encouraged by allowing certain food or drinks to reach room temperature and stay at that temperature for an extended period of time.

Most people believe reheating milk to a high temperature will kill off any bacteria that has multiplied, but this is a misconception.

Reheating milk that has been sitting out or already heated once or twice before can be dangerous and result in severe illness.

The dangers of reheating milk does not vary with types of milk either. Whether milk is skim, 1%, 2%, whole, etc. reheating continues to pose risk of bacteria despite the fat content.

While raw milk can often remain at room temperature for longer periods of time when it is fresh, reheating it more than once can still promote this dangerous bacteria.

It’s true that you probably won’t suffer illness if you gamble by heating milk once, refrigerating it right away, and reheating it again hours later, and perhaps you still want to take that gamble, but what about the taste? Can reheated milk still taste good?

Reheating milk can not only be a catalyst for creating illness, but it can also modify the original taste.

Milk is made up of sugar, fat, and protein. Heating it once can make it taste sweeter as simple sugars result after being broken down during the heating process; however, heating milk a second or even third time can modify the proteins and result in a gritty and unpleasant taste.

This taste is not avoided by the way milk is heated either–it can still stay unpleasant after multiple heatings whether it is microwaved, steamed, or heated on the stove top.

So while we all take the gamble of reheating perishable items from time to time, it’s ultimately best to steer clear of doing so with milk to prevent illness or unpleasant taste.

The food industry absolutely discourages the practice of reheating milk multiple times, so it’s probably best to avoid doing so in your home as well.