Cheesemaking 101: Equipment Essentials

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Cheesemaking 101: Equipment Essentials

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When you have all of the ingredients needed to make cheese at home, it is time to secure the equipment to make your first recipe.

If you have a limited budget for cheesemaking, splurge on the cheese pot. You need one that is made from heat-safe glass or stainless steel to ensure the heating process develops correctly. Anything with Teflon or chipped enamel can change the chemical reactions that happen when making cheese to create potentially dangerous options.

A stainless steel pot with a thick bottom is your best investment.

Once you have this item, you’re ready to find the other equipment that can help you to explore the joys of making cheese at home.

What Equipment Is Needed for Cheesemaking?

Some cheese recipes call for specific equipment items due to the unique nature of the product. Since beginners are more likely to try soft cheeses or varieties that require minimal aging, this guide covers the standard essentials needed for a successful experience.

1. Cheesecloth

Although you can reuse cheesecloth, it helps to have a significant supply available at home for making cheese. It is useful for draining way, pressing curds, and lining molds. Several weave patterns are available, so it helps to have some butter muslin available.

Here’s a pro tip: if you have curds stuck to your cheesecloth, rinse the product in whey first to release them.

It helps to pay attention to the cheesecloth grade. A high number indicates a higher thread count, ensuring more thickness and durability. Although something rated as Grade 50 is useful for some cheeses, you typically want to stick with a Grade 90 product.

2. Draining Mats

When your cheese is ready to start the aging process, you may want to have a protective layer between the product and your board or container. Having a draining mat ensures that more air can reach the underside of the cheese, reducing the times you may need to flip the finished item while it ripens.

Each time you flip a cheese block or wheel, there is a risk of something going wrong. Although no recipe allows you to store a product without any maintenance, a high-quality draining mat ensures more consistency.

You can find mesh and plastic draining mats available that work with most cheese varieties. The best option to use for a natural finish is a reed cheese mat.

3. Measuring Spoons and Cups

Cheesemaking requires you to follow exact science principles in the kitchen. When you can see what is going into your pot, it is easier to tell if you’ve measured correctly. That’s why using glass measuring cups and spoons (or transparent plastic) is the best option.

Glass is better than plastic because it is more scratch-resistant and is easier to sanitize.

Stainless steel is another suitable material for measuring spoons. Most cheesemakers find that a standard household set provides enough options for making most recipes.

Some cheese recipes call for the precise measurements of some ingredients. A 14-piece stainless steel set ensures that you get the correct fractions.

4. Curd Knives

A curd knife has a unique shape. It comes with a rounded top to ensure that minimal scratching occurs at the bottom of your pot. Although any conceivable blade works, this investment should be your next priority after getting your stockpot.

When you shop for curd knives online, you’ll see this design often marketed as an “icing spatula” or a “cake knife.” The product serves the same purpose if it has a straight blade. You do not want to purchase one with an angled design because it will be more challenging to create the consecutive cuts needed for the curd.

5. Colander

Almost any colander is suitable to use for cheesemaking. The only exception is a model made with a reactive metal, such as aluminum. Choose from plastic or stainless steel – enamel also works, but you must stop using it for cheese if it gets chips in it.

The size of the colander you select depends on the scope of the recipe you plan to make. Since soft cheese varieties don’t expel their whey until you have it in this tool, the equipment must have the capacity to hold the equivalent amount of liquid in the form of curds.

Your colander should also readily accept cheesecloth or butter muslin as lining. If you cannot keep this “filter” in place, the draining process for your curds may be challenging.

A micro-perforated colander is often the best choice because some cheese recipes call for the curd to be cut in the size of rice grains. Smaller holes reduce the risk of loss.

6. Thermometer

Cheesemaking is an exact science. Your milk, curds, and whey may need to be at a precise temperature to create the chemical reaction required to make cheese.

Having a thermometer available ensures that you can get more consistent results.

Any dairy thermometer is suitable for checking on the temperature of your fluids. If you don’t have one, calibrate your existing equipment by keeping it in a pan of boiling water for five minutes.

Please remember that only stainless steel coatings are usable. Anything with aluminum plating should be avoided.

How to Clean Your Equipment

Equipment cleanliness is a top priority when making cheese. Each item must be sterilized before use. It is a best practice to clean each piece immediately after using it when following a recipe to reduce contamination risks.

Boiling water is an excellent method to use. If you need to get to work faster than the 15 minutes it takes for the hot fluid to sanitize your equipment, commercial solutions are available.

Try using an iodophor sanitizer or a self-foaming acid product that works as a fungicide and bactericide. Some items can reduce water spotting that happens when high mineral content is found locally.

Remember to review your recipe carefully before starting on the first step to ensure you have all of the equipment you need. These standard items can help to get you started. The rest is up to you!

For a more in-depth look at simple cheese making Equipment watch this video

Video Credit to Gavin Webber

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