The answer is that you can microwave milk, even if it’s still quite cold. But, since it’s pretty easy to overheat milk and make it taste and look unpleasant, microwaving it is best done by following a pretty careful procedure.
If you don’t heat or microwave milk carefully, it could cause it to curdle, burn, develop a film on top, or taste scorched. So for the best results, make sure to microwave your milk correctly.
What to Consider When Heating Milk?
Anytime you heat milk, you have to contend with a couple of main factors. First, the top layer can become overheated, resulting in curdling or a layer of “skin” on the surface of the milk.
The second problem that commonly occurs when heating milk is that the bottom of the vessel overheats, and the milk becomes scorched or burned. Hot spots can happen in a microwave or on the stove.
How to Microwave Milk
The first thing you’ll need for microwaving milk is a container. When you’re looking for one, you might feel tempted to use a bowl or plastic container that’s conveniently nearby. Don’t do that. Instead, use a tall vessel that’s microwave-safe and clean.
If you use a plastic container, make sure that it doesn’t contain BPAs, a harmful substance found in many cheap plastics.
When you pour your milk into the container, ensure that you don’t overfill it. Only pour milk until it reaches a point a couple of inches below the top rim of the container.
This way, you have extra room for stirring it and an extra margin against spillage if it starts to bubble or boil.
Plus, that extra space makes it easier to avoid sloshing your warm milk all over when you remove it from the microwave.
Adjust the Power Level of Your Microwave
Once you’ve filled your container to an appropriate height, place it in the center of your microwave. After you close the door, find the controls for adjusting the power level.
Some microwaves allow you to set a power level from one to ten. Others allow you to alter the cooking cycle by food item.
After you’ve found the controls, select either a half-power level (five on many microwaves) or the “milk” button on the microwave where you can heat items according to what they are.
If your microwave doesn’t have an adjustable power level, you’ll have a little more work to do, but it’s still manageable.
Heating the Milk in the Microwave
Close the microwave door. Set the timer to one minute, even if you don’t think that’s enough time to heat your milk enough. Start your heating cycle and watch your milk closely.
If your microwave has an automatic cycle for heating milk, you don’t have to worry about setting the timer, but you still have to be observant and avoid high temperatures.
Stirring the Milk and Adjusting for Preference
At the one-minute mark, open the microwave door and use a wooden or metal spoon to stir the milk thoroughly. Keep in mind that the container might be quite warm already, so you may want to use a potholder if you have to move it.
After stirring thoroughly, cycle your microwave for another minute.
Assuming that you are microwaving a relatively small amount of milk, say less than two cups, it’s probably already pretty warm enough after two cycles. But microwaves vary in cooking power, and sometimes we need our milk to be pretty hot.
So, if it’s not hot enough, don’t get frustrated and turn up the power on the microwave. Instead, stir the milk again, and run it through the microwave for another minute.
Repeat this process until your milk has reached your desired temperature. Your patience will pay off when you have a container of heated milk that isn’t ruined by overly aggressive heating.
Heating Milk on the Stovetop
You can also obviously heat milk on a pot on top of your stove. For the best results, keep the heat low, even though it will take longer to warm the milk.
Being patient is essential, as is stirring quite often. It’s also a good idea not to overfill the pot.
The burner on your stove will warm the bottom of the pot, so the milk on the bottom will have a tendency to burn.
Stirring it well and keeping the burner set pretty low will help prevent that. And the more you use a spoon to agitate the milk, the more evenly it will heat. On the stovetop, you don’t have to pause cooking to stir or sample the heat.
Here are some questions about milk and the microwave that come up all the time.
Can milk boil in the microwave?
Milk can boil in the microwave. But when milk boils, it has a tendency to foam or form a protein layer and overflow its container, so it’s not advisable. Frequent stirring will help prevent this.
Can you microwave milk for a baby?
Sure, you can microwave milk or formula for baby bottles. Follow the same instructions as above, but when it’s time to test the heat, don’t taste it.
Instead, put a spoonful on the back of your wrist or the inside of your forearm where your skin is most sensitive. If it feels hot, let it cool off well before giving it to a little one.
Can microwaving milk make you sick?
No, microwaving milk won’t make you sick. But if you overcook it, you can ruin its flavor and texture, and you might burn yourself if it overflows.
Burned milk tastes acrid and nasty, and no one wants a film of curdled milk on top. So you have to make sure that your milk heats evenly.
That means stirring your milk thoroughly and steadily over medium to low heat on the stovetop or microwave.
Since you can’t mix your milk container while the microwave is on, you have to pause it occasionally to make some adjustments.