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How to Freeze Milk


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Last Updated: May 4, 2020

Freezing milk is a great way to store it for a later day.  You can also freeze milk if you have some which will go bad before you will be able to use it.

Freezing milk is relatively easy, but here’s what you need to know to do it right.

How to Freeze Milk

To freeze milk:

  1. Put it in an airtight container. Do not use glass containers.
  2. Make sure to leave some headroom. Milk expands when frozen and can crack the container.  You’ll need to leave approximately 9% of empty space, or about ½ to 1 ½ inches at the top of the container.
  3. Label the milk with the date you froze it.

When freezing milk, be mindful of how much milk you will need to use at once.  If you don’t use that much milk, it doesn’t make sense to freeze an entire quart of it.  Instead, you would want to store smaller amounts so you only need to remove as much as you need.

Defrosting Milk

Milk should be defrosted in the refrigerator and not at room temperature.  Depending on how much milk you froze, it could take 1-3 days to completely defrost.  Remember to take it out ahead of time so it is ready when you need it.

If you need to speed up the defrosting process, you can put the container of frozen milk in a bowl of cold water to defrost.

Note:  Freezing does not kill bacteria; it only temporarily inactivates it.  Once defrosted, you’ll need to use the milk within 2 to 5 days or it will go bad.

Shelf Life of Frozen Milk

Milk will last approximately 3 to 6 months in the freezer.  However, it’s important that the milk is kept at a consistent temperature of below 0°F.  Note the temperature inside freezers can fluctuate, especially if you open the freezer often.  It’s best to store frozen milk away from the freezer door where the temperature is more consistent.

Remember to label your milk with the date you froze it.  This will allow you to rotate the milk so you use the oldest milk first.

Freezing Might Change the Texture of Milk

Milk is mostly made up of water and fat.  Water and fat freeze at different temperatures, so the water component of milk will freeze first. Because of this, the water and fat will separate when you freeze milk.  Once defrosted, you will likely see little globs of fat in the milk.

It is possible to recombine the water and fat by vigorously shaking the defrosted milk.  However, the texture of the milk might still be somewhat grainy.  If using the milk for baking or cooking, you won’t notice any difference.  However, if you want to drink the milk, you might not like it.

If you really don’t like the globs of fat, don’t shake the milk.  Instead, strain the milk to remove the globs. Note this will give you a low-fat milk.

Low-Fat Milk Freezes Better

With whole-fat milk, separation will be a bigger issue.  You’ll likely end up with globs of fat in the defrosted milk which make the texture too grainy to drink.  As mentioned before, this isn’t an issue if you plan to bake or cook with the milk.  However, if you want to freeze milk for drinking, it’s best to use low-fat milk like 1% or skim.

Can you Freeze Cream?

While it is possible to freeze cream, the high-fat content means a lot of separation will occur. When you defrost the cream you will notice a lot of fat globs.  Shaking and stirring usually isn’t enough to recombine the cream back to its original texture.   You can still use the defrosted cream for baking or cooking but it won’t be great in things like coffee.

Milk Turns Yellow When Frozen

It is normal for milk to turn a bit yellow when frozen.  When you defrost the milk it will turn white again.

Why does milk turn yellow when frozen?  It has to do with the nutrient beta carotene which is found in milk fat.  Beta carotene has a yellow-orange color.  We normally can’t see it in milk though because proteins in the milk surround the fat globules and hide it.

When the milk is frozen, the water, fat and proteins separate, allowing the yellow color of the beta carotene to show.   Because beta carotene is stored in fat, high-fat milk will turn more yellow than low-fat milk.

Interestingly, cows fed a better diet will have more beta carotene in their fat.  Thus, yellowing of milk can be considered a sign of a high-quality milk.

Note that this phenomena doesn’t occur with goat milk and milk from some other animals.  That’s because they don’t store beta carotene in their fat like cows do.

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