Can You Use an Immersion Circulator for Cheese Making?

‘Can I sous vide this?’ is one the most common questions among immersion circulator owners.

This cooking technique leaves plenty of freedom for experimenting while enabling you to fully control the process. Cheesemaking can be a relatively complicated process, but it’s also possible with sous vide.

Because sous vide machines and immersion circulators are both very accurate in temperature, it’s possible to use both of these machines to make cheese.

This guide will explain what sous vide cheese is, how it is made, and why temperature control is crucial. Additionally, I’ll share the best tips for using an immersion circulator for cheese making. Read on to find out how to prepare the perfect sous vide cheese that will beat any store-made options in taste.

immersion circulator for cheese making

What Is Sous Vide Cheese?

As the name suggests, sous vide cheese is made using an immersion circulator.

Just like with traditional cheesemaking, sous vide cheese preparation involves mixing dairy with bacterial culture. Then, it should be brought to a specific temperature for some time and left to age.

Depending on the recipe, the cheese may be ready to consume from a couple of hours to several months.

Why Should You Pay Attention to Temperature When Making Cheese?

This question applies not only to sous vide cheese but to cheese in general.

Cheese is mainly made by adding a bacterial starter culture into dairy. These bacteria then consume lactose and transform it into lactic acid. As they’re living organisms, temperature control is essential to keep them alive.

However, bacteria can withstand a wide temperature range. Therefore, even if the bacteria survive, they won’t be productive in just any condition.

So, the right temperature is required to keep it effective, and this range is much narrower. A thermometer helps to ensure the correct temperature for bacteria to keep producing lactic acid.

sous vide display controls showing the temperature

Another reason to control temperature is that aged milk may contain pathogenic bacteria that cause food contamination. Thus, before making cheese, you should pasteurize the milk at 140-145° Fahrenheit for about half an hour.

Then, the milk must be cooled. This process ensures that your cheese is safe to eat and can be stored in the fridge for extended periods.

The main drawback of making cheese on a stovetop is the complexity of temperature control. As the heat source is very intensive, it’s hard to avoid milk scorching.

Sous vide solves this issue, though I’ll discuss this in detail in a minute.

Can You Use Sous Vide for Cheese Making?

Cheesemaking by default requires precision and consistency. Thankfully, sous vide machines are ideal for cheesemaking, giving you complete control over the temperature and other factors.

And, as the milk doesn’t touch a hot pan, you don’t have to stir it continuously.

Finally, you don’t need to wait until your dairy reaches a specific temperature to add acid. Instead, just throw everything in the same bag, wait for the required time, and voila – cheese is ready.

To convince you to try an immersion circulator for cheese making, I decided to break down the process into four simple steps. Naturally, the instructions may differ depending on the type of cheese you make, though the basic steps are as follows:

  1. Preheat a cooking pot or container to the temperature required by a specific cheese recipe.
  2. Pour milk and lactic acid into a sous vide bag and seal it thoroughly to prevent water from getting inside. Otherwise, your cheese may turn out soggy. However, a properly closed zip lock bag will also do the job.
  3. Let the dairy form into cheese for at least 45 minutes. Typically, the perfect timing for most cheese types is about an hour.
  4. Use a strainer or cloth-lined colander to separate curds from the liquid. Put the cheese in a lidded container and let it chill.

Tips for Using Sous Vide to Make Cheese

Now you know what sous vide cheese is and how to use an immersion circulator for cheese making. In this section, I’ll share top tips for making cheese sous vide like a professional.

Always pasteurize milk before making cheese.

Unpasteurized milk can’t be stored for long, even in the form of cheese. Thus, preheat your sous vide device to 140-145° Fahrenheit and heat milk for about 30 minutes. This way, you’ll get rid of potentially dangerous bacteria and ensure your cheese is safe to store and consume.

Apart from dairy and lactic acid, you can also use other ingredients for a more prominent taste and texture.

For instance, by adding whipped cream and some lemon juice, you can make fantastic mascarpone. Likewise, a bit of salt and whipped cream combined creates fresh ricotta. You can even experiment with adding various herbs and spices, for instance, basil or chili.

Always seal the sous vide bag thoroughly.

As you’re working with liquids here, water getting inside the bag will inevitably mix with the substance, changing its chemical compound. In the best-case scenario, the cheese will turn out soggy. In the worst case, bacteria contained in water will breed inside your cheese. For the very same reason, we advise using boiled water instead of tap water.

Let your cheese drain thoroughly before placing it in the fridge.

This will ensure that it has the right consistency and won’t fall apart.

Final Advice

Different cheese requires varying preparation times and temperatures. If you’re experimenting with your own recipes, remember this as a rule of thumb.

The longer you heat the dairy, the harder your cheese will turn out. For fresh cheese that’s ideal on sandwiches, 45-60 minutes will be sufficient.

If you want to make a cheese that keeps its shape properly, allow about 1.5 hours.

In Summary

Hopefully, with the help of this guide, you now know how to make sous vide cheese. Although many are skeptical about it, the fun part is an immersion circulator is, in fact, the ideal device for this purpose.

The main objective is to follow safety measures and determine the right temperature and time.

I suggest making cheese following one of the numerous recipes online a couple of times before starting to experiment on your own.

For other unusual uses for your sous vide immersion circulator, check out my article here!