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The "Griddle" System
The "Griddle" System
This is but one of many methods you can use for heating milk and controlling temperature. We've pretty much tried them all, and now use this "griddle" system for all of our cheesemaking. Whether you use our products or not it's an economical and effective system you may want to consider.
1. Kitchen sink or tub:
For pre-heating milk to starting temperature (and of course, clean-up).
2. Rectangular steam table pan and cover:
For batches up to 3 gal. you can use a 6" deep 2/3 size pan (12" wide x 14" long). A full size pan will handle up to 5 gal. A lid or cover is highly recommended.
You will need to have a griddle with a surface large enough to accommodate your pan, While you can set the pan directly on the griddle surface we recommend using a glass-reinforced silicone pad to prevent direct contact. If you're using a supplemental digital heat controller, pretty much any standard griddle with a manual control (dial) thermostat and plug can be used.
Note: All equipment that comes in contact with the milk must be clean and sanitized. We like to store all cleaned equipment in our table pan with the lid on; when ready to make cheese we add a quart or so of water and steam sterilize. You can use the left-over hot water to add to the pre-heat water in the sink.
There's not much to say here except it always pays to pay close attention when heating and cooking curds, especially if you're not using a digital controller. If you're using a griddle you will want to set the griddle dial controller according to how fast you want the temperature to ramp. There are some tips in the sidebar that will help you to find what the right settings are (assuming you're using a heat distribution tile) and pre-testing the system.
And very important: You want to suspend any direct heating during curd formation because the heat will not distribute uniformly. The easiest way to insure this is to unplug the controller or griddle until after the curds are cut.
Take a "test drive"
If you're trying out a new heating system we highly recommend doing a dry (wet?) run with an equivalent volume of water. If using a griddle, start with cool water, set the controller to 250 deg F. and record the temperature and time over an hour. This will give you a baseline that you can adjust depending on recipe and amount of milk.
Griddle temperature settings
The chart below shows rate of heat increase for a 2 gal. batch at two heat settings (click to enlarge):