Powdered milk is a dry dairy product made by removing all of the water from milk through evaporation. It is convenient as it can be stored un-refrigerated until it is mixed with water for use in cooking, baking or drinking. It has a different flavor than fresh milk, but the difference is not noticeable in baked or prepared foods, making milk powder products a good option when fresh milk is unavailable.
Powdered milk can be made from whole milk or low-fat milk or skim milk, though the taste differs slightly. Powdered whole milk is used by both baby formula manufacturers and in commercial candy factories, while powdered low-fat or skim milk can be added to a glass of liquid skim milk to improve the taste and nutrient content.
Milk that has been powdered keeps well for months if it is properly sealed and stored in a cool, dry area. The milk powder itself does not need to be refrigerated, but when mixed with water it needs refrigeration, just as fresh milk does. Since the flavor of the milk made with milk powder tastes different from fresh milk when drunk, be sure to mix well so that no lumps of powder remain, and chill well before drinking. Chocolate syrup can be added to make chocolate milk.
Due to its shelf-stability, powdered milk is often used in disaster areas and by survivalists and hikers. It is also easier to transport than liquid milk and can be reconstituted into a liquid quickly. Milk powder is usually much cheaper than liquid milk, since it only takes about five cups of milk powder and about 15 cups of water to make a gallon of liquid milk.
When buying powdered milk products, it is important to note that there are different grades of milk powder, as both nutrition quality and flavor can vary depending on the grade. For example, some powdered milks have extra amounts of Vitamin D and Vitamin A added. A "US Extra Grade" label or stamp on the product means that the product is made to dissolve instantly when added to water and is manufactured to have a sweet, pleasant taste.
It is also important not to confuse powdered milk with evaporated milk or condensed milk. While powdered milk is completely dry, evaporated milk still has about a 40 percent water content. Though evaporated milk is shelf-stable, it is darker and usually comes in cans. Condensed milk is a thick dairy product made of sweetened evaporated milk, and is often used in making desserts.