The only aspect that distinguishes evaporated milk from regular whole milk is the water content. Evaporated milk has half its water removed through a vacuum procedure after which it is homogenized, sterilized and packaged. In the United States, evaporated milk is usually packaged in cans; in the United Kingdom, it is sold in cans as well as tubes, the latter packaging designed to facilitate using it in small amounts and conveniently storing the rest.
Cooking with Evaporated Milk
If a recipe calls for a cup of regular whole milk, simply use 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup water as a substitution. There will be no adverse effects to the texture, taste or quality of the finished product if you use this ratio. Because its viscosity is denser than regular milk, evaporated milk can be whipped into peaks like heavy cream, a technique that is easier and quicker if the milk is well-chilled before whipping.
Evaporated Milk Substitutes
In recipes that include evaporated milk as an ingredient, you can substitute a cup of water mixed with a cup of powdered whole milk. Heavy cream can also replace equal amounts of evaporated milk in most recipes. To convert regular whole milk to evaporated milk, simmer it slowly until the volume is reduced by half.
Measuring and Storing
A 12 oz. can of evaporated milk equals 1 2/3 cups. The 5 oz. tin is equivalent to 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. milk. Unopened evaporated milk lasts around six months in the cupboard and commonly has a “use by” date printed on the can. Once opened, the milk will last for up to a week in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Cover the top with foil and store it away from strongly flavored or scented foods to prevent absorption of unpleasant tastes.
Evaporated milk is sometimes referred to as condensed milk, especially in British recipes. Although the term condensed is appropriate since the original volume of the milk is reduced by half, it often confuses American cooks. A frequently used ingredient in sweets and desserts is sweetened condensed milk, which is not the same as evaporated milk as it has extremely high sugar content. Evaporated milk has no sugar in it.
Evaporated milk was patented by Gail Borden in 1856 but his company only produced the sweetened version until 1892 when the plain type was introduced. This was a boon to the milk industry because refrigeration and refrigerated transport were not yet invented. Evaporated milk was carried by prospectors during the Yukon Gold Rush.