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Mar 26, 2008 04:53 PM

evaporated milk versus cream

I have a recipe that calls for evaporated milk. As a dedicated believer in fresh is always better, could I/should I substitute heavy cream for the evaporated milk?

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  1. Not necessarily. Evaporated milk is already cooked, and so it will react to heat differently than fresh cream. In addition, evaporated milk has a very different ratio of fat to milk solids and sugars than cream. Some recipes use evaporated milk to make a dish creamy without making it excessively fatty (and yes, there is such a thing as too much cream).

    That said, you can probably sub cream for evaporated milk in most recipes.

    1. thank you. I'll do the canned cream

      1. What is the recipe, at least in broad outline?

        6 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          it's a quiche with grated zuchinni, green onions, monterey and cheddar cheese, and green chilis. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes aned 350 20-25 minutes

          1. re: dutchdot

            Sounds yummy! Honestly, in a recipe like that, I'd use half-and-half instead of either evaporated milk or heavy cream.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I agree I wouldn't use full cream w/ that. I have used evaporated milk in a quiche, though (I think it was Best Recipe but could be wrong) and it was very good.

            2. re: dutchdot

              In some dishes evaporated milk is itself a substitute for cream or milk. Evaporated milk, diluted with an equal amount of water, has about the same consistency as milk, albeit with a bit of a cooked taste. Undiluted it functions as a lower fat alternative to cream.

              There are other dishes where evaporated milk lends its own distinctive character. Like sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk became an integral part of cooking in places where fresh milk was hard to come by, such the Florida Keys, and the tropics.

              Its use in a quiche is a substitute, since quiche has its origins in the French/German border area where dairy was common.


              1. re: paulj

                Exactly. I'd only use evaporated milk in a quiche if I were trying to lower the fat content, which is obviously not a concern for the original poster.

              2. re: dutchdot

                I'd never use evaporated milk in a quiche - either cream or creme fraiche.

            3. I would follow the recipe. It was designed for evap milk. Doesn't make it less better.

              1. Evaporated milk kind of grosses me out. One time I bought a couple cans that were kind of carmelized -- the milk was brownish. The company willingly took that back. But it didn't help with my aversion to it.

                One of my interests is family history. And I learned that my grandfather worked at three different Carnation company plants when those were just starting up in the midwest and Canada in the 19-teens and 1920s. So I looked into the company then as part of my research and found it started on the West Coast and spread from there. And as paulj suggests, evaporated milk then was a substitute for fresh milk when that was not available. There weren't refrigerators in homes back then!

                All that said, I'm curious to know if there are any dishes where it is actually BETTER than the fresh substitute. And how does it really act differently from the appropriate fresh stuff.

                I wonder about this every time I see a recipe that calls for it, so this will help.

                2 Replies
                1. re: karykat

                  There's actually nothing wrong with "brownish" evaporated milk. It's cooked, so it does carmelize a little. The company was probably just humoring you in taking it back.

                  1. re: karykat

                    There is no fresh substitute for evaporated milk. It's half the strength of fresh whole milk and has a slightly cooked taste so using anything else will alter the taste and outcome of recipes that were developed using it.
                    In a way, you can consider it a part of America's culinary history. It was used through the Depression and WWII and certainly through rural America, when fresh milk was unavailable because of economic factors, rationing, lack of refrigeration, transportation, or other reasons. It was a staple of food banks and government food programs. Always there on the shelf in an emergency.
                    Even with its roots in hard times, fine cooks developed wonderful recipes with it and there is no reason to change those recipes. They certainly aren't "improved" by change for the sake of change. Why fix something that isn't broken?
                    If your grandmother's recipe for caramel frosting or macaroni and cheese uses evaporated milk, it isn't going to be the same and certainly not better if you use cream. And Uncle Joe will know the difference.
                    You wouldn't want to drink it, but it's a fine cooking ingredient for many recipes. And not a bad pantry staple for emergencies. It makes a good substitute for fresh milk if you're going to cook the milk anyway. Just mix it half and half with water, like your grandmother did in WWII. No one will notice and it beats a last minute trip to the store.