Forget the Instant Pot—You Can Make Yogurt In the Oven
Owners of the Instant Pot will know that it is capable of almost anything. The multi-tasking pressure cooker has been hailed for its ability to saute, slow cook, and stew, among other functions. It can even make yogurt — a substance that many weren’t aware could be acquired outside of the grocery store.
The Instant Pot deserves praise for bringing attention to the art of yogurt making, but it isn’t necessary for obtaining your favorite, creamy breakfast food. If you have a big pot and an oven with a working light bulb, then you have all the tools you need to make delicious, healthy yogurt at home. And it’s worth making your own, at least once. Yogurt making takes little attention, and is cheaper (and tastier) than store-bought to boot.
Ironically, this project begins with a trip to your grocery store’s yogurt aisle. You’ll need a single serving-sized container of plain yogurt with no sugar added, 8 ounces or smaller. This will be your starter. Before buying, look at the ingredients list; if it doesn’t say “live and active cultures,” then keep looking. These cultures are the bacteria that turn dairy into yogurt, and they’re essential to the process.
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While you’re in the dairy section, grab milk. Ideally, whole milk should be used for this recipe to produce a creamy, rich yogurt, but the process might work with 2 percent.
Once home, pour up to a full gallon of milk into a big pot with a matching lid and set it on the stove. The amount you pour in depends on the amount you want to make, since the finished product will have roughly the same volume as the milk. Turn the heat to medium and stir every few minutes until the milk begins to froth, then turn it off. Heating the milk kills any bacteria that might prevent the yogurt starter from taking. Make sure the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot; if it does, the yogurt may not thicken up.
As your milk is heating, turn on your oven to its lowest setting; in most ovens, this will be just below 200 degrees. Once it reaches your desired temperature, kill the heat and turn on the oven light. The oven will cool down at the same time as your milk and provide the ambient heat necessary for the culture to do its work.
The starter can be added to the milk once it’s reached temperatures in the high 100s or the low 110s. If you don’t own a kitchen thermometer; just stick a clean pinky into the milk every five minutes are so. The milk is cool enough when it’s just slightly too warm for your finger, but not so warm that you can’t leave the finger in for several seconds.
Once at that temperature, take your yogurt container and slowly stir in half of the contents. Introduce the starter in batches so it fully dissolves in the milk. Then put the lid on the pot, put the pot in the oven, and wait.
The waiting, unfortunately, is both the hardest and easiest part. If the starter is put in too soon, or too late, or if the ambient temperature in the oven is off, the yogurt won’t take. The only way to know for sure is time; you’ll need at least eight hours to know whether you’ve done it right, and making yogurt in the oven can take 12 to 24 hours to complete. After eight hours, the contents of the pot should jiggle in a manner similar to Jell-o if the culture is working; you can give it a gentle shake to test this. Additional time will simply thicken the yogurt and add to its tartness.
After the yogurt has reached the consistency and taste you prefer, you can store it in mason jars or in a clean plastic container for up to a week in the fridge. As a bonus, you can freeze some of the yogurt in ice trays, which will preserve some of the culture and allow you to make additional yogurt from the same batch.
Most of the time, the process rewards with an abundance of fresh, delicious yogurt, which can then be further customized with sweeteners, fruits, granola, or anything else that you might add to your normal yogurt cup. It can even serve as a great addition to savory dishes, taking the place of sour cream or, when used in place of milk, making boxed mac and cheese infinitely more tangy and delicious. Making yogurt at home might seem like an intimidating process, one definitely aided by the Instant Pot. But if you don’t already own one, then making yogurt in the oven can be a delectable option.