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For intrepid food lovers, the first question they have after tasting something delicious is, “How can I make this at home?” Some dishes are rather easy to re-create at home—think cakes, enchiladas, french fries, and other favorite foods.
Cheese, especially options beyond fresh cheeses like mozzarella, quark, goat cheese, and paneer, tend to be a little more complicated to whip up at home—you’ll need some gear and a bit of patience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You’ll just need some reliable cheese-making supplies and a bit of time. Start with a clean kitchen (you’ll have plenty of dishes to wash afterward), your mise en place, and your chin up.
The cheese-making process, put simply, is just removing milk’s solids from its liquid. Milk is about 90 percent water. The rest is fat, protein, sugar (called lactose), and minerals. By fermenting the sugars, the fat and protein coagulate, and cheese curds are born. The leftover liquid is called whey. Depending on what kind of cheese you’re hoping to make, this process will look a little different each time, which is why the right tools for the job are so important.
Here are the best cheese-making supplies for all your at-home fromage endeavors.
Best Instant-Read Thermometer: Frienda 11.8 Inch Stainless Steel Instant Read Thermometer
The first step in the cheese-making process is heating the milk. If the milk is too cold or too hot, the coagulation process won’t happen the way it should. Thus, an instant-read thermometer is an essential tool for any at-home cheesemaker, no matter which type of cheese they’re trying to make. We love the Frienda 11.8 Inch Stainless Steel Instant-Read Thermometer for a few reasons. Its long stem is perfect for cheese-making (because you’ll want to make most cheese in your stockpot), and the clip ensures that you don’t have to hold the thermometer while gently stirring your soon-to-be-cheese.
Best Cheesecloth: Sceng Cheesecloth
You won’t need cheesecloth for every single cheese recipe, but we’d still call this an essential tool. Even if you never make a cheese recipe where you’ll need cheesecloth (doubtful!), it doubles as a useful tool for many other kitchen tasks, such as canning, winemaking, keeping chicken whole during poaching, functioning as a spice bag, and more. This particular cheesecloth is made with 100 percent unbleached cotton and, unlike many other options, is reusable.
Best Rennet: +QSO Vegetable Rennet Tablets
The cheese-making corners of the internet are caught up in a hot debate over whether liquid or tablet rennet is preferable for cheese making. When liquid rennet is fresh, it’s generally easier to use because tablet rennet requires proper dilution. But tablet rennet has a longer shelf life than liquid rennet. There’s nothing worse than making your way through the whole recipe and then realizing that your rennet is old (tip: test it first). Because liquid rennet can be a bit unreliable, we prefer the tablet version, especially this vegetarian one from New England Cheesemaking Supply.
Best Citric Acid: New England Cheesemaking Supply Citric Acid
In order to coagulate milk, it first must be acidified. Some cheese recipes accomplish that the old-fashioned way—by fermenting lactose into lactic acid by way of bacterial cultures (we’ll get to those later). Others, including many mozzarella recipes, use citric acid. For the styles of cheese that require it, we love this citric acid from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. Bonus: it gives mozzarella extra stretch.
Best Calcium Chloride: New England Cheesemaking Supply Calcium Chloride
When making harder cheeses, you’ll need to drain off more liquid than you would from the softer cheeses—dryer curds result in a firmer cheese down the line. To help ensure that your hard cheeses set right, some recipes may call for calcium chloride. If so, go for this option from New England Cheesemaking Supply. It’s great for pasteurized milk or goat's milk (which you’d likely be using at home), and is in the right dilution for cheese making.
Best Cultures: New England Cheesemaking Supply Thermophilic Direct Set Cheese Culture
Many cheese recipes will call for cultures, or friendly bacteria that will help give your cheese its desired texture and flavor. Depending on which style of cheese you’re making, you may want thermophilic (heat-loving) or mesophilic (slightly less heat-loving) cultures. Any good recipe will tell you which type of culture to use, but we’re listing both options, both from New England Cheesemaking Supply. In general, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Stilton, Edam, Gouda, Muenster, blue, and Colby cheeses will require mesophilic; mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, Romano, Swiss, Gruyere, and other Italian-style cheeses will require thermophilic.
Best Cheese Salt: Know-How Fine Flaked Cheese Salt
Salt is the unsung hero of the cheese-making process—not only does it add flavor, but it also helps regulate the bacterial changes occurring in your newly formed cheese. You can technically use most non-iodized salts for the cheese-making process, but we especially like this cheese salt by Know-How Foods. It’s light and flaky, meaning it will dissolve well and is easier to apply evenly to your curds.
Best Slotted Spoon: TBWHL Skimmer Slotted Spoon
Another tool you’ll need for cheese making is a good slotted spoon. We especially like this one that doubles as a strainer, meaning it can be used for stirring your milk as it comes to temperature, but also for draining your curds (especially if you’re making a recipe that doesn’t require cheesecloth). Made from food-grade 304 stainless steel, it’s durable, rust-proof, and is great for other kitchen tasks like frying or boiling.
Best Gloves: New England Cheesemaking Supply Food Grade Gloves
If you’re making mozzarella or any other cheese in that style (called pasta filata), part of the process is handling and stretching very hot curds. If you’re not comfortable dipping your hands into 180-degree water, nab these food-grade gloves to protect your hands as you stretch your mozz.
What to Look for When Buying Cheese-Making Supplies
Knowing that you have dependable equipment available is a significant piece of the prep work. Getting an accurate temperature reading is vital when it comes to making cheese at home. A reliable instant-read thermometer that you know you can count on is a crucial tool to have on hand for the cheese-making process.
Having high-quality tools and top-notch, fresh ingredients gives you the edge needed for making the best cheese at home. For example, a slotted spoon made well and comfortable to hold while stirring and scooping, plus easy to clean, makes for a better experience. Using fresh milk, plus high-rated cultures, salt, and rennet provide a superior product.
What your equipment is made of—from your stockpot to your spoons—is critical. It needs to be nonreactive material, and stainless steel is a popular choice. Any reactive metals, such as aluminum and cast iron, can react with the acid and affect the cheeses' flavor and look.
Why should you make cheese at home?
By making your own cheese, you know exactly what ingredients went into it. There are no artificial preservatives, flavors, or additives.
What are the basic ingredients needed to make cheese?
There are three base ingredients needed to make cheese: milk, cultures, and rennet. From there, you can add flavorings and work on cheese-making techniques, such as aging, to make the type of cheese you desire.
How long does homemade cheese last?
Fresh cheeses, like mozzarella, feta, or ricotta, will last for a week or more if stored properly in the refrigerator. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, can last for up to one year. You can freeze cheese, but it does affect the texture, and some freeze better than others.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Writer and professional cheese eater Christine Clark teaches cheese making and pairing classes throughout the U.S. and knows how to get her cheese fix, no matter where she is. Her cheese adoration is so strong that she has a whole podcast dedicated to it. She is a Certified Cheese Professional through the American Cheese Society.