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Article

Cream: The Thick and The Thin of It

Fine Cooking Issue 75

Have you ever wondered about the difference between heavy cream and light cream? And what about heavy whipping cream—is that different from heavy cream and whipping cream? We got curious about dairy terminology, so we checked with the USDA to see what it all means. Here’s what we learned:

Type Milkfat content Tips
Heavy cream (aka heavy whipping cream) At least 36% Because of its high fat content, it whips fast and firm and is less prone to curdling when reduced, making for thick, velvety, rich sauces.
Light whipping cream (aka whipping cream) At least 30% but less than 36% It whips up adequately (cream needs at least 30% fat to whip) and makes for more delicate reduction sauces.
Light cream (aka table cream or coffee cream) At least 18% but less than 30% Not enough fat to whip but it can handle slight reduction. We like the subtle richness it adds to soups and stews.
Half-and-half At least 10.5% but less than 18% A homogenized blend of milk and cream. Add at the end of cooking for a slightly creamy texture. It also makes for a decadent cup of hot cocoa. Don’t try to reduce it—its higher protein content can cause it to coagulate.
Whole milk A minimum of 3.25% Commonly homogenized and fortified with vitamin D. Because it’s high in protein and low in fat, it will coagulate if you try to boil it in a sauce.

Ultrapasteurized—What does it mean?

Ultrapasteurized cream and milk are brought to a higher temperature for a shorter period of time than regular pasteurized cream and milk (280°F for at least 2?seconds for ultrapasteurized as opposed to 161°F for at least 15 seconds for pasteurized).  Ultrapasteurization extends the shelf life (before opening) of milk and cream under refrigerated conditions.

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