My Father used to say “keep it simple” I wish over the years I had paid a little more attention to that statement, especially in my cheese making endeavors.
Part of the problem, of course, is just the simple fact----as a rookie, you just don’t know what equipment will work best for you. In my case, I have spent hundreds of dollars on Items that seemed a good idea at the time and now just sit on the shelf and collect dust.
Now I could write a whole book on all the gizmos and gadgets I have made and bought, that turned out to be nothing but a big headache ------no need to worry---- I am only going to give my personal views on using rectangular pans, including a clear poly pan with a built in drain. I will also cover my thoughts on the “griddle method” of heating these pans. I will include some photos at the end.
When I first started making cheese, I used round vats----ranging from 4 gallons to ten gallons. I used every heating method ----double boilers-- to direct heat. Tried gas stove, hot plates and induction cookers. Probably had more success just using really hot water in the sink. When I saw fellow forum members using the rectangular pans and the griddle, I saw some real advantages and some down side, too. Such as the large investment I already had in round equipment and a limit on size. Having finally decided to “bite the bullet”. I contacted John at http://www.perfect-cheese.com/
and purchased the griddle, controller and a full size poly pan with a drain---also a clear poly lid. I already had some Stainless steam pans in various sizes and later John sent a large S.S. pan that would accommodate even the full size Steam pan.
I have now made 10 cheeses with different variations of this setup-----including 5 cheddar's. I have been using a perforated steam pan for my cheddar's that has greatly simplified the whole cheddaring process . I had one near failure when the temperature controller readout froze, but the temp kept rising----When I finally saw what was happening , my two hours of cheddaring became 15 minutes----apparently the higher temp made the PH drop much quicker-----fortunately the cheese turned out to be pretty good anyway.
In my opinion. I prefer the rectangular pans and griddle method to the others I have tried----but there are some caveats. If you use the poly pan, the silicone pad on the griddle needs to be thicker. You still need a thermometer in the “soup” in case of digital controller failure, and if you want to make more then 5 or 6 gallons----you’ll need to get the round vats out.
I have had no trouble reaching or maintaining proper temps. but there is a learning curve on where to properly set the devices for the best results.
The built in drain on the polly pan is the most useful gadget I have come across, period----it simplifies the whole process, I am considering adding drain valves to most of my vats.
Curd cutting is so much easier in the rectangle mode-----but the next curd cutter I make will have one side that conforms to the sides of these pans, as the sides are slightly angled in, towards the bottom.
I hope this helps some people that may be undecided on what equipment to start out with----I kind of wish I had started out “square”, but remember other forum members may have completely different opinions.