When a recipe calls for a cheesecloth but you haven’t got one – what can you use instead as cheesecloth substitutes?
Cheesecloth was originally used to drain and wrap curds during the cheese making process.
The cloth allowed the whey to easily run through allowing the curds to be bunched and squeezed.
This technique separates the solids from the liquids.
There are many other uses for this type of cloth in the household.
Everything from draining liquids, to straining broths, to thickening yogurt, or even sometimes used for cleaning.
One of the things I like to use cheesecloth for is as a way to brown my roast turkey.
I first soak cheesecloth in vegetable oil, then cover the turkey breast in a double layer.
This method will help the turkey brown evenly.
l use cheesecloth regularly to make labneh, a thick version of yogurt.
I also use cheesecloth when making almond milk to drain the ‘milk’ and seperate it from the ground almonds.
I remember when I was a kid, a cheesecloth containing yogurt hanging over the sink at my grandmother’s house in Jerusalem.
This was her method of making homemade labneh.
I remember watching the drop, drop, drop of the whey falling into a bowl in the sink.
Nothing would go to waste.
Later the whey would either be used when making bread or as a way to enrich a stew or soup.
What is Cheesecloth?
Cheesecloth is an extremely porous fabric made of loosely woven cotton.
It is a type of gauze.
Gauze is a fabric that originated in Gaza, Palestine.
It is used for a many number of things from cooking, to making clothing, dressing wounds, and even in dissection laboratories.
After use, a cheesecloth can be washed, dried and reused several times until it has holes or is in danger of disintegrating.
I will keep a supply of new and used cheesecloth to have on hand for the different types of uses needed
What is Cheesecloth Used for?
This most versatile of fabrics can be utilized in so many different ways.
Most commonly used for food use is as a way to squeeze whey from cheese curds, allowing for the curds to be shaped into blocks of cheese.
Cheesecloth is used as a method to strain liquids, or as a way to make tea, or as a bouquet garni, a bag of herbs.
This is a way to use herbs in your cooking allowing all the flavor to pass into the dish that is later removed once the dish is done.
Cheesecloth can be found in most grocery stores, hardware stores, and kitchen stores.
I recommend that every kitchen have a supply on hand.
It comes in different grades which will differentiate the kind of weave depending on whether it is thicker or thinner.
A grade 10 for example will be thin with about 12X20 threads per square inch, and a grade 40 or 50 will be a midweight, which is thicker and more durable.
A grade 90 will be more like a solid fabric with 36X44 threads per square inch.
Here are a list of things I recommend you can use as cheesecloth substitutes when you don’t have the real thing to hand:
- Paper Towels – Be careful not to use cheap paper towels that will dissolve and disintegrate when it gets wet. Try and use a brand that will keep its shape and integrity.
- Coffee Filter – Filters are normally a very good substitute for cheesecloth given they are sturdy and stay together intact when wet.
- Cotton Handkerchief – Often made of linen, this can be a very good option especially when free of dyes and colors.
- Cotton Dish Towel – This is a sturdy option as long as the towel is not stitched too tightly. It will be important to allow the liquid to drip through.
- Cloth Diaper – (a new one!) – It will all depend on the type of diaper in this case. Obviously new and clean. Depending on the brand, some of these can work. I would use this as a last resort.
- Fine Mesh Bag – Anything that is nontoxic and made from some type of mesh that allows just the liquid to seep through will work.
- Muslin Fabric – Muslin is a perfect fabric to use instead of cheesecloth. It will definitely let liquid through while holding back anything that is more substantial.
- Nut Milk Bag – A bag made especially for draining liquid when making nut milk.
- Flour Sack Towel – Usually made from cotton this too can be a perfect substitute for cheesecloth.
Use cheesecloth substitutes that are free of dyes, or impurities that can affect flavor and color.
Whatever substitute I use I will always place it in a sieve over a bowl to allow for easy draining.
This method also allows me to put the bowl in the fridge if what I’m working with needs to be kept chilled.