Cheesecloth was originally used to drain and wrap curds during the cheese making process.
The cloth allowed the whey to easily run through while allowing the curds to be bunched and squeezed.
This technique separates the solids from the liquids, leaving you with cheese.
Cheesecloth is used for everything from draining liquids, to straining broths, to thickening yogurt, or even sometimes used for cleaning.
What is Cheesecloth?
Cheesecloth is an extremely porous fabric made of loosely woven cotton; a type of gauze.
After use, a cheesecloth can be washed, dried and reused several times until it has holes or is in danger of disintegrating.
I try to keep a supply of new and used cheesecloth on hand at all times, and in emergencies use a kitchen towel.
What is Cheesecloth Used for?
This most versatile of fabrics can be utilized in so many different ways.
Most commonly used for food, as a way to squeeze whey from cheese curds, allowing 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.
Cheesecloth can be found in most grocery stores, hardware stores, and kitchen stores.
It comes in different grades, each with a certain weave making it thicker or thinner.
A grade 10 for example will be thin with about 12X20 threads per square inch, grade 40 or 50 will be a midweight, thicker and more durable.
While 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 wet. Use a brand that will maintain its shape and integrity.
- Coffee Filter – Filters are normally a very good substitute for cheesecloth given they are sturdy and stay 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.
- 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 cheesecloth substitute.
- Mesh Strainer – Some metal mesh strainers can be used when the mesh is very tightly woven.
- Use cheesecloth substitutes that are free of dyes, or impurities that can affect flavor and color.
- Whichever 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 easily put the bowl in the fridge if what I’m working with needs to be kept chilled.