Cheesecloths have been part of cooking for centuries, but some of us don’t always have one handy. It may seem unnecessary to buy a cheesecloth until the day comes when you have to carefully strain something.
If this is the case, and you can’t find cheesecloth anywhere, try some of these options instead.
What Is A Cheesecloth?
This cotton cloth is a very fine mesh that resembles gauze. Its main purpose is to help strain cheese curds or store cheese properly, but it has become useful in making lots of different recipes.
Usually, you can buy this item in delicatessens, kitchenware stores, organic supermarkets, or online.
Cheesecloths come in various grades, which vary from open to extra fine. The grade is given based on the number of threads per inch in every direction of the cloth. Depending on what you need to use it for, you will need to determine the adequate grade.
How Do You Use Cheesecloth?
There are various ways to use a cheesecloth these days, but some of the most common uses include:
- Cheesemaking: As the name suggests, cheesemaking tends to be the main purpose of a cheesecloth. In this case, it helps strain the cheese curds away from the solids during the process of making cheese.
- Fermenting and Pickling: When making homemade fermented or pickled foods, you can use a cheesecloth to hold herbs and spices in the cooking process without actually mixing them with anything else.
- Making Tofu: Similar to cheese, when you make tofu at home, a cheesecloth can separate the liquids from the solids.
- Almond/Nut Milk: When you make homemade almond or nut milk, a cheesecloth can come in handy in separating the small nut solids from the liquid after you are done with the blender.
What Can I Replace Cheesecloth With?
If you can’t seem to find one or buying one is too difficult, then these cheesecloth substitutes can come in handy when you are preparing your favorite foods:
For Straining, Cheese, Ricotta, Herbs, and Bouquet Garni
#1. Cotton Fabric
Since a cheesecloth is already made of cotton, using a fabric made of this same material can work. You can use anything from a bandana, cloth napkin, pillowcase, or a scrap of fabric.
Make sure that you use an item you don’t care about as the food will likely ruin it afterward.
These items are usually common in every house, but if they are not, you can try a local grocery, housewares, or hardware store. Use a cotton fabric when you need to strain foods, when making cheese, or when you need to tie herbs into a bouquet garni.
#2. Mesh Bag
A fine mesh bag is a good cheesecloth replacement in cases where you need to strain, make cheese, add tied herbs to cooking food, or store things. These bags have various uses at home, including washing laundry, making nut milk, or paint strainer.
You can use mesh bags more than once. They usually last longer, so they may be worth buying.
If you don’t already have a mesh bag, it will be easy to find in any hardware store, housewares store, or even a grocery store. You can wash these bags in the laundry machine and air-dry them at home for reuse at any time.
#3. Kitchen Towel
Some of those old school kitchen towels are made of the same weave as a cheesecloth, so using them can be easy. You will need to squeeze and strain longer, as these towels tend to be a bit thicker.
Use a kitchen towel you don’t care about anymore, as it will likely become dirty and wrinkled, though you can save it for more straining or cheesemaking tasks later.
While it is probable that you already have a kitchen towel like this, you can buy it in any housewares or hardware store. Use this choice when you need to strain, when making cheese, and when making any kind of nut milk.
For Baking, Yogurt, Sourdough Starter, Butter, and Soup
#4. Medical Gauze
While it may seem weird, medical gauze has the same design and fabric as cheesecloth. However, most gauze has a very open grade, so you should line various pieces of gauze together before using them.
You can find medical gauze in any first aid kit, pharmacy, or grocery store.
Use this choice when you want to make yogurt, sourdough, butter, and when you need to strain something before baking. Make sure you use at least three pieces together as you strain, but you may want to stack various pieces together and replace them as they get worn out.
#5. Coffee Filter
This choice is very useful and easy to find, but it may be a bit hard to use as it is very delicate. You may already have coffee filters at home, but if you don’t, find them in any grocery, convenience, and housewares stores.
Since these filters are paper, they can break easily, so keep an eye out as you use them to replace or stack more when needed.
Use coffee filters when making yogurt, sourdough starter, butter, or when you need to strain during baking. If you want a thicker cheesecloth substitute, try using many coffee filters at once and hold them together tightly.
#6. Paper Towels
This is the last option for a reason, but in a pinch, it can work well. Paper towels are often used as coffee filters or in straining when nothing else is available. To use paper towels, stack many of them over a bowl before you begin straining and replace them as they begin to break.
Use paper towels when straining soup or before baking, when you make cheese, yogurt, butter, or sourdough. Since these towels are very fine and absorbent, you will likely lose a bit of liquid in the process.
A cheesecloth is usually made of a loose-woven cotton material that looks like gauze. It varies depending on the grade you want, but most of them contain cotton or some cotton-like recycled fabric.
If you need to drain ricotta and don’t have a cheesecloth, you can use any of these substitutes, or a strainer. A fine cloth fabric, mesh bag, or gauze can work in straining the curds from these cheese. If you prefer it, you can also use a very fine strainer, like the one used in tea.
When it comes to picking the best cheesecloth, grade 90 is usually the finest weave and best quality. This means that this grade will last longer, stronger, and will last various uses.
If you love cheesemaking, then you surely have a cheesecloth at home. Still, that’s not the case for most of us, so what should we do when a recipe asks for one? These 6 alternatives are all easy to find and very easy to use in place of a cheesecloth.
For more food substitutes, check our guide!