Soup

Never Buy Cheesecloth Again

January 31, 2017

How many times have you undergone a mid-recipe investigation of where-oh-where did my cheesecloth go? It’s that kitchen thing we think is essential (until now!), but it’s not always there for us.


The problems with cheesecloth

How much cheesecloth do you think you’ve garbaged in your lifetime? Yeah, you can’t really reuse cheesecloth. How much money do you think you’ve spent on cheesecloth? It’s not cheap—and when you have to double or triple up cheesecloth layers to strain something, this non-reusable material can cost you more than one pretty penny. Also, cheesecloth is typically sold in pre-cut sizes, which might not be the right size for what you need it for.

And my personal gripes: How many times has your cheesecloth jammed your scissors? I can’t possibly be alone on this one. And does cheesecloth have legs, because mine always walks off.


The fix

This genius solution comes from the front matter of Andrea Nguyen’s new book, The Pho Cookbook. (You always read the front matter in cookbooks, right?) It’s found at any old fabric store; it’s cheap—in fact, you want to buy the cheapest version. It’s muslin!

Muslin catches impurities like a dream.
Andrea Nguyen, in the pho cookbook

In the book, Andrea uses it to strain pho broth, but she uses it in place of cheesecloth in lots of applications. You’ll want to pick muslin that’s 100% cotton, unbleached, and lightweight—Andrea says, “think of a shirt that you’d be happy to wear in the hot summer.” The cheaper the quality, the looser the weave, which is good as a cheesecloth stand-in since it will still be tighter than cheesecloth.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Wow, love this tip because cheesecloth most definitely has legs! In the same vein (but not nearly so clever) -- I depend heavily on paper clips in the kitchen to close bags that aren't resealable. So much cheaper/more practical than those bulky chip clips.”
— EmilyC
Comment

You can purchase any quantity you need, and cut to the dimensions you need. Be sure to give it a wash before using it. Then, once you’ve strained your broth or mulled wine, rinse with fragrance-free soap, wring it out, and hang it to dry. Use again to your heart’s content! Then, once you’ve retired your fabric as a cheesecloth, it can shape-shift into a kitchen towel.


Double Duties

Since muslin is porous enough to mimic cheesecloth, I’d imagine you could also use it in place of nut milk bags, or you could also make your own herb and spice sachets at a fraction of the cost.

We couldn't think of a time when you couldn't use muslin instead of cheesecloth—can you?

Are Your Muslin Squares Ready?

Tell us: What household items are your kitchen lifesavers?

30 Comments

Cindy F. July 2, 2018
I use an old pillowcase, which is cotton. Have washed it over and over again. I cut it down to a workable size. Works great. <br />
 
Tracy R. July 21, 2017
Um... good quality cheesecloth can be used over and over, not like that flimsy crap, and you only need one layer not sixteen. Please do more research.
 
nancy E. July 21, 2017
Thanks for this. I can't believe the price here in Canada for a square of cheesecloth<br />
 
Angana March 2, 2017
We have always used Muslin for cheese making. It's cheap, durable and easily available. Atleast in India.
 
Sharon February 6, 2017
Cheese cloth can absolutely be used more than once. I've been doing it for YEARS with my bi-monthly ricotta making. Just like muslin, it can be washed, rinsed, dried and reused as many times as you like, or until it falls apart. I dry mine on the oven racks overnight. Since I have gas ovens, the pilot light provides the perfect amount of heat to dry things thoroughly and safely. In a few hours it's dry and ready to be put away until the next use. BTW, coffee filters can also be rinsed, dried and reused in the same manner. Saves money AND saves the planet. We throw away far too much, needlessly.
 
kareema February 8, 2017
I came here to say the same thing. Muslin is great, no doubt about it, but cheesecloth definitely has its place.
 
jude1 February 19, 2018
On the oven racks! Thank you.
 
Sharon February 20, 2018
You're welcome!
 
deanna1001 February 5, 2017
I use men's cotton handkerchiefs. They are cheap, washable and work like a dream. Also a good size. Haven't bought cheesecloth in forever!<br />
 
Jane Y. February 5, 2017
Wow I can't believe you all didn't know about muslin!! It's always been used in UK I live in Cyprus and use it all the time to make labne I microwave it before I use it to sterilise it.
 
Jane Y. February 5, 2017
J Cloths are also good
 
Cat A. March 8, 2017
Ooooh! I never thought about microwaving. Silly question, but microwave wet or dry? I'm assuming wet, then you hang it to cool a bit?
 
isabelita February 5, 2017
Paper coffee filters. Chemex for big jobs like straining spinach for pie.
 
Daria February 4, 2017
Single use cheesecloth? That's a first for me, wow... Didn't even know it existed! In my country, cheesecloth comes off a bolt in a fabric store, 100% cotton and perfectly washable until one gets fed up with it.
 
Tracy R. July 21, 2017
We can get that here, it's just not what's sold in supermarkets because they want repeat business.
 
randii February 1, 2017
You can actually wash cheesecloth and use it several times. It's not that difficult.
 
nomnomMKE February 1, 2017
I'm digging this muslin idea. If you're looking for cheaper cheesecloth, though, try the paint or grouting section of the hardware store. You can buy a much bigger bag of it for cheaper, and it's not precut, so you can make longer pieces.
 
Amy P. February 1, 2017
I bought a nylon nut milk bag because I was getting so sick of tossing cheesecloth after straining yogurt 2x/wk. It cleans pretty well and dries quickly but because it's a bag it's annoying to get the strained yogurt back out of it and to clean the seam. I think a loose-weave muslin is in my future, although I wish I knew where to buy a flat square of this nylon stuff. It's excellent.
 
Lynn D. January 31, 2017
I find old thin tshirt material works well.
 
Smaug January 31, 2017
Cheesecloth is certainly expensive if you buy it precut and packaged at the supermarket, but so, for example is parchment- it's cheaper to use aluminum foil. I don't use it much myself- more to strain lacquer than anything else- but I suspect it's pretty cheap in bulk. Like if you run a cheese company.
 
HalfPint January 31, 2017
My mother had a couple of muslin squares that she used for years and years. Way more economical than buying cheesecloth that only one-use.
 
AntoniaJames January 31, 2017
I use this butter muslin - https://www.amazon.com/Butter-Muslin-2-sq-yards/dp/B004QISGIA -- the weave is looser than muslin from the fabric store, which to my mind is not suitable for tying up herbs. This is perfect for soaking in booze when wrapping holiday cakes, e.g., Kentucky Whiskey cake -- so much so that my father, who has been making whiskey cakes and fruitcakes since my mother died a few years ago, actually commented on how nice this butter muslin is. It may be a bit more expensive than muslin by the yard at the fabric store, but as someone who uses a lot of cheesecloth in a lot of different ways, I do think it really is the best. It cuts easily, provided your scissors are reasonably sharp, and can be washed either by hand or in the washer. Highly recommended! ;o)<br />East Bay folks, you can find it, at a lower price than on Amazon, at Oak Barrel Winecraft on San Pablo in Berkeley, a block south of REI.
 
chris January 31, 2017
I use kitchen towels (paper ones) for most filtering tasks.
 
Heather January 31, 2017
I don't remember where I got the idea (but certainly no original to me), but I keep a stack of men's handkerchiefs as a substitute. The weave might be a little finer than I'd like, but reuseable, hemmed, and inexpensive.
 
Derrick February 1, 2017
Was it Michael Ruhlman?
 
EmilyC January 31, 2017
Wow, love this tip because cheesecloth most definitely has legs! <br /><br />In the same vein (but not nearly so clever) -- I depend heavily on paper clips in the kitchen to close bags that aren't resealable. So much cheaper/more practical than those bulky chip clips.
 
stingraystirs January 31, 2017
Thanks! Welcome tip after my recent cheesecloth and scissors incident ( I definitely can relate)..<br />
 
SMSF January 31, 2017
EmilyC - I use wooden spring-type clothespins for closing bags (cereal, chips, etc.) and for corralling papers around the house. Inexpensive and kind of cute, too!
 
amysarah January 31, 2017
I have roughly 97 of these at work in my kitchen at all times - cheap, strong and they don't rust: http://www.dickblick.com/products/acco-binder-clips/<br /><br />I like the muslin idea - my cheesecloth consumption is over the top.
 
chaim October 3, 2017
If you buy grade 90 cheesecloth it can be reused again and again. Cheesecloth.com is a great resource.