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.
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!
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.
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.
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?