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Equipment

What is Cheesecloth and How to Use It

Don’t let its humble appearance fool you.
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Published Apr. 26, 2022.

When you need to strain something like yogurt or ricotta, even fine-mesh isn’t enough to filter out the tiny particles. In times such as these, recipes often instruct to use cheesecloth, placing the food inside the cloth and gathering the edges to thoroughly squeeze out excess moisture. But truth be told, I’ve always had a lot of questions about this kitchen tool. What is it, exactly? Is there a right way to fold it into layers? And is it okay to wash and reuse it?

 I did a deep dive into the topic, and here’s what I found.

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What Is Cheesecloth?

 Cheesecloth is a highly absorbent, low-lint cotton fabric once used primarily for separating curds from whey in the cheese-making process and for wrapping pressed cheese. It is the food-grade equivalent of the cotton fabric used for bandages, book-binding, and myriad other commercial applications. 

Cheesecloth is sold in at least 6 different weave grades, distinguished by the number of threads running in each direction per inch. Cloth marketed for household cooking usually doesn’t display a grade, but often it’s  #10, a loose weave that still allows for a wide range of uses.

It’s simple to control how loose or tight your cheesecloth’s mesh is: simply open the cloth and refold it into layers. The more layers your cheesecloth has, the finer the particles it will trap. 

What Is Cheesecloth Used for?

Straining homemade fresh cheeses is just the tip of the iceberg. Use cheesecloth to strain homemade cold brew, nut milks, infused oil, stocks and broths, and tofu. It’s also handy for bundling herbs into a bouquet garni for soups or stews or around powdered sugar as a makeshift sifter. 

Can Cheesecloth Be Washed?

Lower grades of cheesecloth can fall apart if washed and re-used, but more tightly woven grades can be washed by hand in hot water and fragrance-free soap, hung to dry, and re-used multiple times.

Recipes to put your cheesecloth to work:

Thai-Style Sticky Rice (Khao Niaw)

This sticky rice ably soaks up the assertive flavors of any sauce and delivers satisfying chew.
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Avgolemono (Greek Chicken and Rice Soup with Egg and Lemon)

Egg and lemon give avgolemono a velvety consistency and a bright taste. We perfected these qualities while ensuring that every shred of chicken was tender and juicy.
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Frozen Yogurt

In most homemade fro yo, tangy taste and a creamy, smooth texture are mutually exclusive. We wanted both qualities in the same scoop.
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