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Cooking Tips

What is Cheesecloth and How to Use It

Don’t let its humble appearance fool you.
By 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:

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.