Spending more time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic has inspired a lot of people to come up with creative ways to use everyday products. (If you’re reading this article, then that may be you!) Thanks to a wealth of information online (and new social media platforms like TikTok), it’s easy to find smart, useful ideas and to try new things.
So what about cheesecloth? Maybe you have an old package of it tucked in the back of a kitchen cabinet or drawer. Is there anything that can be done with this thin, meshy cloth if you’re not an artisanal cheesemaker in your off time?
The answer to that is yes — of course!
What is cheesecloth, though?
Let’s begin with the basics. Cheesecloth is made of a cotton material, loosely woven, and it resembles thin gauze. Fun fact: There are actually seven different variations (or “grades”) of cheesecloth, ranging from an open weave to one that’s ultra-fine. As the name suggests, this cloth is used for making cheese. However, most of us don’t dabble in the fine art of cheesemaking, so let’s look at some other ways that you can get the most out of this kitchen tool.
Creative cheesecloth uses
If you have some, great! Pull it out and get ready to have some fun. If not, you can find cheesecloth easily online or in the kitchen tool section of your local grocery store.
1. Making tea
Don’t have a tea ball or strainer? You can wrap loose tea in cheesecloth (leaving enough room within the bundle for the tea to expand) then pour hot water over it for steeping.
2. Spice bags
When you’re making soup, stock or stew, sometimes recipes call for ingredients such as bay leaves, whole cloves or sticks of cinnamon. In those instances, tie up the loose ingredients in a cheesecloth for easy removal once your fragrant meal has been made. (This eliminates the step right before eating when you have to spoon through your soup or stew in search of lingering leaves.)
3. Basting meats
Meat eaters love a good, moist, roasted chicken or turkey, especially around the holidays. Soak your cheesecloth in a mixture of white wine, butter and olive oil (and/or whatever else you’d like), then wrap the cloth around the poultry while cooking. This will keep the meat moist and tender while also infusing all those yummy flavors into the skin.
4. Ultra-fine straining
Line a colander with cheesecloth for extra-fine straining, which works well for removing seeds from jellies, preparing stock or filtering coffee. You can also make olive oil infused with your favorite spices, almond (or oat or cashew) milk or a fresh fruit drink. All you need is a colander, a bowl to capture the infused (or strained) liquid and your handy dandy cheesecloth to do the fine straining.
5. Fine dusting
The final touch of many a dessert is a fine dusting of cocoa powder or powdered sugar. If you don’t have a small sieve around, try cheesecloth. Simply wrap a layer of cheesecloth over a jar (or any container) with some powdered sugar in it, then dust away. Your guests will be impressed with your decorating skills!
6. Non-food uses
Accidents happen in the kitchen. If you can find a bandage or medical gauze quickly during a minor crisis, wash your wound, cover with any necessary antibiotic cream and then wrap with a clean piece of unused cheesecloth.
You could also use cheesecloth to cover food while at an outdoor event or if there’s a fly in the house that’s waiting to munch on your meals while you’re not looking.
The list really could go on and on, but hopefully these cheesecloth uses are a launching pad for your creativity!
Can you reuse cheesecloth?
Now that you’re using cheesecloth for a multitude of purposes, you might be wondering, can it be reused?
Turns out you can wash cheesecloth in a washing machine or by hand. Begin by rinsing it to remove any large chunks of food, then place it in the washing machine (on a delicate setting) or wash by hand in the sink using mild detergents. For extra sterilization, you can boil the cheesecloth for five minutes. Handle gently for prolonged use.
Finally, cheesecloth in a sealed bag until the next time you’re ready to use it.