Cheesecloth annoys me. I never seem to have quite enough of it for whatever I'm doing. It always comes apart and doubling or tripling it feels fussy. Plus, it irks me that you can't easily wash and reuse it. I recently decided to get rid of cheesecloth in my kitchen for good and have found these three substitutes to more than take its place.
1. Fine-Mesh Bags (pictured above): These bags are often used for making almond milk or for holding grains when making beer. They are typically made of nylon, come in multiple sizes, and can be machine washed. They won't stretch over time and are resistant to picking up stains or food odors. I love them because they are already bag-shaped, which makes it easy to strain things like cheese or fruit pulp. They can also be laid flat to create a double layer for even finer straining. You can find them at many natural food stores (called nut-milk bags), homebrewing supply stores (called mash bags), or online:
• More Than a Nut Bag, $10 from Amazon
2. Flour Sack Cloths: Flour sack towels are thin cotton towels with a loose weave — the weave is tighter than cheesecloth but looser than average dish towels. Sometimes I find the weave to be a little too tight for straining, which makes everything take longer, but the result is some of the cleanest, grit- and pulp-free liquid ever. Just like fine-mesh bags, these cloths can be thrown in the wash when you're done — plus they double as dishcloths! You can find them at many grocery stores, natural foods stores, or online:
• Flour Sack Towels, $14.95 from Amazon
3. Men's Large Handkerchiefs: Michael Ruhlman mentions using handkerchiefs instead of cheesecloth in his book Ratio, and I think it's brilliant. Cheap, easy to clean, reusable. Just be sure you designate which handkerchiefs are for kitchen use and which ones are for...er... other uses.
• Men's Large Handkerchiefs, $16.99 from Amazon
Have you also done away with cheesecloth in your kitchen? What do you use instead?
This post has been updated. Originally published September 23, 2009.