Learn all about what is cheesecloth in this detailed article. Cheesecloth is a loosely-woven cotton cloth that looks like gauze. Back in the 1600s, this cloth was used to press curds, hence the name cheesecloth. Cheesecloth is primarily used in food preparation but it can also be used in cleaning and as a substitute for gauze.
What is Cheesecloth?
Cheesecloth is popularly used in preparing food. As mentioned above, it was used in draining and wrapping curds to make cheese for as early as the 15th century. It’s generally lightweight and it has an open texture.
Since cheesecloth is made from gauze fabric, its texture is light and it’s very versatile. It’s great for straining herbs and other solids from water in your recipes. Apart from cheesemaking, it can be used when making other homemade food such as almond milk, tofu, and ketchup.
Where to Buy Cheesecloth
Cheesecloth is readily available in fabric and haberdashery stores as well as many grocery stores.
Types of Cheesecloth
Cheesecloth has 7 grades which each grade being determined by their thickness. In order to determine the thickness of the cheesecloth, you’d usually count the number of threads in an inch. The higher the number of threads in an inch, the thicker the cheesecloth, and hence the more durable it is.
The grades are also categorized into units of 10, each unit signifies the cloth is stronger and can handle more heavy-weight applications. For example, a grade 10 and 20 cheesecloth’s weave is open and allows materials to pass through easily. While a grade 90 cheesecloth would have a less open weave, making it more durable but liquids will not be able to pass through as easily as grade 10 or 20.
What is Cheesecloth Grades?
Before you buy or use cheesecloth, it’s important to know which grade you will need. Each grade is used for different purposes and you might just end up spending a lot of time and resources on the wrong kind of grade. Not only that, it will help you make your tasks easier. Grades are classified by the number of vertical and horizontal threads per inch.
There are 7 grades of cheesecloth which are categorized into 3 kinds. As the grade goes higher, the durability and strength of the cloth improve as well. Here are the different grades.
Open Weave Cheesecloth
There are 2 kinds of open weave cheesecloth: first is the #10 grade, sizing up to 20x12. Next is the #20 grade, which has a 20x16 thread count.
These two lower graded cheesecloths are generally the cheapest but disposable. Although they are loosely woven, the holes in the cloth are still close enough to block solids from passing through. Because of this, the lower grade cheesecloths are primarily used for draining and filtering. They have a wide range of use too and they can be used for cleaning, polishing, and waxing.
Finer Weave Cheesecloth
The finer weaves are Cheesecloths with units #50, #60, and #70. These are 24x20, 28x24, and 32x38 thread counts, respectively.
These finer weave cheesecloth can also be used for the same purposes as the open weave. They have higher quality so they’re more expensive. However, they can be washed to be reused which makes them more economical compared to the lower grade weave.
Finer weave cheesecloth can be used in food preparation but it can also be used for paintings, furniture finishing, or as a cover for items.
Extra Fine Weave Cheesecloth
Last but certainly not least are the Extra Fine Weaves. They are the #80 and #90 units which are 40x32 and 44x36 thread counts, respectively.
Of the 3 weaves, extra-fine weaves are the most expensive but they are the most durable. They can be washed and reused for other purposes. These weaves are generally used to make cheeses and butter, dresses, book bindings, and even in making tea bags.
What is Cheesecloth Used For?
Although cheesecloth is mostly used in the kitchen, it can be used in different tasks. Having one in your can be handy because of its versatility. Below is the list of the different uses of Cheesecloth inside and outside the kitchen.
Usually, strainers are used when it comes to separating water from solids. But in some recipes, it requires a finer sieve. This is where cheesecloth shines.
Make sure to properly rinse the cheesecloth before you use it to remove any lint on the fabric. With your strainer, put the cheesecloth on top like a layer. Filter your ingredients through as you would and you’ll notice that the quality of the filtered product is clearer and better.
This is great for removing curds from yogurt, making homemade stock and juice, and filtering your coffee and tea.
Infusing Herbs and Spices
Another way to use cheesecloth is by using it for herbal infusions. Through this method, you won’t need to drain the whole pot. Straining can be difficult especially if you have to do it in big batches.
Simply place your herbs and spices inside the cheesecloth. Carefully wrap it and tie it up before placing it in a pot. When you’re done, just remove the whole cheesecloth bag and serve. You can do this when you’re adding flavor to your stock or if you’re planning to brew some tea.
You can use cheesecloth when you want to cover your food during picnics or if you’re just hanging outside with some barbeque. This can keep all those flies from pestering your snacks.
If you want to dust your desserts with some confectionary sugar or cocoa powder, using cheesecloth can make it look like it was done by a pro. You can do this by placing a cheesecloth over a jar and then pulling it as tight as you can. Then make sure to secure it so you won’t have trouble cleaning up.
Keep your poultry and meat from drying up in the oven with a cheesecloth. To keep the food moist, drench the cheesecloth with the marinade you used for the meat before wrapping it up and putting it in the oven.
The extra-fine grade cheesecloth is quite durable in that it can be sewn to make clothing. It has a certain look to it, so most cheesecloth dresses are styled for summer. It’s also great to wear during hot and humid weather since the fabric is light but durable.
Cheesecloth is often used for clothing with a deliberately wrinkled and twisted look. This type of clothing should be twisted to dry to maintain its shape.
What is Cheesecloth Painting
Cheesecloth can also be used in painting and arts. It can be used to remove glaze, a technique artists call ragging. Compared to other fabrics, cheesecloth creates a softer effect. It can also be used in other textile art projects.
Cheesecloth’s weave provides enough friction that can remove the water and gunk stains from your pots and even from your silverware. You can use it by dampening the cloth and then adding some baking soda to polish them. You can even use cheesecloth to clean your delicate jewelry so that it can shine again without being too abrasive.
Since gauze is similar to cheesecloth, they make a good substitute for emergencies. Make sure you wash the wound first with soap and water before loosely wrapping a clean cheesecloth around it. Also if you will be using it to cover wounds, make sure you never reuse it again for sanitation purposes.
What is Cheesecloth Substitutes
If you are stuck at home and can't go out and buy some cheesecloth, you may be wondering what is cheesecloth substitutes. The easies to find is a tightly woven cotton fabric such as a pillowcase, napkin or towel. If you are using it for straining food it will likely be ruined so keep this in mind when choosing what to use.
Laundry bags that you use for washing lingerie make a good substitute. They are usually quite fine and makes a good strainer.
Here are some other suggestions as cheesecloth substitutes:
- Fine kitchen sieve
- Coffee Filters
What is Cheesecloth Cleaning?
While the open weave cheesecloth should be disposed of after use, finer and extra-fine weave cheesecloth can be reused. However, if you don’t properly sanitize it, leftover bacteria can grow on it, which is harmful if you’re using cheesecloth in the kitchen. So, for food safety reasons, here are the different methods you can follow to make sure your cheesecloth is clean.
Cleaning Cheesecloth By Hand
After using your cheesecloth, immediately prepare hot water where you can rinse it. Get rid of the stains immediately with some soap and water.
If your cheesecloth has some food leftover on it or if the stains are hard to remove, make a solution of baking soda and water. Soak the cloth in that solution for 30 minutes before rinsing it thoroughly afterward.
You can also boil the cheesecloth in water for 5 minutes to kill any germs or bacteria that may have been left on the cheesecloth after you used it. You can also boil the cheesecloth before using it next time so that you can make sure it’s properly sanitized and it won’t transfer germs to your food.
Cleaning Cheesecloth By Machine
If you’re using a washing machine, rinse your cheesecloth first in hot water before tossing it in. Make sure to use a delicate detergent and that it’s not washed together with other clothes so that it won’t be damaged.
What is Cheesecloth? - In Conclusion
Now you know what is cheesecloth and that there are different grades to choose from, you will be able to distinguish between open weave and extra-fine weave. You won’t have to worry about using the wrong grade of cheesecloth, whether you are using it for clothing, draining or painting. Cheesecloth is very versatile, so having one at your home is a great investment.