If you like to eat, or you watch cooking TV shows then you’ve probably heard of a cheesecloth; you’ve probably even enjoyed the fruits of that cloth’s labor. But have you ever used a cheesecloth? Yeah, neither have we. In fact, until we wrote this we thought it was a cloth covered in cheese. Sounds far less appetizing than what this culinary tool is actually used for. According to Cooking Light, a cheesecloth is “a cotton cloth that is loosely woven and resembles gauze. It comes in seven grades, from open to extra-fine weave. The grade is determined by the amount of threads per inch constructed in each direction.” Yes, a cheesecloth is used for making cheese (we’ll get to that below), but it is also used for a wide variety of cooking uses that require straining or a separation of ingredients.
And the best part is this tool, which you will use time and time again, is widely available and really inexpensive. You can find them everywhere from Amazon to Bed Bath & Beyond to Wal-Mart and more. And if you’re wondering what you would actually make with this product, we’re here to help. Here are 10 delicious things you can make with a cheesecloth, and we promise once you make them you’ll wonder why you’ve waited so long to add this tool to your kitchen arsenal.
1. Roast Turkey and Stuffing If you’ve always been a bit nervous to roast a turkey, then this tool is going to change your life and your Thanksgiving. Instead of basting your turkey constantly and watching your bird to make sure it doesn’t burn, you simply soak a cheese cloth in butter (yum) and cover the breasts so that you lock in flavor and the bird cooks perfectly without the skin prematurely burning. It’s an easy hack that delivers a delicious turkey every time.
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2. Ricotta Cake This deliciously creamy cake made with ricotta, cinnamon, vanilla, Arborio rice and milk is insanely indulgent. What makes it so special is the ricotta (you use 3 pounds), and to make sure your cake is perfectly moist but not watery you need to soak the ricotta overnight and try to remove as much moisture as possible. Which is where the cheese cloth comes in handy—wrap the ricotta in your cloth and let it sit overnight to get rid of any excess liquid.
3. Seven Vegetable Cous Cous Making perfectly fluffy cous cous is sometimes a bit of a challenge, and while instant cous cous is always an easy option, it’s equally simple to use a cheese cloth set in a bamboo steamer to perfectly cook your grains and make a dish that is light, flavorful and so tasty.
4. Olive Oil Poached Salmon One of the greatest ways to use a cheese cloth is to keep your herbs and spices contained so that they can season your dish without becoming a part of your dish. In this recipe you use a cloth to wrap several aromatics (garlic, thyme, bay leaves etc.) and let them simmer in olive oil so that the oil become full of flavor before you poach your fish. The result is salmon that is moist, cooked to perfectly, insanely delicious but also simply. And clean up is a piece of cake since all your herbs are wrapped up neatly in one place.
5. Homemade Ricotta with Apricots and Walnuts Not surprisingly, a cheesecloth is the perfect tool to make, what else, cheese. This recipe requires only 5 ingredients and one key piece of equipment—the cheese cloth. The cloth is used over a sieve to help drain the cheese and remove all excess moisture so that you achieve the creamy, delicious consistency we all know and love when it comes to ricotta. It’s seriously easy and once you try it you’ll be whipping up this cheese dish for every dinner party you ever host.
6. Chicken Soup What’s better than homemade chicken soup? There’s a reason that chicken soup is considered to be food for the soul and Jewish penicillin—because it’s so delicious and so soothing. It also happens to be kinda a pain to make, unless you know some tricks, like using a cheese cloth to contain all your herbs and spices. This recipe calls for a cheesecloth bag tied with kitchen string to hold the bay leaves, parsley stems, dill stems, head of garlic and whole black peppercorns. When the soup is ready you simply remove the cloth bag and voila—all the flavor and none of the little pieces of herbs to get stuck in your teeth.
7. Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi With Quick Tomato Sauce Is there such a thing as gross pasta? We’d argue that pasta is always delicious, but this dish happens to be on a whole other level of yummy. It makes sense actually—you’re combining ricotta with spinach, eggs, Parmesan and all sorts of good seasoning. And those gnocchi are going to be doused in a rich homemade tomato sauce that will make all your jarred sauce taste like garbage (sorry it’s true). And without a cheese cloth this recipe won’t work; it’s crucial you let the ricotta drain overnight and remove moisture so that your gnocchi are light and fluffy.
8. Almond Milk There’s no denying that almond milk is incredibly good for you; it’s loaded with calcium and vitamin D and low in sodium and cholesterol. Plus it’s great if you have intolerance to lactose or you’re trying to go dairy-free. And you can make it at home; all you need are a few ingredients, a blender and a cheese cloth to strain the mixture into the smooth, creamy beverage you know and love.
9. Pappardelle with “Osso Buco” Ragu Raise you hand if you like veal ragu. Yeah, we thought so. This recipe takes a dish that is rich, delicious, and impressive to serve, and makes it fairly simple to do at home. It takes some time to achieve the perfect meat that falls off the bone and is loaded with flavor, but it’s worth the time. And using a cheese cloth to contain the herbs and spices—or what they call a bouquet garni—makes it much easier to make.
10. Homemade Herbed Paneer Cheese Cheese is always a crowd pleaser, but it’s especially amazing when it’s freshly made and loaded with fresh herbs and good olive oil. With this recipe the cheese cloth doubles as a way to drain the extra liquid from the cheese mixture (reserving the curds) and as a way to gather and shape the cheese into the more solid texture you will ultimately serve and eat.