Butter Muslin vs. Cheesecloth

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Making cheese at home is easier than you think, but it’s important that you have the right supplies before you start. One of the most essential tools in cheese making is the cloth you use to strain the finished product. Two of the main types of cloth used are the butter muslin and the cheesecloth, but is one better than the other?

Butter muslin is a tightly woven cheesecloth made from 100% cotton. You can use it to strain soft cheese, ensuring that no lumps seep through. Cheesecloth is mainly used to remove whey from cheese curds and is generally more loosely woven than a butter muslin.

This article will explain the differences between butter muslins and cheesecloths in more detail. It will also explain what you can use them for and how to wash them. 

The Differences Between Butter Muslins and Cheesecloths

The main difference between butter muslin and cheesecloths is the type of cheeses they’re used with. Butter muslins are generally used with soft cheeses, whereas cheesecloths are better for hard cheese. 

The reasons you don’t typically use cheesecloth with soft cheese and include:

  • Butter muslins have a fine, tight weave that prevents lumps from seeping through the fabric. 
  • Cheese cloths have a looser weave which is helpful in removing whey from hard cheeses, allowing the liquid to fall through easier. 

When looking for butter muslin alternatives, it’s advised to use coffee filters or clean tea towels rather than cheesecloth. This is because cheesecloth would likely allow too much liquid through and even some smaller pieces of cheese.

That said, you could use cheesecloth if you layer it multiple times to mimic a tighter weave.  

In contrast, you could use butter muslin in place of cheesecloth, but you may find it doesn’t strain all the liquid away. 

What Is a Butter Muslin Cloth Used For?

Butter muslin is commonly used to drain soft cheeses, yogurts, jams, and soups. It can also be used to wrap poultry when cooking; this helps keep it together. It is suitable for soft liquids because the tight weaving prevents lumps from falling right through.

The cheeses suitable for a butter muslin include: 

  • Cream cheese 
  • Mascarpone 
  • Cottage cheese 

Using a butter muslin retains some much-needed moisture within the cheese rather than draining everything. 

Since muslin fabric is light and durable, it’s sometimes used to make light clothing in warmer climates. 

What Is a Cheesecloth Used For?

A cheesecloth is primarily used for hard cheese-making but can also drain stocks and broths. The cheeses that you should use with a cheesecloth include Cheddar and Emmental. 

The cheesecloth contributes to the final shape of the cheese, but you can also use it to cover drying cheese or line a cheese mold.

Can Butter Muslins and Cheese Cloths Be Reused?

Most cheesecloths and butter muslins can be washed and reused. However, since they are used to strain strong-smelling cheese and often contain clumps, it is essential to wash them thoroughly and remove all the debris. If they are not cleaned properly, it can affect the next batch of cheese. 

How To Wash Butter Muslins and Cheese Cloths

Muslins and cheesecloths can be washed the same way, and it is imperative to wash them correctly. If they are not washed correctly, they may not be clean enough for future use or may get damaged. 

The main steps of washing the cloth are rinsing, washing, and drying. Let’s take a closer look at these below:

Rinse

To start, you want to eliminate any leftover chunks in the cloth. Running it under cool water is the best way to do this. 

Using hot water tends to melt the leftover chunks, making it harder to remove them entirely. 

An important note: you don’t need any soap or other products for this step; all you need is water. 

Hot Wash

There are different ways you can wash the cloth, but the easiest way is to hand wash it. This way, you can be gentle and not worry about it tearing.

Other ways include using a washing machine or a dishwasher. These methods are handy if you don’t have the time to hand wash. 

To hand-wash:

  • Wash the cloth in hot water. 
  • Use a mild soap, so the scent doesn’t affect the next batch of cheese. 

To machine wash:

  • Use a delicate and hot setting. 
  • Don’t use strong soap to avoid residual scents.

You can also soak it in baking soda and use bleach before submerging it in hot water. However, this is not necessary every time you wash it.

Air Dry

Air drying is the most appropriate way to dry your butter muslin cloth or cheesecloth. Set it somewhere with plenty of light and airflow. 

Note: Don’t dry it in a dryer; this will likely cause damage and shrinkage!