In this article, I will share butcher’s cooking twine substitutes and share how to use them. I will also explain what other types of twine you can (or cannot) use instead of butcher’s cooking twine.
The best substitutes for butcher’s cooking twine include dental floss, skewers, cheesecloth, baking paper, toothpicks, and aluminum foil. Alternatively, you can use sisal twine, or you can choose to cook some foods without twine. Take note that synthetic twines may not be suitable for baking.
Please read on for more details about each possible replacement.
1. Dental Floss
It might not be the first type of substitute that comes to mind, but dental floss is a good idea if you’re out of butcher’s twine. Dental floss is not only food-safe but also oven safe, so you won’t have to worry about it burning under high heat.
Dental floss is often much easier to find than butcher’s twine, and it has emerged as one of the most popular substitutes. However, not all types of dental floss are appropriate for this particular purpose. It is best to use unwaxed and unflavored dental floss since the wax can melt under heat, and the minty flavor can ruin the taste of the food you’re preparing.
If you need butcher’s twine to keep pieces of meat or other types of food together, you can use skewers just as easily. Simply pierce the piece of meat and push the skewer in until you’ve ensured everything will stay intact. Both metal and wooden skewers are suitable.
If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water to avoid burning in high heat. Metal skewers are naturally resistant to heat, but take care not to touch them with your bare hand after being in the oven to prevent injury.
Keep in mind, if you have a large piece of meat, it is better to use metal or bamboo skewers instead of regular wooden skewers that could break halfway in.
Toothpicks are also a good substitute for butcher’s twine, especially if you use them for smaller pieces of food. Like with wooden skewers, if you’re putting them in the oven, soak them in water before use to avoid burning them.
Stick the toothpicks in the meat, making sure they go all the way through.
Also, be mindful of the size of the toothpicks. Unlike skewers, toothpicks can easily get lost inside the food and become an unpleasant surprise once you try to take a bite. Don’t use toothpicks for large pieces of food, and be sure to remove them all before serving your finished dish.
4. Silicone Cooking Bands
Silicone cooking bands are round and quite flexible– similar to rubber bands in principle. (Take note, however, that you should never use rubber bands; they will melt and make your food inedible.) These bands are made of food-safe silicone, which is resistant to heat, so you won’t have to worry about the bands melting. You can find silicone bands of different sizes, but typically they are suitable for smaller amounts of food.
When using silicone cooking bands, simply stretch them out and wrap them around the food the same as you would with butcher’s twine. After roasting, carefully remove or cut them without touching the meat, as it can fall apart much more easily once cooked.
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You may not have even considered it, but cheesecloth is actually a great substitute for butcher’s twine. Not only will it keep the food intact, but it may also contribute to a better taste and texture. Simply wrap the food with the cloth, which will trap moisture inside while letting the steam out, so the meat will be flavorful and juicy.
You won’t have to worry about cheesecloth burning since it is made of absorbent fibers. Alternatively, if wrapping the whole piece of meat with cheesecloth doesn’t sound like a good idea, you can cut the cloth into strings and use them exactly as you would use regular butcher’s twine.
6. Baking Paper
You won’t have any issues with baking paper burning or even igniting in the oven. Baking paper can be used like cheesecloth; you can either wrap a whole sheet around the food or cut it into segments and then tie it around pieces of meat. If you choose the latter, make sure to create thick “strings” of baking paper; otherwise, they won’t be able to hold the food together.
An additional advantage of baking paper is it doesn’t stick to food. No matter how hot or sticky the food is, you’ll be able to remove the baking paper easily in just a few seconds.
The only difference from butcher’s twine is that baking paper is not elastic, so you must wrap or tie it tightly to ensure it won’t unwrap in the oven.
7. Aluminum Foil
Aluminum foil is a staple in most kitchens and a great substitute for butcher’s cooking twine. The fact that it is food-safe and resistant to heat makes it ideal for roasting and baking. Similar to baking paper or cheesecloth, you can use aluminum foil to wrap or tie different types of meat.
If wrapping food before putting it in the oven, make sure to fold the foil tightly against the meat to prevent it from falling apart while roasting. While heat resistant, aluminum is not very strong and can tear apart quickly. Moreover, be sure to remove the aluminum foil immediately after cooking because the foil traps the steam inside, which may result in overcooked and soggy meat.
8. Oven Bag
Oven cooking bags may look like typical plastic bags, but they have certain qualities that make them useful and versatile in the kitchen. These bags are made of heat-resistant nylon or polyethylene and can be safely used in high heat. Typically, they are used for roasting large cuts of meat or whole birds.
The primary purpose of these bags is to keep the meat moist while roasting by trapping the steam inside. As a butcher’s cooking twine substitute, however, it is not an ideal choice. Notwithstanding, it can be useful in particular cases. An oven bag might not be able to keep the food tightly wrapped, but it can still ensure that it will not fall apart entirely.
9. Don’t Use Anything
Butcher’s cooking twine is absolutely necessary only in very particular cases, like when you’re making porchetta or other dishes that include multiple elements.
In other cases, if you don’t have any of the above substitutes in your kitchen, you can simply cook the food without using anything. For instance, if you want to truss a chicken using twine, you can tuck the wingtips underneath the body for a similar effect. For other types of food, strategic placement can make a difference and eliminate the need for any additional tools to help.
Can I Use Regular Twine for Cooking?
While considering butcher’s twine substitutes, you may start thinking about options that are not usually used for food preparation. For instance, if you don’t have the typical cotton butcher’s twine but have regular twine, you may wonder if it is a good idea to use it with food. The answer depends on what the string is made of.
It is not a good idea to use regular twine for cooking. Most regular twines used for decorative purposes are made of cotton and synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester. Such synthetic materials can melt in the oven and may give the food an unpleasant smell or transmit harmful chemicals.
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Can I Use Jute Twine for Cooking?
Jute twine is not made from synthetic materials; rather, it is made of natural fibers from different varieties of the jute plant. You may already have some jute twine in your kitchen since it is widely used for decoration, food packaging, keeping herbs in bundles, and more.
You cannot use jute twine for cooking. Jute twine has tiny fibers poking out of it that will get stuck in your food. Additionally, jute cannot withstand high temperatures and will melt during the cooking process, even if soaked in water beforehand.
Can I Use Sisal Twine for Cooking?
Sisal twine is similar in nature to jute twine, as it is made of agave plant fibers. Yet, unlike jute, sisal is much stronger and more durable, so it is commonly used to securely tie packages, cargo, and even hay bales. However, does that mean you use it for cooking?
You can use sisal twine for cooking so long as it is 100% organic. Sisal twine is quite resistant to heat and does not contain any toxins that it may impart to the food during roasting. However, it may shed fibers under very high heat, which may affect the food to an extent.
Note that some types of twine advertised as sisal twines are actually made of a blend of fibers. Make sure only to use twine that is 100% sisal for cooking, as any synthetic components might melt under heat.
Thanks for reading!
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Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
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