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An Easy Way To Strain Yogurt Without Cheesecloth

Preview: Read about this easy way to strain yogurt without cheesecloth. Instead, use a fine mesh strainer to turn regular yogurt into Greek yogurt.

The best way to make regular yogurt into Greek yogurt is to strain it. Most people advocate cheesecloth for the process, but I have a different idea. Keep reading.

No problem if you don’t make your own yogurt at home. This same method will work with store-bought regular yogurt.


Why I don’t like cheesecloth

When I first started making yogurt, everything I read suggested cheesecloth or coffee filters as part of the straining process to remove the whey (seen below).

A coffee filter was too small, so I purchased a cheesecloth to use with the cheap strainer I already owned.

STRAIN YOGURT without Cheesecloth

The cheesecloth worked all right, but I was not too fond of it.  Too messy. Can you relate?

Although the thickened yogurt peeled off easily enough, some of it stuck. I had to use a spatula to scrape it clean.

whey drained from yogurt

Then I had to rinse the cloth, squeeze it out, find a place to hang it to avoid mildew, wash it the following weekend (because I refuse to do laundry more than once a week), dry it, fold, and then iron it.WHEW!

Of course, I still had to clean the strainer.

(I was kidding about the ironing.)

A better idea–looking for a fine-mesh strainer

Then I got the idea to look for a strainer with mesh so fine it would require no cheesecloth.  The end of my search was a bouillon strainer.

Unfortunately, it was expensive. But, at the time, the investment was well worth it in my book. (Read more about why I love my Matfer strainer.)

I know some people claim using cheesecloth is not that much trouble. But I prefer to skip it in favor of a good strainer that goes straight into the dishwasher. Talk about easy cleanup!

ADDENDUM:  

Since writing this post, I have a new method of straining yogurt that includes using a paper coffee filter–the huge ones like restaurants use. They are available at restaurant supply stores and online. See this post for more information.

ADDENDUM #2 December 2018

I don’t always use coffee filters or the fine mesh strainer since I discovered the Kleynhaus Yogurt Pouch. You can read about it here.

comparing mesh size in strainers
Compare the mesh of my favorite strainer on the left to the coarse mesh of the grocery store strainer on the right.
cheap fine-mesh strainer

Three qualities to look for in a strainer:

#1

A fine mesh strainer is essential. 

Bouillon strainers like the heavy-duty model pictured above left can be pricey. However, they lose fewer solids and are easier to handle, especially when full of yogurt. Purchase at a restaurant supply store or online.

#2

Consider the configuration of the strainer.

It can affect the strain time. The conical shape of my favorite strainer seems to work faster than the shallow-bowl shape of the cheaper strainers because of the larger surface area. Not a big deal I guess, but one more reason to pay a little more if you’re a serious Greek yogurt fan.

#3

Consider your volume requirements.

The bigger, the better. Straining in batches is a hassle. I make more than a gallon of yogurt a week, so you can imagine how difficult it would be to strain 1 or 2 cups at a time. My favorite strainer will hold 2 quarts– a perfect match for the 2-quart batter bowl I use to incubate my yogurt.


Three important tips regarding the straining process:

#1

The temperature of the yogurt will affect the time required to strain.

The colder the yogurt, the longer it will take to drain the whey

#2

Try this kitchen secret to avoid losing too many solids.

First, wet the strainer. Then follow instructions in the pictures below

#3

Avoid stirring yogurt in the strainer.

If you see whey collecting on top, tip it slightly to allow the liquid to run to the sides. Stirring the yogurt while it’s straining may cause you to lose more solids than normal.

using a fine strainer to strain out whey in Greek yogurt

Depending on how much whey is drained, the strained yogurt will look something like ricotta cheese or even thicker. Whisk it well. If too thick, add some whey or milk back in until the consistency is perfect for you.

What if my yogurt runs through the strainer?

If your yogurt immediately runs through the strainer, it didn’t set correctly. Unfortunately, you can’t just set that batch back in your incubator. Once you stir or disturb the yogurt in a major way, you must add a new starter. These are some options if that happened:

  • Add more fresh starter and try re-incubation. No guarantees on this. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
  • Use several layers of cheesecloth or paper towels to reinforce the strainer. (I do this only when desperate because it takes forever to strain yogurt that isn’t quite set.)
  • Abandon the whole idea and drink your thin yogurt.
  • Use it in place of buttermilk in your baking.
  • Make ricotta cheese with it.

Are you confident about your technique for making yogurt? Just for fun, here’s the way I do it.

Video: How to make homemade Greek yogurt:

What would you like to read next about making yogurt?

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at saladinajar.com.

Hope to see you again soon!
Paula

Larry

Tuesday 16th of March 2021

I have made yogurt starter from chile stems and it seems to work fine. I don't know anything about the probotics content.Is this as good as using existing yogurt as a starter?

How I Make My Own Yogurt For My Simple Breakfast – Simply Kyra

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

[…] Caldwell and The Kitchn mention using a cheese cloth. For fun I looked online and found, through The Easy Way To Strain Yogurt Without Cheesecloth on Salad In A Jar, that you could also use coffee filters, a fine-mesh strainer, or a Kleynhuis yogurt pouch. I can […]

Tess

Sunday 20th of October 2019

"First, wet the strainer?" I am dumbfounded by this comment as when things have gone wrong in the past with my yogurts.... it was as I was told because the environment was not sterilized enough. I am always afraid to even wash a utensil and not wipe it completely dry in case a drop of water contaminates the entire batch. How are you wetting the strainer? In tap water? How is this ok, when washing and drying yogurt jars is not enough ... but they must be completely sterilized.

Paula

Sunday 20th of October 2019

Hi Tess, So good to hear from you. I'm glad you wrote. I do not completely sterilize everything as you described. The dishwasher works good enough for me. The tap water is clean and safe here. I'm not sure where you live, but things may be different where you are so I can't speak for you.

Since people have been making yogurt for centuries, I'm pretty sure most people were not sterilizing their dishes all these years. I've been making yogurt for over 10 years and I've never gotten sick or had a "bad" batch of yogurt. If I had to sterilize everything and worry about every drop of water, I would not be making yogurt. It would be far too much trouble.

This is just my opinion and what I'm comfortable with. Each person has to work it out for himself and his own situation.

elaine sinowitz

Tuesday 29th of January 2019

I'm trying yogurt for the first time. Wish me luck. Never posted this before.

Paula

Wednesday 30th of January 2019

Hi Elaine, How did it go? I hope you had beginner's luck. If not, perhaps we can troubleshoot together. Sometimes it takes a little bit of experimenting to see what works best in your kitchen.

elaine sinowitz

Tuesday 29th of January 2019

I'm trying yogurt for the first time. Wish me luck.