Read about this easy way to strain yogurt using a fine mesh strainer to turn regular yogurt into Greek yogurt. No cheesecloth needed.
Do you want your yogurt to be thicker?
We will assume that you want thicker yogurt since you have landed here. Personally, I’m addicted to the dreamy, creamy, and thickly textured white elixir called Greek yogurt.
I learned to make it myself over 10 years ago. Along the way, I discovered how to streamline the straining process making it simpler.
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 cheesecloth to use in conjunction with the cheap strainer I already owned.
The cheesecloth worked all right, but I didn’t like it. Too messy.
Although the thickened yogurt peeled off easily enough, some of it stuck. I had to use a spatula to scrape it clean. 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 it 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 no cheesecloth would be required. The end of my search was a bouillon strainer.
Unfortunately, it was expensive. 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 to the dishwasher. Talk about easy cleanup!
Since writing this post, I have a new method of straining yogurt that includes using a paper coffee filter–the really big ones like restaurants use. They are available at restaurant supply stores and online. See this post for more information.
ADDENDUM #2 December 2018
Three Things to Look For in a Strainer
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.
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.
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 hints regarding the straining process
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
Try this kitchen secret to avoid losing too many solids.
First, wet the strainer. Then follow instructions in the pictures below
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.
The strained yogurt will look something like ricotta cheese or even thicker depending on how much whey is drained. 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.
Are you confident about your technique for making yogurt? Just for fun, here’s the way I do it.