Whether you are trussing a holiday turkey, tying a bundle of fresh herbs for a bouquet garni or securing parchment paper around freshly baked banana bread, a spool of kitchen twine is handy to have around. Unlike other culinary essentials — like a chef's knife or mixing bowl — twine can be found at either a high-end kitchen supply store or your local hardware store. Its availability speaks to its practicality from kitchen to workshop.
Twine goes by different names, and several varieties exist. The best and safest type for cooking is made of 100-percent natural cotton and labeled as butcher, kitchen or cooking twine, which is sturdy and withstands high-heat cooking. A linen and cotton fabric mixture also is safe for cooking. It's durable and will not impart flavor onto cooked food. Still, if you're going to expose twine to a close-range open flame, first soak it in water or broth for about one minute to avoid burning.
For pennies per yard, here are a few ways to experiment with twine while cooking:
- Shape meats, fish or sponge cakes into a roulade by laying down several long pieces of twine, rolling the ingredients together and securing the twine ends into a knot.
- Make sachets of herbs for soup, stock or broth by placing any variety of fresh or dried herbs into the center of a square of cheesecloth and tie the corners together.
- Suspend a cheesecloth bag of vegetables and animal bones in a large pot of water for a flavorful stew or broth.
- Tie a soufflé collar around a ramekin to keep the top of a high-rising soufflé intact.
- Truss poultry, or firmly fasten the legs and wings against the body, to help the meat maintain shape and cook evenly.
Cooking Twine vs. Baker's Twine
Unlike cooking twine, baker's twine is a thin type of string made of both cotton and polyester. This "candy cane" red-and-white twisted string is not typically used for cooking, but for wrapping and binding baked goods. Baker's twine has gained popularity for its many uses in crafting. It's designed to be snapped by hand rather than cut with the sharp blade needed for cooking twine.
Other varieties of string or thin rope that may appear safe to cook with likely are not. Synthetic materials — including plastics, polyester or nylon — often are mixed into cotton fabrics. These materials can degrade under heat and melt into foods while cooking, which not only may affect the flavor of the food, but also can cause an allergic reaction or gastrointestinal distress to those eating it.