It’s BBQ season! You want to enjoy yourself with friends and family at a backyard cookout. At a what-the-heck-am-I-gonna-do-now moment, you realize that you’re out of butcher’s twine to tie the meat.
So, what can you do now? For starters, don’t worry. We have you covered with five substitutes for butcher’s twine. Read on to find out what they are.
The best substitutes for butcher’s twine are cotton string, green onions, dental floss, aluminum foil, and toothpicks. Each has its way to use—and we will guide you through them.
Throughout this article, we will also go over some tips to have your friends and family in awe after they take the first bite of meat, as well as offer some safety tips.
After all, we are working with something inedible, which is hazardous if swallowed or cooked into the food. In some situations, the substitutes can catch fire if not tied and used properly.
Use Cotton String
If you choose to go with cotton string as your butcher’s twine replacement, there are some safety tips you want to keep in mind. It is essential to ensure the string does not have any loose ends that can fray and come off into the food. The last thing anyone wants is chewing on a string while eating their bird.
Cotton string is one of the most used replacements for butcher’s twine. It is an inexpensive option found in most stores if not already at home. The steps for using it are pretty straightforward as well:
To tie any piece of meat with cotton string, take the meat and tie it up with an appropriate knot, making sure it is tight enough, but not too tight, so it doesn’t fall off while cooking.
To tie up a bird—any bird, whether chicken, turkey, or game—place it on the tray, measure it with the string, and cut yourself a cotton string two and a half times as long as the bird.
Tie the bird breast side up and legs facing at you, starting underneath the tailbone, cross-crossing around the legs, pulling tight, wrapping to the front, then securing the string in place with a tight knot.
To make sure the cotton string is not too loose or too tight, it is best to cut a practice string and practice trucing the meat once or twice before really getting started; it takes a while to learn the ropes.
Use Green Onions
Green onions, to the surprise of many, can be a formidable replacement for butcher’s twine.
Take a long green onion stalk and tie it round the meat, making sure it is tight enough. When you are done, there should be a small piece of the green onion sticking out on each side, if you did it right.
Keep in mind that there are some limitations and concerns when using green onion to replace butcher’s twine. First off, since this is vegetable matter, there is a higher chance of it burning up and catching fire if not tended to.
Another concern is that tiny pieces of green onion might break off and get cooked into the food or fall down on the coals or burners. And, let’s be real here, no one wants to be biting into a burnt bit of green onion while enjoying their meal!
It is best to cook with green onions over indirect heat and keep a close eye on them. Direct heat—and the flare-ups that come with it—should be avoided at all cost. Once they start to blacken, it is time to remove them and replace them with fresh ones.
Use Dental Floss
Dental floss can also come in handy as a replacement for butcher’s twine. You want to use unwaxed floss; mint floss and waxed floss will impart a weird flavor to the meat.
Setting it up is the same as the previous two substitutes: Take the dental floss and tie it around the meat. As with cotton and twine, leave about an inch of dental floss on each side of the meat.
The primary safety concern with using dental floss is that it is made of nylon—which has the potential to melt if exposed to direct flames for too long.
It is best to cook with dental floss over indirect heat and keep a close eye on it to avoid mishaps. As a matter of fact, consider placing a copper mat between the grate and the meat; it will help to distribute the heat more gently.
Once it starts to blacken, remove it and replace it with fresh dental floss.
Use Aluminum Foil
Aluminum foil is another substitute that can be used in place of butcher’s twine. Setting it up is the same; take the aluminum foil and wrap it around the meat. Once again, leave about an inch of aluminum foil on each side of the meat.
The primary safety concern with using aluminum foil is flammable if kept too long at high heat or with open flames (as a general rule of thumb, aluminum will catch fire at 1,220°F).
Also, aluminum foil isn’t as strong as cotton string or dental floss are. So it will have trouble holding big birds and thick cuts of meat together. If that’s what you’re about to grill, consider using something else from this list.
It is best to cook with aluminum foil over indirect heat and keep a close eye on it to avoid accidents. Once it starts to blacken, remove it and replace it with fresh aluminum foil.
Toothpicks can also act as a replacement for butcher’s twine in a pinch. Setting it up is a little bit different; instead of wrapping it around the meat, you will poke the toothpicks into the meat. You want to make sure that the toothpicks are evenly spaced out so that the meat cooks evenly.
The primary safety concern with using toothpicks is that they are made of wood and can catch fire if not appropriately monitored. It is best to cook with toothpicks over indirect heat and keep a close eye on them to avoid breaking inside the meat or burning it to a crisp.
Once they start to blacken, remove them and replace them with fresh toothpicks. Be careful of breaking pieces when removing and ensure the whole toothpick comes out.
Summing it Up
This process can be done with any type of string. Just be sure to follow any safety precautions depending on which string you choose to use.
Butcher’s twine is an essential tool in the kitchen, but sometimes you don’t have any on hand when you need it. Use the substitutes mentioned above, and your BBQ or smoke-out session will be fine!