What to Use If You Don't Have Kitchen Twine

Uncooked filled chicken on chopping board

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Kitchen twine is good to have on hand for those times when you need to truss a chicken or turkey, secure a stuffed loin, or tie off a packet of herbs, but it's hardly essential kitchen equipment. If you don't have any kitchen twine lying around, there are several things that will work almost as well in a pinch.

Substitutes for Twine

  • Dental floss: Tie up your bird or bundle with dental floss. It'll hold things together just as securely as the twine. Stick to plain, unwaxed floss so you don't flavor your food with mint or risk having melted wax ignite in the oven. Consider tucking a roll of floss in one of your kitchen drawers; it also cuts soft cheeses, like goat cheese, better than a knife. 
  • Aluminum foil: Roll up some aluminum foil into tight ropes and secure them around your food like bands. It works best for stuffed meats that you're trying to keep from unrolling; aluminum foil probably won't be strong enough to truss a turkey or chicken.
  • Toothpicks or wooden skewers: Poke toothpicks or wooden skewers into your rolled meat to keep the seam from unraveling. Soak them in water first (just like you do when you grill) so they won't catch fire in the oven. If you decide to use toothpicks, it's smart to count how many you used so you know how many you need to pull out after cooking. You don't want anyone accidentally chomping down on a piece of wood.
  • Nothing at all: If you don't have any of these things, consider going without. Leave your turkey untrussed and just tuck the wingtips under the bird or wrap in aluminum foil to keep them from burning. Place your loin on the baking sheet seam side down so that the weight of the meat holds it together. And if you're looking for a way to secure a bundle of herbs, place them in a piece of cheesecloth and used the corners to tie a knot.

A Warning About Other Substitutes

Some people suggest using rubber bands, embroidery floss, crochet thread, or sewing thread as a stand-in for kitchen twine. The rubber bands are an outright bad idea since hot rubber should be nowhere near your food, and you should use the other suggestions with caution. Thread and embroidery floss are flammable and could ignite in your oven. However, this is also technically true of kitchen twine.

If you decide to use any of these, consider soaking the thread/floss first, so it'll be less likely to catch fire and be sure to adjust your oven rack so that your twine substitute won't come unnecessarily close to the heating element. Note that colored thread may dye your food an interesting color.

Proceed with caution if you decide to use any unconventional substitutions for twine. Do not leave your oven unattended, and keep an extinguisher handy at all times.