Because I’m addicted to the dreamy, creamy white elixir called Greek yogurt, I learned to make it myself and along the way discovered how to streamline the straining process making it even easier. No problem if you don’t make your own yogurt at home. The same method will work with store-bought regular yogurt.
In the beginning of my yogurt-making career, everything I read suggested cheesecloth or coffee filters as part of the straining process to remove the whey (seen below). A coffee filter was much too small so I purchased cheesecloth to use in conjunction with the cheap strainer already bouncing around in my plastic container drawer.
ADDENDUM: 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.
The cheesecloth worked all right but I didn’t like it. Too messy. Although the thickened yogurt peeled off easily for the most part, some of it stuck and 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. Of course, I still had to clean the strainer.
(I was kidding about the ironing.)
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. The investment was well worth it in my book. 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!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A STRAINER:
- A very fine mesh is essential. Bouillon strainers like the heavy-duty model pictured above left can be pricey (around $70) but they lose fewer solids and are easier to handle, especially when full of yogurt. Purchase at a restaurant supply store or online. I recently spotted a perfectly functional strainer at Tuesday Morning for $12 seen in the picture to the right. I’ve been told the fine mesh Oxo strainer also works although I haven’t tried it myself.
- Consider the configuration of the strainer as it can affect 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 laborious 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 SUGGESTIONS 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. My yogurt will reduce to half in about an hour when strained straight out of the incubation process.
- Use my special technique to avoid losing too many solids. See pictures below.
- Avoid stirring yogurt in the strainer even if you see whey collecting on top. Tip it slightly to allow liquid to run to the sides. If you can’t help yourself, stir gently.
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.
If you have made the yogurt yourself and it runs through your strainer, it didn’t set up right. Check out this post about troubleshooting yogurt or consider one of the following solutions:
- Add more fresh starter and try re-incubation. No guarantees on this. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
- Use cheesecloth or paper towels to reinforce the strainer. (I do this only when desperate.)
- Abandon the whole idea and drink your thin yogurt.
- Use it in place of buttermilk in your baking.
Wondering what to do with the whey? I plan to write a post addressing that issue soon. Meanwhile, you can get several ideas by reading through the comments on my original post about making Greek yogurt. If you haven’t seen my video about making Greek yogurt, you can check it out here.