Butcher’s twine is the answer to all of your meat tying needs. But will it cause a fire hazard when used in the oven or on the grill?
Butcher’s twine, also known as “cooking twine,” is used for tying meat, like roasts and whole birds, and can also be used on certain types of fish.
We use butcher’s twine because when meat is filleted or stuffed, it won’t remain intact as it cooks in the oven or on the grill. The twine, therefore, ties the meat together and holds it in place as it shrinks while cooking.
There is no definite answer to how much heat the butcher’s twine can handle before it burns or catches on fire. If it catches fire, experts say, then it is too close to the flame and will also burn the meat. However, it should be able to withstand temperatures of up to at least 600°F before burning.
All chefs recommend soaking the twine in water before using it to tie the meat. Very few foods cook at a temperature of 600°F, so the worry is not as bad as many may think.
Butcher’s twine is specifically designed to withstand the heat as the meat roasts itself to perfection.
What is Butcher’s Twine Used For?
When cooks want to keep the meat in one piece or the stuffing in place, they use butcher’s twine to tie everything into a roll, allowing it all to cook evenly. It is the perfect choice for smoking, grilling, or roasting any type of meat.
There are many different types of twine out there, but only butcher’s twine is explicitly made for cooking because it will not burn as easily as most of its counterparts. One must take precautions to know which one is butcher’s twine and what isn’t because they all resemble each other.
The best way to test if it is butcher’s twine genuinely is to give it the burn test. Regular cotton twine will burn as soon as the flame comes close and leaves ashes when the fire is put out, while the butcher’s twine will curl and melt in the flame, leaving lumps instead of ashes.
Since the smoker, oven, and grill will not have the flame constantly on the butcher’s twine, there is nothing to fear when it comes to the twine melting or burning.
Another thing to remember is that the meat will have juices—which will keep moisture in the twine—and the meat will overlap the twine acting as a shield from the flames. As long as the flame itself stays away from the meat and the cooking twine, you have nothing to worry about.
Other Alternatives to Butcher’s Twine
We recommend using butcher’s twine in all circumstances and over any other options.
The best place to get butcher’s twine is at a meat market or kitchen pantry store that sells cooking supplies. A slight hint is always making good friends with the butcher because sometimes they may give it to you for free if you ask them.
However, if you find yourself without the real deal, other options may work, but some need extra precautions when using. For example, many people use toothpicks. Toothpicks work but can be dangerous if they break inside the meat and end up in your stomach.
One thing to remember is if the fire touches the toothpick, it will burn it to a crisp if cooked on a grill. Someone can accidentally eat a broken or charred piece of a toothpick that can get stuck in their throat or damage their internal organs, which would be devastating. This is why we do not recommend toothpicks.
These are some other options you may be able to substitute in place of butcher’s twine that is much safer:
- Skewers which is a rope created from a green onion;
- Reusable roasting bands with heat-resistant silicone;
- Linen twine;
- Unwaxed, unflavored dental floss.
What Types of Twine Never To Use
There are two types we can call right off the bat never to use when cooking: jute twine and hemp twine. Both of these will burn and defeat the purpose of tying up the meat. Here we can cover each of them and explain why you should never use these for cooking because not everything all-natural is safe.
Jute twine is made of vegetable fiber and is all-natural. It is primarily used for wrapping, packaging, and arts and crafts. Industries that use it the most are display industries, advertising and marketing, wall treatments, and fashion. Jute twine burns quickly and leaves fibers behind, which would remain on the food.
Hemp twine may be one of the safest twines on the market, but it is not made for heat in an oven or on the grill. It will burn quickly and also defeat the purpose of tying up the meat. Those who love the environment love this biodegradable and compostable twine, but it is nowhere heat-resistant.
How to Tie Meat Like a Pro
So you have a recipe that calls for tying up the meat, and you may not be sure how to do it. Let’s just say it is as easy as tying your shoelaces, and we will walk you through it step by step. After all, everyone has to learn from somewhere.
Step one: Stuff the meat
Begin on a clean surface. Take a knife, fillet the meat, and add all the onions, garlic, celery, bell peppers, and any other goodies you wish to add to the middle.
Step two: Begin with the knot
Put the butcher’s twine underneath the meat and close the meat over the stuffing. Tie a tight double knot over the end of the meat about an inch away from the edge.
Step three: Snip off the excess and make the loop
Take a pair of scissors and cut off the excess twine. The hardest part is making the loop. Wrap the string around your left hand to make the loop and tie the end piece to the first knot.
Step four: Put the loop on the meat
Turn your fingers downward and let the loop fall. This will leave a loose knot to cross the twine.
Step five: Pull the loop around the meat
Lift up the meat, pull the loop around it, and tighten it once you pass the first knot.
Step six: Make another loop
Using the next portion of the string, make another loop around your hand, letting it fall on the meat. Lift up the meat and bring the loop past the other two and tighten in the same manner.
Step seven: Repeat the process
Continue the same process of making the loops as you go until you get almost to the end. Leave about two inches from the end free.
Step eight: Close and knot the end of the twine
Take the twine, measure it lengthwise, and cut the twine 1 1/2 times the length of the meat. This will leave enough twine to complete the task at hand. Pass it underneath the first knot and pull to tighten.
Step nine: Repeat the process once again
Repeat the process with each loop and tighten as you go until you get to the end.
Step ten: Tie the end to the loop
Take the excess string and bring it around the meat and pass it under the loop. Double tie the knot so that it stays, and cut off the remaining twine. Now the meat is ready to be cooked!
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