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The Best Substitutes for Butcher’s Twine

Out of butcher’s twine? These substitutes are guaranteed to hold the meat tight.

What do you do when you pull out some of your favorite recipes to cook that require butcher’s twine, but you go through the drawers and realize you do not have any on hand?

What are good kitchen items that can take the place of butcher’s twine? Thank goodness some alternatives can be used for last-minute resorts that almost everyone has in the house.

The most common substitutes for butcher’s twine are metal or wooden skewers, toothpicks, as well as unwaxed and unflavored dental floss. In some situations, even aluminum foil can save the day.

Each has its pros and cons. And, in this post, we will go through each and every one of them to help you determine the best substitute for butcher’s twine for your situation.

Butcher’s twine is the primary source of keeping food together, and it can handle the heat of an oven or grill (as long as it is used over an indirect fire and not being kissed by the flame).

We want to advise everyone that some items may not be suitable for use around heat or food. All substitutes should be safe around extreme heat and not poison the eater.

The Purpose of Butcher’s Twine

Butcher’s twine is a type of kitchen string used for tying and trussing food, along with several other uses. Depending on where you live and who you talk to, it is also known as a “cotton string,” “cooking string,” or “meat string.”

Butcher’s twine is made from 100% biodegradable cotton. The string is tightly woven, making it strong enough to hold heavy meat pieces securely.

This particular kitchen string is used to tie up roasts and small meats such as turkey breast, quail, and pork tenderloin. It helps to hold the meat together while it cooks, resulting in a neater presentation and preventing the meat from falling apart.

Butcher’s twine is also used to tie up stuffed meat and poultry, such as a rolled roast of pork or chicken. The string holds the stuffing in place while the meat cooks.

When it is time to serve, the string is cut and removed carefully to not destroy the presentation of the meat (as we recently shared, it is not meant to be eaten). 

Butcher’s twine can also be used to tie up a bouquet garni—essentially, a bundle of herbs used to flavor stocks, soups, and stews—and is the ideal string to cook with inside an oven or on the grill.

Alternatives for Butcher’s Twine

Several items around the house and in the kitchen can replace butcher’s twine if you come up short-handed.

People mostly use the following but must take precaution on the pros and cons of each:

  • Metal skewers;
  • Wooden skewers;
  • Toothpicks;
  • Unwaxed, unflavored dental floss;
  • Aluminum foil.

Metal Skewers


Metal skewers can be used as an alternative to butcher’s twine, but they need to be heated first and greased with oil to prevent sticking.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and place the metal skewers on the top rack. Let them heat for about ten minutes, and then use them as you would butcher’s twine to hold the meat in place and help eliminate sticking:

  • You can reuse them over and over;
  • They are durable and last longer without soaking in water;
  • If you have them, they are readily available. 


There are not many cons to using metal skewers, but they are worth mentioning.

  • They can be dangerous if not handled with care;
  • They can scratch the cooking vessel if not placed correctly;
  • If not pretreated with oil and heated, metal skewers will stick to the food and be difficult to remove. 

Wooden Skewers

Pros of wooden skewers:

Wooden skewers can also be used as an alternative to butcher’s twine, but take note that they must be pre-soaked in water for 30 minutes before using:

  • Ready and able to use after soaking in water;
  • In the same cooking session, you may be able to reuse the wooden skewer if not severely burned.

Cons of wooden skewers:

Like metal skewers, there are still cons that we must mention.

  • Too much force while inserting them can break the skewers inside the meat, leaving fragments;
  • If not adequately soaked, the wood will catch fire;
  • If not handled with care, they can be dangerous and scratch your cooking vessel;
  • Sometimes you cannot reuse them after the first time. Badly damaged wooden skewers must get thrown away. 


Pros of toothpicks:

Toothpicks can also tie meats together but must be soaked in water for 30 minutes before using:

  • You may reuse them in the same cooking session if they are not severely burned;
  • The toothpicks are readily available after soaking time;
  • It works to hold the meat in place.

Cons of toothpicks:

Like the previous methods, there are still cons.

  • You can easily stick yourself if not handled with care.
  • It can also damage your cooking vessel if it’s non-stick or enameled cast iron cookware.
  • The toothpicks can easily break inside the meat.
  • If not soaked for long enough, the toothpicks will catch on fire. 

Unwaxed, Unflavored Dental Floss

Pros of unwaxed, unflavored dental floss:

Unwaxed, unflavored dental floss (like Oral B Glide Pro-Health) is another alternative for butcher’s twine. We recommend soaking the floss in water before using it as cooking twine:

  • This method is that it easily ties meat together;
  • It does not show as much since it is thinner than butcher twine;
  • It will not rip off big chunks of meat when taking off, even when the meat stretches over the floss.

Cons of unwaxed, unflavored dental floss:

There are a few cons that go with using the dental floss method.

  • Since the floss is thin, it is a little more tedious to tie than twine.
  • It breaks easier than twine when pulled;
  • If not soaked enough, the floss may catch on fire.

Aluminum Foil

Pros of aluminum foil:

Try to use the heavy-duty version of aluminum foil when trying this method. 

  • The heavy-duty version is strong and reliable;
  • It does not require any prepping steps;
  • It can be reused in the same cooking session.

Cons of aluminum foil:

  • It can be challenging to keep the foil tight around the meat; 
  • It can also leave a metallic taste on your food;
  • It will stick to the meat if it burns from an open flame. 

Here is a tip included on how to tie food with aluminum foil: You’ll need to cut off about an 18-inch strip, enough length to make two loops around the meats.

Place one end of the strip on top of where you want to wrap up the meat, bring it underneath, and cross the ends over the top. Twist the ends together a few times and then tuck them in so they’re hidden.

What is the Best Option? 

So, what’s the best alternative for butcher’s twine? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you need something readily available, safe to use, and can be reused, then metal skewers or toothpicks would be your best bet.

If you’re looking for something that doesn’t require any preparation and is safe to use, aluminum foil is the best option. We hope this information helped come up with alternatives to butcher’s twine.

Everything has its pros and cons—even the butcher’s twine—but weigh the options and go with what you have available.