strain without a strainer

How to Strain Without a Strainer

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Straining things in the kitchen seems like a common occurrence but if for some reason you don’t have a strainer, it makes it really hard to do so.

You might need to strain things like stock, fruits and vegetables, meat, pasta, and more and there are even different kinds of strainers out there. 

It’s just the pits when you’re working on dinner and suddenly you realize you broke your strainer last week! Or, maybe you go to grab the strainer and it is mysteriously missing completely.

So, how do you strain without a strainer? Some of the best ways to strain liquid without using a strainer include using a slotted spoon, using cheesecloth, using tongs to pull pasta and noodles out of the water, using the lid of the cooking pot, or using coffee filters or other similarly fine straining vessels.

In this guide, we are going to share with you all of the best ways that you can turn to if you need to strain something and you don’t have a strainer available. You’re bound to have at least one of these backup options available to you!

Keep reading to learn how to strain without a strainer and more! 

Strain Without a Strainer – Alternative Tools

Slotted Spoon

As a quick fix to straining something when you can’t find your strainer, just grab a slotted spoon.

This might take a little extra effort and a little extra time but it’s an effective way to separate the water or liquid from the item within the water or liquid. 

Slotted spoons are made to strain out liquid so it’s the perfect backup solution. Depending on what you are straining, you can grab another pan or bowl and just start spooning it out a scoop at a time. 

slotted spoon

Let the water drain from the item in your spoon. Give it a little shake if needed. Realistically, it only takes a couple of seconds for each spoonful to strain like this.

Move the strained food to the new bowl and then repeat the process until everything is adequately strained out as needed. 

This works best for things like pasta or items like fruits and vegetables as well. It’s not so great if you’re straining something like stock or a food that has small particles for straining that will just go right through the slotted spoon.

In that case, you can turn to some of the other options we will share here for straining without a strainer. 


If you keep cheesecloth in your kitchen, this is a great tool for straining. Cheesecloth is made like it is because it helps with straining and you’ve probably even used it for straining but maybe not for your pasta or your fruits and veggies. 

This is a good option if you are straining something with small particles, like stock.


You can strain your liquid into another bowl and the cheesecloth will hold the small particles or whatever it is that you are trying to separate from everything else in the process. 

Follow these steps to strain with cheesecloth. 

  1. Prepare another bowl or pan to pour liquid into. 
  2. Hold the cheesecloth tightly over the top of your pan. You will want to stretch it around the top to cover and then be able to keep a firm grip on it while you dump the contents. 
  3. Proceed to pour the liquid into whatever space you have prepared for it. 

That’s it!

The trick is to be able to hold the cloth tightly but also to be able to make sure you can safely position your hands to hold down the cloth and not allow any boiling or hot liquids to come into contact with your hands in the process. 

This process might take a little bit longer than a strainer would as it essentially has to soak through the cheesecloth to strain. However, it is a really great option when you need it and it is actually ideal for some forms of straining needs. 


Tongs can be a useful way to strain things when you don’t have a strainer. They’re pretty easy to use and you will literally just lift your items out of the water they are in.

Ideally, we recommend tongs for things like spaghetti or other large noodles. 

However, you can use tongs for anything that you can grab with the tongs. Just reach in with the tongs, grab a tong-full at a time, and repeat. Each round with the tongs will need a moment to drip off water from the item. 


You can shake it gently to help release water or just let the water drip until it stops or drips super slowly. Transfer the food item to a dry pan or bowl once it’s dripped dry. It’s really that simple!

This process may take a few minutes just because you can only pick up what the tongs will hold and you’ve got to give the items the chance to drip dry before you transfer them. However, it’s still fairly simple and it works well. 

As an alternative to what we just described above, you can also attempt to pour the liquid into the pan while using the tongs as a barrier to keep the other items inside.

This is difficult though if you have a large pan because it’s hard to safely balance the pan and the tongs while you’re dumping. If you have a small pan or an extra hand, this could work for you though. 


Next, you could use a lid if you have a lid to the pan in question. The lid works pretty well when you need to strain, as long as you can get it balanced just right on your pan.

This may take some stretching of your fingers and it might also work best on smaller or less heavy pans. 

To strain liquid using the lid, you need to be able to place the lid on the pan and either angle it just enough that water can strain out or hold it in place.

strain without a strainer

Pick the pan up safely and be sure that you can balance all of the things without dropping it or losing the lid. 

Tip the pan slowly and surely towards the sink or the dish or wherever you are straining and allow the water to run out.

If the pan starts to get too heavy or you feel the lid sliding, take a moment to set it down, give your hands a break, and re-establish your grip on the pan and the lid. 

This method is pretty simple if you can figure out the balancing act and it will work for straining anything that isn’t small particles. This is a universal kitchen go-to when no strainer is around. 

Coffee Filters

Finally, if you need another solution grab the coffee filters. Most homes have coffee and coffee filters.

Coffee filters were literally made for straining so they work really well here. Setting them up to strain might be the hardest part of the operation here. 

coffee filters

The thing about coffee filters is that they are small so if you have a huge pot of pasta or potatoes, you probably need to look for a different method. However, if you’re straining something small or a small amount of food, they are awesome. 

Coffee filters are great for straining things like loose-leaf tea as well as small food items. 

As an alternative to coffee filters, you could also try something like a bandana or even a mesh bag that has super small mesh on it. All of these will work similarly and are best used for small-straining needs. 

When you’re in a pinch and need to strain without a strainer, any of these options will have your back! 

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