I have a recipe for steaming seitan that involves wrapping the vital wheat gluten loaf in a tea towel, tying off the ends, and placing in the steaming basket.

I am good to go but for the tea towel. Unfortunately, I don't have any tea towels, nor do I have any that aren't either microfiber or bath towels with a fuzzy nap. I have one of cotton quilted fabric. What can I use as a surrogate tea towel?

  • Do you have a cloth napkin? They are pretty similar.
    – Jay
    Mar 14, 2012 at 20:36
  • @Jay I don't but if you think that would be a good substitute why don't you put it as an answer
    – mfg
    Mar 14, 2012 at 20:39
  • 2
    Whatever substitute you use, make sure it is fit for food use. If you go to a fabrics shop and buy a length of gingham, chances are it has been treated to make it more shiny, or less wrinkle-prone, etc. These treatments are made with different chemicals, including formaldehyde. And then there are the dyes - they may be OK for contact in your skin, but nobody tested if they leak nasties in prolonged contact with wet food.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 15, 2012 at 11:08

5 Answers 5


Cheesecloth, canvas, broadcloth, or duck would all work well.

  • Will try cheesecloth tonight, bought some yesterday; hopefully it doesn't act more like a sieve
    – mfg
    Mar 15, 2012 at 14:22
  • Can someone explain to me what's meant with 'duck'? I don't think we're talking about the bird here...
    – Mien
    Mar 15, 2012 at 14:55
  • 2
    @Mien Duck is a type of canvas
    – mfg
    Mar 15, 2012 at 15:55
  • 1
    @mfg I think a cheese cloth might be a bit too thin. It'll easily become saturated with water. I think the point of wrapping it is so it doesn't take in too much water.
    – Jay
    Mar 15, 2012 at 17:07

Tea towels are traditionally made out of linen. It has a delicate weave that is ideal for drying delicate china without the risk of "scratching." A linen napkin although less delicate will most likely still be a very good substitute for the purpose of wrapping the vital wheat gluten loaf.

However, most cloths that have a simple weave without the "loop" weave found on terry clothes and bath towel would work just as well.


I don't own tea towels either. So I generally use extremely clean white t- shirts. They work for proofing dough and wrapping swiss roll cakes.


I tried this once with a tea towel and the slow cooker method of cooking seitan. When the loaf was done, even though the towel had been washed many times over 20 years, when I unrolled the loaf the outside of it had obviously taken on some of the ink from the design on the towel. It looked fine on the inside but I was chicken to try it. I now use cheese clothe doubled to wrap my seitan. YMMV

  • I once had a blue tea towel seep some dye on the outside edges of some fresh cheese I was letting drip-dry... being either more careless, or less worried, I just ate the cheese. no problems
    – Megha
    Oct 26, 2018 at 1:19

Pure cotton or cotton/linen baby muslins work very well. They're a similar fabric to tea towels but a little thinner, and often white or even unbleached. They're a little thick to substitute for a cheesecloth though

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