All-Strain Kitchen Cloths

Who would have thought I’d have a future with the man showing off his new Scooby Doo underwear in my kitchen at a New Year’s Day celebration?  Yet here we are!  Mac Dalton and I have conspired to create a small number of cooking tools that were either hard to find, non-existent or that we simply love.

The man with the Scooby Doo boxers

This is a big experiment for us. With little capital, we’re starting slow to gauge interest and are thus producing in limited numbers. We’ll be introducing more new tools as they become available. It’s important to say that these are not products some company has asked me to endorse or put my name on. We’ve created these tools based on my desire for them, and thanks to OpenSky, a new e-commerce site, we can distribute them efficiently.  We’re hoping to get a response that allows us to produce them in numbers that will help us reduce their price and offer them more widely.  Also, it will allow us to tweak design based on users’ comments and figure out how to offer them.

So here they are the first three.

All-Strain cloths

All-Strain Kitchen Cloths (pictured above, all photos thanks to Donna Turner Ruhlman): I don’t always strain my stocks through cloth but when I want something really clean, I do. I also strain the whey out of cultured whole milk for a rich creamy, Greek-style yogurt. When tomatoes are abundant, I chop and salt them and let the tomato water drain through cloth. But I hated to spend money on cheesecloth that would only get thrown away. So I started using handkerchiefs, which could be washed and reused. But they were difficult to mark “for kitchen use only,” weren’t always big enough, and Donna found my using handkerchiefs to strain food through kind of gross.  Thus, reusable, cotton cloths specifically for the kitchen, embroidered and labled by size for easy identification.  The small one, 10″ x 10″ can be used for a sachet d’épices, the biggest 18″ x 20″ fits in my chinois or holds a colander full of tomatoes.

Wood paddles

Acacia Wood Paddles: These are by no means new, a wood paddle or spoon.  Indeed, I consider the flat-edged wood spoon to be among the five most important kitchen tools in my kitchen.  But I hate, hate, hate round wood spoons—useless (yet they’re the first thing that comes up when you search wooden spoon on Amazon). These flat-edged ones are made of excellent acacia wood, are built to last, and importantly they come in two sizes. A big one, The Spanker, and a little one, Spanky.  The Spanker is unbeatable for stirring big pots of stewing goodness.  Spanky is your all-purpose everyday tool for stirring. The flat edges lifts food off the bottom of the pot and the angled tip gets into corners of your pan.  Chefs working in kitchens, you will love The Spanker—we’ve given testers to some chefs in Cleveland and they absolutely refuse to relinquish them (and the chefs haven’t had any issues with health inspectors and the wood).

And last, The Easy-Clean Knife Grabber: This too is not an absolutely unique product, but they were so popular when I offered them on OpenSky, the manufacturer we were using stopped giving them to us, so we decided to make them ourselves, beautiful wood, wall-mounted knife and tool holders.  Not only are the gorgeous and enhance the kitchen, they’re easy to clean (the metal ones get all gunked up with kitchen grease).  They also hold other tools—I always know where my clicker is when my gas burner won’t light and the microplane is always at the ready for last second zesting.  There’s no better way to store a knife, keeping it from getting dinged, keeping it out of the way when not in use—but on view.  I love the sight of them.  These come in 18-inch and 12-inch versions, a pale one made of America maple, and a dark one made of African wenge (beautiful wood, but how is it pronounced?!). These things are great in heavily used kitchens because they’re so easy to clean (again, chefs, we’ve had no wood issues with health department here in Cleveland).

These items are available through OpenSky only. If you haven’t heard of this site, where passionate people gather to recommend products they love, check it out.  On my page, you can also see the products I use and recommend.  For the passionate sausage maker in your home, see the meat grinder I use, and the sausage stuffer I recommend and use. I wouldn’t be without these sidetowels. This boos board is second to none. And of course our new products. Stay tuned for more products to be introduced soon. And please, let us know what you think.

Life is better when we cook for ourselves—never stop cooking!


101 Wonderful responses to “Introducing Kitchen Tools!”

  • JD

    Looks like you’ve got some solid products! Just a heads up, the “My Page” link in the last paragraph isn’t working.

  • Andrew

    Just wondering why you were throwing out your cheesecloth? I rinse them in cold water to remove the solid residues, and throw them in the washing machine with dishtowels, washcloths, etc. Dry them on a rack or outside clipped to patio furntiure. I’ve reused them countless times without difficulty. But if you want something with a finer weave than the store-bought cheesecloth, try butter muslin. It works wonderfully, is also resuable, and much bigger than a handkerchief.

    • ruhlman

      Never thought to because of all the fraying–imagined that it would all come apart. and in fact, the weave of our cotton is finer than cheesecloth, at least the kind commonly available.

      • Carri

        plus, the fact they are marked so well makes it easier to keep people from doing unsavory things with them, so they stay nice and clean for the task at hand. I really like these, and your little logo. Great stuff, Michael!

  • Comal Caliente

    The cloth seems like a simple idea at first, but for a cook it is truly a great idea! I will definitely have to get a few of these. I currently own some wooden spoons that are handed down and I must say I really hate the rounded edges as well, just doesn’t make sense. I’ll have to check out the spanker, love the name!

    • ruhlman

      products from various place, America, Africa, China, final production done in China. …I know, it’s a concern. Especially if you read nytimes columnist Tom Friedman.

  • JRB

    Nice looking stuff, especially the spoons. Oh, and it’s ‘wenge’ pronounced “when-ghey”

  • Shannon

    I absolutely love the all-strain kitchen cloths. After I run out of cheesecloth, I forget to buy more until I need it and then it’s a pain to have to run out and buy more. So having these on hand at all times is great.

  • Tom

    Love the cloths, what a great idea! Do they also come in the “Garcia” print like Mac’s shirt?

  • hollerhither

    Thumbs up. My old spoontula source dried up. Intrigued by the knife holder, quite attractive.

  • Gerry

    I just tried to buy the spoons and the cloths & neither is available. I hope this means they’re wildly popular & sold out! Please let us know when they become available.

    Good luck with your new venture.

  • ruhlman

    There’s a sitewide issue at OpenSky, perhaps because of the surge of traffic I sent them! They’re working on it now.

  • Sharon Miro

    Your tools are all great–very utile. I cannot conceive of cooking without my flat-edge wooden “spadles” as I call them. Discovered them in Mexico in the 60’s and have not been without them since. Your acacia wood ones are going on my I WANT list.

  • Julian

    I love the flat edge spoons, but I’m practically having an anxiety attack over here! I would buy them immediately, but it looks like the edges are sloped and the concavity prevents then from being useful “backwards”
    That poses a bit of a problem for us LEFT-HANDED folks. Please, please, please, make a lefty version. The entire lefty chef community will thank you as so few quality lefty tools (that need to be lefty) are available.

    • hollerhither

      Interesting, I’m a lefty and I never noticed this. I guess I just have awkwardly adapted.

      • Julian

        Maybe I’m just particular but I first came to this realization about kitchen tools when I went to by a fish turning spatula. Fortunately Lamson-Sharp sells a left-hand oriented one (sloped down to the right instead of the left).

  • Susan

    I bought what were titled Flour Sack dish towels from a bargain store. On unpackaging them, I noticed they were thinner than the ones I already use. Upon washing, they dried out to be more like a hemmed, fine weave of cheese cloth. First I was angry, but now I LOVE them! Had I known I would use them for straining so many things, I’d have bought several packs of them. I had to set up a separate drawer to house them so they wouldn’t get used for cleaning eye glasses and such. Your sizing and purposing them specifically is a great idea.

  • matt

    Michael, I LOVE THIS! What a brilliant thing for you to do and I can’t wait to get my hands on those Kitchen Cloths. I think this whole idea, although you say it’s an experiment, is BRILLIANT. Brilliant brilliant brilliant.

  • Linda

    Love the logo!! Especially since my last name begins with “R” – thanks for thinking of me! 🙂 I have long used new, cotton cloth diapers as strainers for soups and wrapping cheeses and veg. They wash and dry very well and just get softer with age. But I may have to splurge, just for the logo! My father loves to make fountain pens and other items out of rare woods. I sent him the photo of the knife strip in the hopes that maybe Santa’s workshop might have some scraps of exotic wood to spare for Xmas….

  • Paige

    Love the towels! I’m working on my wedding registry and will try adding them through the Amazon Universal Registry. I’ve been experimenting with cheesemaking and HATE the cheesecloth, even the “high quality” stuff I got from a cheesemaking supplier. Like an above commented, I’ve found that flour sack towels work much better, but they’re way too big so I’m always folding them awkwardly. I do drop them in a sanitizing solution before use, but it is still kind of gross to use household towels directly on food.

    I’ll second the above pronunciation of wenge. That’s what my woodworker father says. These look great and I hope they stick around! I won’t register for one yet because we’ll be moving soon and I’m not sure what our new kitchen setup will be. I want at least one in the future though! I’d never thought of putting tools like microplanes on them. Now my brain is turning.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I own a Round Boos Board. It is 18″ diameter, and 4″ in height: I don’t think they make that size any more but it is absolutely fabulous because of its height….the other thing that sounded great was that plug-in coffee Percolator…I would love one of those

  • Maggie

    I think the straining cloths are a great idea (and love the logo), but I wonder what happens when they are washed in hot water. Does the red embroidered trim bleed and turn the whole thing pink? Not sure I want to pour hot liquids thru pink dye. Love the wood paddles!

  • Ed

    For straining I’ve always wanted to try a Superbag, but those things are crazy expensive. Has anyone here used them before? Are they worth the price?

  • Dave

    Michael, the CIA side towels are the best. I still have a few left over from my days at the CIA and won’t part with them easily. Glad you have them and will be getting some soon!

  • ydant

    I’m glad to see the knife block here. I’ve been periodically annoyed by the fact it was listed on Open Sky and not actually available. It looks so much nicer than my current metal one.

    • Mac Dalton

      Get one! Strong Magnet…easy to clean…and good looking…not like the old versions that collect all the crap in between the little magnet rails….nice units!

  • LB

    The problem with Acacia (and most other) wood tools is they have to be hand-washed, because they bleach, soften and/or split in the dishwasher. Your spoons would be better if they were made from bamboo, which doesn’t have those problems and isn’t more expensive.

    • Mac Dalton

      we did some testing with Bamboo…it tends to be more brittle than the Acatia wood….these just need a wash with hot water or some mild soap…never put wood products in dishwasher….also…if you treat them with some peanut or olive oil they get “new life” and look every time….Acatia wood is very water resistant and these Paddles are very durable…..we will be offering an amazing bamboo scrubber in January…so we understand Bamboo and what it can do…plus it is green! growns back…stay tuned! Mac

  • Victoria

    Those kitchen towels are fabulous. I am on board for those immediately. Same with the paddles.

    One of my favorite tools is my tamis, which I got in Paris. It’s all stainless, great looking, and works beautifully. I like it much better than a regular strainer. I use it to make Joel Robuchon’s Potato Puree.

    I also love my expensive Sonntag spaetzle maker. It’s much better than any of the inexpensive ones I have tried. It’s probably not something you would be interested in having produced, but spaetzle goes so well with many dishes that I make in winter. (Think short ribs, chicken paprikash, stracotto, etc.)

    Good luck with this new project.

  • Johns

    You should get Bourdain a nice Jerry shirt like Mac’s as a Christmas gift….

  • Earl Schiffke

    The Open Sky site is sort like AMWAY. What % do you take away from sales of products you endorse ?

    • ruhlman

      Not really the same thing. We’re not selling a single company’s products, only endorsing the things we love ourselves or truly recommend. Open sky sellers split whatever profit there is after the wholesale cost of the good, a handling fee, a credit card fee, a partial shipping cost (so that OpenSky can ship competitively). It’s a tricky equation.

    • Mac Dalton

      I’m new to open Sky as well…not at all AMWAY…..not sure what we will make…we get very few points from them (%)….just trying this format to offer some products that we believe are great and are not readily available in the market…will have some more cool stuuf in January….that is not really on the market! Stay tuned!

  • kaela

    I’m with you on the round wooden spoons; useless. There are half a dozen cluttering up my utensil crock, while my one flat-topped bamboo stirrer gets washed 10 times a day. Yours look beautiful -shall have to check them out!

    Also, I too use butter muslin, and run through the wash. But it’s nice to have a square option – nice job.

  • Tags

    Quick, trademark the name!

    And best of luck with this latest endeavor.

  • Charlotte

    Argh! Spanky?! My mother used wooden spoons to spank us as kids (yes, I’m old, from the days when kids got spanked). Not beaten, just occasionally popped one, usually when we’d been beyond obnoxious –ah, memories —

    • Mac Dalton

      I have three kids…19…17…7…(second wife)….more kids should get “spanked”! Ha…not “beaten”….builds character…..seriously…these are great kitchen/cooking Tools!!! you will love them!

  • Steve

    I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but instead of your All-Strain Kitchen Cloths, for over 30 years I have been using nylon paint straining bags with elastic tops. These are available at paint stores, and are available in different coursenesses at very cheap prices. They work fine for cheese making, stock straining, herb drying, berry juicing, and anything I have used them for. Being nylon they don’t stain, and wash out easily. Just a thought.

    • Mac Dalton

      no rain! we love the cotten as it is a great “medium”…not that other materials can’t work too…but we also added a wonderful embrodiery that helps a user place the units over whatever you may be straining into…it provides an edge permiter if you you will…and is easy to find in a drawer….bottom line is that this is a product that not only is functional…but is useful al well….

  • Bunnee

    I love wooden spoons, especially when the wood is interesting. Round spoons have their (limited) uses, but I am really looking forward to receiving my Ruhlman spoons and cloths. Merry Christmas to me!

  • Kathy

    Just bought the spoons. No problem! I have spoons now that I like that are curved on one side like my pots and generally straight on the other side. I have always liked them, but, thought I would try yours. What no one has mentioned a need for is the meat grinder. I bought that too. I have been wanting one for some time. Should have kept my mother’s ancient one. It was good! Anyway, I am definitely turned off by pre-ground meat these days. Who knows what’s in it! And, since returning from Cordon Bleu in Paris where they are definitely into stuffing meats with more meat all ground up and mixed with interesting things, I am definitely going to whip up some different combinations.

    • ruhlman

      way to go, kathy. meat ground at grocery stores, my grandma didn’t trust it and neither do i. and i like rare burgers and lamb tartare!

  • Kathy

    Forgot to mention my one complaint! (Wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t at least one!) I am HATING the idea of using various towels as pot holders. Can’t tell you how often I burned my hands trying to adjust to them at LCB. They either trail into the flame or end up not folded thick enough in one corner where some part of your hand ends up, and then what do you do? Drop the pot? I like thickly padded, terrycloth squares that you can slip your hands into easily, that are thick one one side, but totally flexible. That way you even avoid burning your knuckles in a hot oven. If you are in the weeds and have to take something out of the oven toute suite, to have to fold a towel adequately on both ends to use for both hands simultaneously, is about as awkward as wearing handcuffs! (I think.)

      • Kathy

        That complaint about potholders sounds like testosterone speaking… Why do all you guys have to be Tarzan in the kitchen???

      • stephen

        Ruhlman, you are so correct in saying “the pot holder is high among the chief insults heaped on mankind”…since I started using nothing but cast iron cookware, I find a good pair of welding gloves comes in second to none!

  • Rhonda


    NEVER underestimate the secret powers of Scooby Doo underwear.

    I love the logo. Definitive and elegant. Beautiful job, Donna.

  • Martha

    Love all the products and love your OpenSky store. I’ve shopped there a couple times since you opened it. It will be nice to buy some of your own stuff. First on the list will be the 18″ knife grabber!

    Good luck with this latest venture. Like everything else you touch, I’m sure it will be a great success. And kudos to Donna on the logo. Very nice.

  • Paul C

    That’s a nice lineup of gear you have there. I especially like the kitchen cloths. Perhaps to keep with the naming scheme of the paddles you can call them Hankys ( short for Handkerchief ).

  • Heather S

    Wow! What an awesome concept! I too go through cheese cloth like crazy! I never thought of using a handkerchief, but what a great idea for these cloths! I am getting them for sure! Now I’m having a “wish I would’ve thought of that” moment. 🙂 Way to go Donna! (you too Michael) Very cool!

  • Pete

    OpenSky’s “On Time On Us” promotion is a bit misleading. It’s not free shipping – it’s a free upgrade to 2-day shipping for the cost of regular UPS Ground shipping. Maybe I should have bought more to make the shipping cost relatively lower…

  • Georgia Pellegrini

    The easy-clean knife grabber looks great! I love the convenience of magnetic storage (and having tools out in the kitchen, easy to reach) but the plain metal strips look so industrial. These handmade wooden ones have a rustic feel I love!

  • eve s

    Where are the products made? I would hope in the U.S. Also, where is the Acacia wood sourced? Sorry to be so eco but it’s a big deal and also where it’s made.

  • Emily

    Definitely agree with the flat edged wooded ‘spoons’. My mum used a flat edged, wooden spatula for years and the rule was, flat wooden spoon for savoury and round wooden spoon for cakes (so your cake didn’t end up tasting of onions). When I moved out of home, I couldn’t find anything similar to buy. Thankfully, dad is a keen woodworker and whipped me up some (in non-toxic wood) in 10 minutes that are still going strong. BTW, I currently have some turkey drumsticks roasting as I type and then into the soup pot for Christmas gravy. I had never thought about making gravy ahead until I read your post.

  • Whineaux

    I just bought the spoons and cloths on Open Sky — easy peasy! Wish I had them today, making some chicken stock and they’d come in handier than a pocket on a shirt! Glad to see you branching out, Rachel Ray shouldn’t have all the fun!

  • nuriah

    OH YAY, FINALLY a decent cloth strainer! & it’s the right size & labelled! Now I don’t have to struggle with my little vintage cloth espresso strainers or try to find a cloth in the house I’m willing to sacrifice, LOL…(I just don’t LIKE cheesecloth. Guess when I wanna strain something, I really wanna STRAIN something…:)…Thanks!

  • Kelly

    Just last night, my husband used one of our regular dish towels to strain the stock he made from a smoked turkey we received as a gift. I was a little horrified that he was using the towel, so I will definitely be buying him some of these strain cloths. I’m getting the spoons too – I was sold on them when I saw their names!

  • Lisa

    Now if you’ll please make the ultimate, perfect spatula: wide,heat resistant, and a sharp front edge.

  • tinarina

    Just got the wooden spoons/paddles and they’re great quality. For everyday use, I wish I had another of the smaller one, or one slightly larger. The Spanker is great fun but I don’t think I’ll need it unless I’m making a giant cauldron of something!

  • Andrew @ Eating Rules

    I recently helped a friend with some homebrewing, and noticed the fine-meshed hops bags he uses tduring the boil would also be perfect for straining soft cheeses and yogurts. Just fill the bag and hang to drain! When done draining, you can turn the bag inside out and “pop” out the cheese or strained yogurt. (During my visit, I made a lemon cheese with one of his hops bags and it worked perfectly.)

    Something like this:

    So in a similar vein to your straining cloth, maybe you could create a fine-mesh bag, that also has a hook on one side, so it’s even easier to hang?

  • Andrew @ Eating Rules

    I recently helped a friend with some homebrewing, and learned that the fine-meshed hops bags he uses during the boil are also perfect for straining soft cheeses and yogurts. Just fill the bag and hang to drain! When done draining, you can turn the bag inside out and “pop” out the cheese or strained yogurt. (During my visit, I made a lemon cheese with one of his hops bags and it worked perfectly.)

    Something like this:

    So in a similar vein to your straining cloth, maybe you could create a fine-mesh bag that also has a hook on one side, so it’s even easier to hang?

  • mary lynn

    I bought the new wooden “spoons” and straining cloths. The spanker is a little to big for me and would love to see one sized in between those 2. I’ve used the cloths several times and they are great. I love the CIA towels too!!!! Great quality. Also, I treat all my wood products with mineral oil.

  • JRB

    I agree with the mineral oil comment. The advice above about using olive oil is one that can lead to the olive oil turning rancid after a while. The only oil that generally is regarded as safe for that application is walnut, but even that go bad. You’re always better off with mineral oil. Let it soak for an hour and then dry overnight and it should be good to go.

  • Dan Glovier

    Purchased the all-strain cloths a few days ago – experience was top-notch, as was delivery.

    As an aside, how do folks clean these? In the washing machine? Handwash it? Dishwasher?

    • ruhlman

      You can clean them with dish soap in the kitchen, or if they need a really good wash, wash them as you would dish towels or cloth napkins.

  • JC

    Since you asked for feedback… I have to admit that I love the concept of the straining cloths but I don’t know if I would ever use the smaller size (not too many sachets around here). I would much rather get more of the larger or medium size since most of what I do is stock straining.

    I wonder… has the material been tested in a bag form with long cooking (i.e. stock making)? I don’t know if the end result would be any easier/better but it would be interesting to be able to place the bones in a bag of that material and set it for a long cook.

  • Grateful Dad

    I am an amateur cheesemaker and the kitchen cloths are absolutely perfect. Would love to order the wooden paddles, but I too am hopelessly left-handed. As requested earlier, please give some thought to making a version for us southpaws.

  • Calvin

    Would fibers from the cloth get into the food?

    Why couldn’t you just use a metal or plastic strainer? Strainers pretty much last forever.

  • Bonnie Deahl

    Michael, I just LOVE my new BOOS board! It arrived on Valentine’s day and I have just begin to use it this week. How nice it is to have a huge board to prep on too. I looked around for the oil & cream recommended to maintain it and have just ordered those. My new board is pictured in my latest blog post with credits to you too.
    Thanks for the inspiration!


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