Kitchen twine, a simple cotton cord, is so useful; it holds together roasts, secures neat packets of meats and vegetables, or trusses the perfect turkey. But guess what? It’s not indispensable. If you don’t have kitchen twine, you have other options. The best substitute depends on what you’re cooking and whether the twine is even necessary.

Things You'll Need

Toothpicks and Skewers

Food-grade toothpicks and wooden skewers can pin together items you would otherwise tie with twine. Toothpicks work best for securing stuffed meats or small parchment packets, if a hole in the packet won’t cause sauce or juices to leak out unnecessarily. For larger meat rolls, such as a stuffed and rolled pinwheel steak, you can secure it with multiple toothpicks or thread a single long skewer down the length of the seam, stitching the pinwheel closed.

Toothpicks and skewers can burn in the oven, though. Soak them in water for 20 minutes beforehand to keep them from scorching.

Floss Your Food

Floss works for nearly any scenario when you need twine. Unwaxed and undyed floss is best since wax can melt onto your food and dye can leach out into it. Make sure it’s unflavored, too (unless you want a hint of mint in your food). Use floss just as you would twine, whether to truss poultry or secure a parchment packet of vegetables.

Band Together

Baking bands, whether store-bought or homemade, work well for wrapping roasts or trussing poultry. Baking bands are made of heat-resistant silicone and come in a variety of sizes and widths. They stretch much like rubber bands to hold the food in place. Smaller bands are also available that work well with parchment packets or small portions of stuffed meats. You can also make a band by folding a sheet of aluminum foil into a long, narrow strip. Wrap the foil around a roast or small packet to secure it. Foil works well because it’s oven-safe and it holds its shape after folding or twisting.

Skip the Twine

You don’t always need twine. You can place stuffed meats or parchment packets seam-side down on the baking pan so they don’t open during cooking. Although a roast may not look as nice when left untied, it will still cook through and taste fine. Poultry also doesn’t require twine for trussing. If the bird isn’t stuffed, you don’t need to cross and tie the drumsticks. You can wrap the bony tips with foil so they don’t burn, though. As for the wing tips, simply swivel the wings back and tuck them under the chicken or turkey. You can also cut a small slit in the skin to tuck the tips into, but this slit allows juices to escape from the meat.