Aluminum foil is among many kitchen supplies that we use on a daily basis. However, it’s known to have a few setbacks, especially concerning health and safety.
Even though it’s not considered completely dangerous, it can still increase the amount of aluminum in your body to an unhealthy level. But, this is only when the foil is exposed to heat, which raises the question — can you put aluminum foil in the oven?
Here is everything you need to know about using aluminum foil in the safest way.
Why Do We Wrap Food in Aluminum Foil?
Using aluminum foil to package food is an aseptic technique. This means that it provides a seal for your food so that it isn’t exposed to harmful disease-causing bacteria. To prevent bacteria that might have already been in the food, the foil creates an anaerobic environment so that the bacteria does not survive.
It also helps to keep frozen foods cold and hot foods warm, temporarily.
Why Is Aluminum Foil a Good Insulator?
It acts as a barrier between your food and the outside air, which prevents heat from radiating out and into the environment. This makes aluminum foil a good insulator, which is why most people rely on it to keep their food warm for a short amount of time.
How Does Aluminum Foil Reduce Heat Loss?
One of the major ways aluminum foil reduces heat loss is by shielding the food from the warm outside air. Since hot air does not touch the food, the food retains its coldness. Another way is by reflecting light. As aluminum is shiny, it turns away light rays, so it does not warm the inside of the foil.
Does Aluminum Foil Conduct Electricity?
Yes, aluminum foil can conduct electricity since it is metal. This means that when the material is charged, it can cause electrons to start moving. So, you should be extra careful when using aluminum foil near electrical appliances.
Is Aluminum Foil Safe to Wrap Food?
Most aluminum foils endorsed for culinary purposes are completely safe for food. However, you should not alternate a common food storage item, such as a plastic container or your refrigerator, for aluminum foil. Unlike those storage systems, aluminum can begin leaching into your food after a prolonged period of time.
To be on the safe side, use aluminum foil in moderation and do not consume the food if it’s been in the foil for longer than 6-7 hours.
Which Side of the Aluminum Foil to Use?
It doesn’t really matter which side of the aluminum foil you use, but many prefer the shiny side. The “shiny” side is said to reflect the brightest rays to keep cold food cool for longer, but both sides can reflect light. So, it’s completely up to you on which side of the foil you’d like to use.
If you’re using aluminum foil for packaging purposes, you should use the dull side of your food to keep the temperature of your food constant. And if you’re using the foil for cooking purposes, make sure the foil lays flat on the dull side. The matte surface is non-stick and prevents fires and burns.
Can We Use Aluminum Foil in Oven?
There are specific times when you can use aluminum foil in the oven, but you shouldn’t make it a regular habit. Aluminum foil can be used in the oven for lining baking sheets, but it should never be used when the foil is making direct contact with the tray or bottom of the oven. This will most definitely cause a fire hazard.
You can also safely use aluminum foil when cooking meats or other food on a grill. It’s still recommended to use an alternative and oven-safe cooking parchment for this and avoid high temperatures along with foods that have acidic pH.
Is Aluminum Foil Microwave Safe?
You should avoid using aluminum foil in the microwave at all costs. Microwaves will send multiple electric charges through the thin material of aluminum foil and cause it to become charged. With the overflow of electric currents inside the unit, a surge of heat will erupt and most likely cause the microwave to catch fire.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) strictly advises against the use of aluminum foil in the microwave because of this danger.
Aluminum foil is safe in most kitchen appliances such as ovens, air fryers, and pressure cookers but not in microwaves only because of the type of electromagnetic currents it produces. This makes the microwave’s radiation much more intense, which is why it heats things quicker than ovens.
Can Aluminum Foil Be Used in an Air Fryer?
Air fryers are less technical and hazardous than ovens and microwaves, so the aluminum foil is safe to go in, given that it only lines the basket and nothing else. You should still avoid setting the air fryer to long periods of time and high heat, as well as using acidic foods such as tomatoes and lemons (or any citrus foods).
Chemicals in citrus foods can cause a reaction with the aluminum when heat is involved, which eventually leads to chemical leaching, or in worse cases, a fire.
Can We Use Aluminum Foil for Baking a Cake?
Yes, you can use aluminum foil when baking a cake, but only if you use it for lining the baking paper. As we’ve already gone through, the aluminum foil should never make bare contact with the tray or bottom of the oven. So, to avoid any fire hazards, only line your baking sheets with aluminum foil.
We recommend not using aluminum foil for baking at all, as there is still a small chance of it catching fire or the aluminum in the foil leaching into the food and causing illnesses.
Which Side of Aluminum Foil Is Nonstick?
The dull or matted side of the aluminum foil is nonstick, and it should also be the side where your food touches. There are a few brands of aluminum foil with shiny surfaces on both sides, so avoid getting those if you’re using the foil to line baking sheets. It will cause your food to stick and burn the foil.
To know if the foil is nonstick before purchase, check the label to confirm if it is oven safe. If you still have doubts, use a thin baking sheet under the foil anyway so that there’s no fire risk.
Can Aluminum Foil Be Used for Baking?
Yes, aluminum foil can be used for baking, but only if it’s used to line baking sheets. When aluminum foil makes direct contact with metal parts of the oven or a baking tray, it causes heat to generate, eventually leading to a fire. So, only use aluminum for lining your baking paper.
If you do decide to use aluminum foil for baking, make sure to use the dull side on the food and not the shiny side. The matte side is non-stick, which prevents food from burning into the foil and causing a fire. So, always look for foils that are endorsed for oven use to be on the safe side.
Can Aluminum Foil Be Used in a Pressure Cooker?
Yes, aluminum foil is safe to go into a pressure cooker. It helps to cook certain foods such as potatoes perfectly and leaves no uncooked parts. However, it should be used occasionally and not be made into a practice to avoid possible chemical leaching.
If you have second thoughts before using aluminum foil in the pressure cooker, it’s best to avoid doing so altogether.
Does Aluminum Foil Burn?
Since aluminum foil is thin, it can catch fire and burn very quickly. It’s also a conductor of electricity, so there are a few precautions you need to take before using it inside electrical appliances, such as air fryers and ovens.
Avoid using the shiny side on your food when using it to line baking paper, as it can stick and cause burns. Also, avoid using it to collect spills and drips on the bottom of your oven; this can cause a fire as well.
Does Aluminum Foil Reflect Heat?
The surface of the aluminum foil has a tendency to reflect almost all of the infrared rays that hit it. It also reflects light, which prevents the inside of the foil from warming up. Due to its heat-reflecting properties, aluminum foil is often used to keep cold food cool for a few hours.
Is Aluminum Foil Harmful?
No, it’s not completely harmful. Since aluminum foil is FDA approved, there’s not much to say to refrain from using it. In fact, it’s a common item in all households and kitchens, so there is very little chance of it causing any significant harm.
However, the aluminum foil should be used carefully by not leaving it on your food too long or using high heat on it. This may cause chemical leaching.
Is Aluminum Foil Biodegradable?
No, aluminum foil is not biodegradable. But it can be recycled. A case study says that almost 75% of all aluminum-made products in the US are recycled. So, if you want to be more environmentally conscious with your culinary skills, use aluminum foil instead of plastic packaging for food.
Best Alternatives to Aluminum Foil
It’s understandable if you’ve now changed your views on using aluminum foil for culinary purposes. But, you might be lost on what to use as an alternative. If so, here are the best alternatives to aluminum foil –
Grilling using cedar wraps adds a delicious cedar flavor and steam to meals without creating a mess or adding to your calorie intake. Wraps are particularly great for foods that can lose structure on the grill, such as scallops, fish, and vegetables.
Beeswax Food Wraps
If you’re a very environmentally conscious cook, the best alternative for aluminum would be beeswax wraps. Not only is it 100% biodegradable, but it can also be washed and reused to eliminate waste. Plus, it keeps food fresh for longer and can be put in the fridge.
Silicone Food Covers
Since wraps have the setback of having to be replaced or cut into a specific size before use, you can use silicone food covers for minimal maintenance. If you have a lot of lidless bowls lying around in the kitchen, silicone food covers are great to both reduce the number of idle bowls and also conveniently store your leftovers.
All you have to do is put the food into a bowl and seal a silicone cover over it. The cover is adjustable and stretchy to accommodate the size of your bowl, so it acts like a lid. This bowl can then be put in the fridge and stored easily.
Silicone Baking Sheets or Mats
Another option of eliminating aluminum foil use during baking is silicone sheets or mats. Silicone is comparatively safer in the oven and microwave than aluminum, so there’s a much lesser chance of fire hazards during cooking.
Silicone mats also do not have to be thrown away after use, like aluminum foil. You can simply wash the mat after use and reuse it again later.
If none of the above-mentioned alternatives are to your taste, you can go the old-fashioned way and use glass containers. They are completely reusable and prevent the growth of bacteria by fully shielding your food from outside contamination.
However, this is the weakest aluminum foil alternative as it’s not always safe in the microwave and is prone to breakage with the slightest impact. They’re also pretty heavy to carry around and might take up a lot of space in your fridge.
So, can you put aluminum foil in the oven after all? Now that you’ve waded through all our information on the proper use of aluminum foil, you’re free to make your own verdict on how it should be used in the kitchen.
Every cook has different culinary habits, so it all comes down to how you choose to use this kitchen item. We’re just here to tell you that your safety matters the most.