You are bound to find a roll of aluminum foil in almost every kitchen and this question is asked frequently can you put aluminum foil in the oven?
Aluminum foil, when used correctly, can be used in certain types of ovens for a variety of reasons, such as to retain moisture or to avoid a hard-to-clean mess. There are, however, a few safety concerns that we need to be aware of when using foil in an oven or toaster oven.
Let’s explore the use of aluminum foil in different types of ovens. We’re going to look at the correct and incorrect ways to use foil in the oven, as well as the pros, cons, and safety factors to be aware of. But let’s start by looking at precisely what aluminum foil is.
What is Aluminum Foil?
Aluminum foil, also commonly called ‘tin foil’, is paper-thin aluminum metal sheets produced by rolling aluminum slabs until they’re less than 0.2 mm thick. They are used industrially for packing, insulation, and transportation, amongst other uses, and at home for food storage, cooking, and baking.
Which Side of the Aluminum Foil?
We all know that aluminum foil has a shiny and dull side. But which side should we be using? People often think that the shiny side might reflect the heat, or the dull side might be a better reflector of heat, but interestingly – it’s perfectly fine to use either side when cooking.
The reason why one side of the foil is shiny, and the other side is dull is because of the manufacturing process. During production, the foil is ‘milled’ in layers. This is a process where heat and tension are applied to stretch the foil to the desired thickness.
To prevent breakage during the milling process, two layers of foil are milled in contact with each other. The dull side is a result of the foil touching the other layer. The side of the foil that isn’t in contact with the other layer is the shiny side. The foil works the same regardless of the side that is used.
Pros and Cons of Using Aluminum Foil in Conventional Ovens
|Stops food from drying out||Affects even cooking|
|Use to catch overflows or spills||Foil is not stable and can tear|
|Assists with easy cleanup||Foil is not non-stick, mess ensues|
|Use foil and no pans or baking sheet||Damage to ovens if used incorrectly|
|Oven bottom do not cover with foil|
|Aluminum has health risks|
Correct Ways to Use Foil in Electric or Gas Ovens
To use aluminum correctly in an electric or gas oven use these simple steps for a great outcome and your safety.
Wrap the Food You’re Cooking in Foil
Using foil in this way helps foods like meat and vegetables retain moisture while being cooked. It also keeps liquids from spilling while the food is marinating and prevents parts of the food from burning. This is called ‘foil tenting’.
Although many use this method to prepare food I would strongly advise that you choose another method to cook or reheat your dishes. Avoiding extra aluminum in our diets is one thing we can all choose for our health.
Use Aluminum Foil as a Lid
Like wrapping your food in foil, you can also use the foil as a lid. You can press the edges of the foil, heavy-duty aluminum foil is best, around the rim of your baking dish to help to retain moisture while cooking and reheating.
Create a DIY Foil Tray
You can make a temporary baking dish or baking tray by folding layers of heavy-duty foil into a baking dish and even a cake tin.
Placing the Aluminum Foil Directly on the Oven Rack
Everyday use for foil in the oven is to put the foil on the oven rack and then put the food onto the foil. This is great for easier cleanups, but you do need to be careful with what sort of food you do this with. This option works well for things like pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches. The foil doesn’t provide any structure or support for the food, and if the foil tears, you may have a messy oven.
Lining a Baking Sheet With Foil
A great way to keep your baking sheet relatively clean is by lining it with foil. When the food is done, you can simply toss the foil away.
Incorrect Ways to Use Foil in an Oven
Avoid the following when using foil, these tips are priceless.
Using Foil in a Microwave Oven
The use of foil in a microwave oven is very dangerous and should never be done. Aluminum heats so quickly that it can spark and even cause a fire.
An electric oven needs unimpeded airflow to work correctly, but the common ways mentioned below won’t allow this to happen:
Lining the Base of the Oven With Foil
People often line the bottom of the oven with foil because it seems like an obvious way to keep the oven clean and catch any spills. Unfortunately, direct contact like this is not a good idea as the foil can stick to the oven floor, making it difficult to remove and possibly causing damage to the surface over time. Also, because foil reflects heat, it may cause uneven cooking and even damage the elements in the oven.
Placing Foil on the Bottom Oven Rack
People place foil on the bottom oven rack for the same reason as lining the bottom of the oven with foil. Although placing the foil on the bottom oven rack is less dangerous than lining the bottom of your oven, it can still cause uneven heating and unevenly cooked food.
What About Using Foil in an Air Fryer?
Air fryers are very popular and are often used as an alternative to ovens. An air fryer works similarly to a convection oven once it reaches a specific temperature.
Aluminum foil can usually be used in an air fryer, but it depends on the type of air fryer you have and the type of food you are cooking. Always check the manual before you use foil in your air fryer.
When using foil in the air fryer, it is essential not to cover the holes circulating hot air around the basket. Blocking these holes will stop the air from circulating, and your food won’t be evenly cooked or browned.
Safety Concerns for Aluminum Foil
There is some debate about whether using aluminum foil during cooking is safe to use or whether it can cause aluminum to seep into your food, creating a health risk.
Aluminum is found everywhere, including as a naturally occurring element in our foods – it is one of the most abundant metals, and our bodies can handle low levels of it in our systems.
We may risk ingesting more aluminum via cooking or baking if tiny pieces tear-off or small amounts leach into our food. Leaching can occur when acidic foods or certain spices are cooked with foil. The acidity creates a chemical reaction with the foil.
Cooking at high temperatures also appears to increase the possibility of aluminum making its way into the food. Researchers do not consider these amounts unsafe as our bodies excrete most of the aluminum we ingest.
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease have been associated with high levels of aluminum in the body. Still, there isn’t any strong evidence that aluminum foil will increase the risk of illness.
Nevertheless, suppose you wish to avoid excessive exposure to aluminum. In that case, you might want to consider avoiding high-heat cooking with foil and when your cooking involves acidic foods such as lemons, tomatoes, or vinegar.
Alternatives to Aluminum Foil in the Oven?
If you want to minimize exposure to aluminum foil in cooking, you do have a few alternatives.
Use a Baking Pan or Cookie Sheet
A baking pan or cookie sheet can be used instead of aluminum foil, with the advantage of it providing more structure. If it has raised edges, it will also stop any liquids from spilling out into the oven.
Use Parchment Paper
You can put a layer of parchment paper on a baking sheet to assist with quick cleanups. Parchment paper has the added advantage of having a non-stick surface.
Use a Dutch Oven
If you use foil to retain the moisture in your food, you can consider using a Dutch oven instead. A Dutch oven is made from iron or ceramic, and the tightly fitted lid prevents moisture from escaping.
Use a Silicone Oven Liner
If you want to ensure that your oven stays clean, you can use a silicone oven liner to catch any messy spills or drips. Silicon liners don’t reflect heat, and they don’t stick to the bottom of the oven either. When they need a clean, simply pop them in the dishwasher.
Can you use aluminum foil for baking a cake?
Avoid using sheets of aluminum foil to line a baking pan, use parchment paper instead. Make sure you grease and flour it so your delicious baked goods do not stick to it. You can bake in aluminum trays, but again I would grease and flour it liberally to avoid sticking.
What can I use instead of parchment paper?
You can use an aluminum foil sheet cut to fit the inside of the pan. Ensuring it is well greased to avoid food sticking to it. Parchment paper cut to size and greased for a non-stick surface is a healthier choice.
Aluminum Foil in the Oven
Using aluminum foil combined with high heat is common practice. Even common uses such as covering the bottom rack can mean permanent damage. A small amount of aluminum will affect heat distribution, and cause possible heat damage, and health problems.
You are now prepared to use aluminum foil in the best way. You’ve learned about where you should and shouldn’t use aluminum as well as its safety concerns. I have also given you some alternatives to using foil.
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