Can you put aluminum foil in the oven?

Can you put aluminum foil in the oven
Photo Credit: Lumen

Question: Can you put aluminum foil in the oven?

Answer: Aluminum foil can be used in standard ovens for packet cooking, broiling, grilling, baking and roasting purposes. Just make sure to never use aluminum foil at the bottom of ovens to catch spills and drips. It can affect the quality of baking and damage ovens in the long run.

More on Aluminum foil

Loosely speaking, aluminum foil is produced by passing large slabs of aluminum ingot back and forth through metal rollers untill they are less than 0.02 cm thick (1). The degree to which the aluminum blocks are reduced depends on the intended usage of the final product. Foils meant for household use are commonly produced in two different thicknesses;
  • Standard Aluminum foil (thin): It is rolled into a thickness between (0.0011 cm - 0.0018 cm) (2), and is suitable for wrapping light items during gentle cooling and heating applications. For example, wrapping left-over foods for short term refrigeration or cooking light pieces of salmon in a pouch made from the aluminum foil. It can tear or under-perform when used to wrap heavier items or exposed to intense freezing and heating applications.
  • Heavy duty Aluminum Foil (thick): It is rolled into a thickness between (0.02 cm - 0.04 cm) (3), and has a better tolerance compared to the standard version. It is great for wrapping weighty items during heavy cooling and heating applications. For example, wrapping heavy cuts of meat such as briskets for barbecuing, or deep freezing poultry meat to prevent freezer burn. Other heavy duty applications include, roasting, grilling, broiling, and camp fire grilling.
Both the standard and heavy duty foils can be coated with a release agent on one side to impart a non-stick property on them. The non-stick coating is especially useful for preventing baked good from sticking to their surfaces. Regular aluminum foil must be coated with shortening to achieve this purpose.

Aluminum foil rolled and coated in this manner boasts a whole spectrum of physical and mechanical properties that are useful for household needs.

Some of the key properties include:
  1. Heat tolerance: Aluminum foils can resist a wide variety of household temperatures, from the very cold to the very hot with no risk of cracking, breaking, melting, or burning.
  2. Barrier properties: Aluminum foil acts as an effective barrier against light, air, moisture, micro-organisms and foreign odor. This property makes it useful for wrapping foodstuffs for long term storage and prevent them from bacteria, moisture transmission and aroma-transmission (4).
  3. Thermal conductivity: Aluminum foil is an excellent conductor of thermal heat and therefore can speed up cooking times and promote even cooking.
  4. Dead-fold characteristics: Aluminum foil wraps around food materials easily and stays folded with no spring back. This makes food storage and preparation quicker and easier. No extra seal needed.
  5. Reflectivity: Aluminum foil can reflect 98% of radiant heat, which makes it suitable for preserving the temperature of food items for longer duration (5).
  6. Hygiene: Aluminum foil is sterile and does not harbor the growth of bacteria.
  7. Neutral taste: Aluminum foil imparts no detectable taste or odor to foodstuffs.
  8. Non-toxicity and corrosion resistant.

What can aluminum foil be used for in ovens?

Aluminum foil has many uses in ovens:

Here are some:
  • Pouch roasting, baking and broiling: Wrap food items in packets made from aluminum foil to lock in moisture, flavor and prevent drying. To make a foil packet, [1] Cut large or small sheets of aluminum foil depending on the size of the food [2] Place foil on a neat counter-top [3] Transfer food items to the center of the foil [4] Bring up foil sides and double fold top and ends of the foil to form a large packet. [4] Make sure to leave room for heat circulation which will ensure even cooking. To brown poultry, open and turn back foil towards the end of cooking. For easy slicing, let items stand for additional minutes after removing from the oven. 
  • Pan roasting, baking and broiling: Line baking trays with aluminum foil for easier and faster cooking. To line a baking tray, [1] Flip the tray upside down and press a sheet of aluminum foil all around it; including the sides [2] Lift the pressed foil and flip the tray back up [3] Drop the foil liner inside the pan and press the foil edges tightly to the rim of the pan.
  • Grilling BBQ: Line grill grate or grilling pan with aluminum foil and cook chickens, briskets, pizzas or your favorite recipes. 
  • Pouch grilling: Seal recipes like sausages, salmon, S'mores etc. in a foil packet and cook on a grill gate or grilling pan (in the oven) for a flavorful and tender results.
  • Loosely cover the top of poultry foods with a foil tent, to prevent over-browning and ensure fast cooking. To make the tent, [1] Cut a sheet of foil large enough to reach the edges of the pan [2] Fold in half, place over the poultry and press the foil edges to the rim of the pan.
  • Lightly cover cakes, bread, cheese and other sticky foods with a large sheet of aluminum foil to prevent over browning at the top. For items like cakes and breads, you may want to do this after the formation of crusts, which is usually half way through cooking.
  • Use aluminum foil as a substitute when short on pans or pots or when you dont feel like cleaning. Simply fold the foil into desired shapes and bake you favorite chocolate or carrot cake recipe in it.
  • For camp fire cooking, wrap the food item in foil packet and toss it into the hot glaring coal (as directed by the recipe).
Notes:
  • Delicate treats like cookies or special cakes can produce slightly unexpected results with aluminum foil. Cookies can spread a bit more and brown more on the bottom, while cakes can have irregular shapes.
  • To catch spills or drips form poultry foods, place an aluminum foil on a lower rack, several inches below the food. Make sure to not use more foil than necessary and ensure you keep the foil at least 1½ inches from the oven walls to prevent poor heat circulation. You can also use a cookie sheet instead.
  • Do not use aluminum foil on a pizza stone as it can interfere with the performance of the stone. 

Tip: 1) For all pan applications, grease the surface of a regular foil with shortening or use a non-stick foil. 2) Substitute standard aluminum foil with heavy duty foil when needed. alert-information 

Which side of aluminum foil to use?

For regular non-stick foil, use the dull side or the side with the non-stick coating to line foods for non-stick results.

For regular foils, use whichever side you prefer. It will have no impact on the final outcome. Just make sure to grease the surface of the foil with shortening or cooking spray, to prevent baked food from sticking.

What are the safety tips for using aluminum foil in the oven?

First, never line the bottom of electric ovens with aluminum foil to collect spills and drips. The foil can trap heat below and upset the performance of the oven. In the long run, this can lead to fire hazard or permanent damage to the bottom of the oven (6).

Secondly, for gas ovens, never cover any slots, holes or passages in the oven bottom. It can trap heat and block air flow through the oven, causing carbon mono-oxide poisoning or a possible fire hazard (6).

Further, lower oven drawers should not be lined with aluminum foil for the same purpose of catching drips and spills. The foil can trap heat, melt and permanently damage the drawer bottom (6).

Lastly, make sure to never touch the inside walls of a hot oven, heater or flame with aluminum foil, it can produce highly unexpected results.

Will aluminum foil leach substances into food?

Yes, aluminum foil can leach aluminum into food, particularly at higher temperatures and with highly acidic foods like tomatoes, salt, spices, cabbage and rhubarb. These deposits are totally non-toxic and are transferred only at undetectable amounts which do not appear to pose any risk to people when consumed (7).

Further, aluminum deposits of fewer or higher amounts are constantly consumed as additives in processed foods, in air, meat, fish, grains, fruits, drinking water or even medications. Regardless, the body only absorbs a tiny portion of these amounts and the rest are expelled as waste through feces or urine (7).

In addition to that, there is no strong evidence linking the normal day-day use of aluminum products, whether in food, medications or cookware to any adverse health affect (7, 8).

If you are still concerned about the trace amount of aluminum deposits in your diet, you can limit your usage of aluminum cookwares and materials. Use foils once in a while for grilling or broiling purposes, and substitute parchment paper for all pouch related cooking and roasting. Use cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic cookwares as an alternative to aluminum cookwares.

Related Questions:

Can aluminum foil be used in toaster ovens?

Yes. Aluminum foil can be used in toaster ovens.

Here are the safety tips regarding the use of aluminum foil in toaster ovens.
  • First, always consult the "owners manual" of your toaster oven and heed to the manufacturers recommendations for the use of aluminum foil.
  • Use aluminum foil to line baking trays for easier cleaning. Make sure the foil doesn't get too close to the heating elements or touch the walls of the oven. It can melt on the surface, which can be hard to scrape off and will prevent the interior from heating properly and even cause a permanent damage (9).
  • Wrap food items like raw fish or meat in aluminum packets and grill in toaster ovens.
  • Only line the crumb tray with aluminum foil if the "owners manual" of your toaster oven says so. Properly line the surface of the crumb tray and do not allow any contact with the bottom heating elements which can damage the oven. The best possible advice, is to avoid lining the crumb tray at all. You are better of wiping the tray with a damp cloth.
Note

When a manual forbids the use of foil to line the crumb tray or other parts of the oven, it's because the foil can cause the oven to over heat, which in consequence, can damage the oven (9).

Can aluminum foil be used in microwave ovens?

Microwave ovens work by emitting low energy microwave radiation that is easily absorbed by water molecules in food and converted to heat for cooking. Metals like aluminum foil generally reflect microwave radiation rather than absorb it. As a consequence, any food completely covered in the microwave with aluminum foil will not be able to absorb microwave radiation and thus will remain uncooked (10, 11).

However, small pieces of aluminum foil can be used to shield small areas of food such as chicken wings or turkey drum sticks to prevent heating or over cooking (11).

Here's how to use aluminum foil for this purpose.
  • Make sure to use a new foil and not a wrinkled foil (11).
  • Cover no more than ¼ of the food with aluminum foil (11).
  • If the microwave oven has metal shelves or a metal turntable, dont let the foil touch or get too close to the shelves or turntable (11).
  • If you see sparking, immediately remove the foil shielding (11).

Can aluminum foil be used in air fryers?

Aluminum foil can be used in air fryers to line the bottom of the basket and make cleanup easier.

Here are the tips for using aluminum foil in air fryers.
  • Ensure to leave spaces here and there for proper circulation of hot air around the cavity (12). You can puncture holes in the aluminum foil to help with this.
  • Avoid sticking aluminum foil beyond the edges of the basket, to avoid possible contact with the heater (12).
  • Avoid using aluminum foil at the bottom of air fryer where grease is collected. The air flow can be disrupted which will disrupt the cooking performance of the air fryer (12).
  • Always make sure to preheat the air fryer first before putting aluminum foil and food. If aluminum foil is lined in the basket without food to press it down, it can get sucked towards the heater and melt (12).

Important note: Always keep ovens, toaster ovens, and microwave ovens properly cleaned, to prevent accumulation of grease and dirt which can increase the risk of fire hazard. alert-warning 

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