If you are a picnic lover or you do chill nights at your backyard with your family and friends, you would know how popular aluminum products are, such as aluminum foil, trays, and containers.
These products are usually used to store food to maintain its temperature or to cover food for grilling. There are also some who try to use this in making as aluminum products have light materials and are very much malleable that you can shape it however you want.
But is it really safe to use aluminum products in microwaves? These have been part of people’s discussions and there have been many myths and accounts on it. Aluminum products are versatile items that you can almost use in your cooking needs including its use in microwaves. Let us clarify this!
How Microwave Ovens Work?
In 1970s, when microwave ovens became affordable for residential use, most households began shifting and leaving conventional ovens. Innovations and developments were subsequently introduced upgrading these microwave ovens and even converting other kitchen appliance to work as a microwave like microwave rice cookers available now too in the market. Microwave ovens are kitchen appliance that cooks food through the use of electromagnetic waves. Imagine just putting your raw food in this mysterious and magical metal box and after a few minutes, it comes out to perfection!
Microwaves ovens work by injecting microwaves in the food. Of course, we do not see these happening while looking at the oven since the electromagnetic waves are invisible to the human eye. These microwaves are absorbed by the food or water placed in the oven. It can thus be said that the heating occurs inside the food without warming its surrounding air. As a result, the cooking and baking time is hugely reduced. Moreover, other cooking tasks which in a conventional oven would take hours to cook, can already be cooked in just minutes if you do it in a microwave oven! What a great leap right?
That is actually the science of microwave ovens as in its surface, using it is super easy! When you are running late for work and you stop by a market to buy food, they will just place that frozen breakfast meal in the microwave oven and then poof, an instant meal!
Using aluminum is microwave safe or dangerous
There have been many discussions on the use of aluminum products such as foil, tray, and pans in microwave. Some says it is completely prohibited to use aluminum in microwaves and others have an opposing view.
Per research, in using aluminum microwave can be both safe and it can be dangerous. Microwave ovens work through the microwaves. These microwaves are electromagnetic radio waves with specific frequency length. The frequency bounces off metals but passes through ceramics, plastics, and glass. The metal walls of the microwave oven reflect the microwaves hence it does not heat up everything in the box but only the food where these are absorbed.
If a thick metal is placed inside the microwave oven, as heat cannot pass through it, the microwave oven can usually tolerate these currents without any problems. Thin sheet of metal such as a strip of aluminum foil and tiny sharp pieces are a totally different story as this cannot contain the energy coming from the microwaves resulting to rapidly heating up and igniting. Plus, if there are sharp edges or wrinkles like the corners of a foil strip or fork pointsthe electrical current running through the foil will cause overheating and sparking. You may want to grab your fire extinguisher if this hit other things in the oven. This is the reason why you cannot heat up food in closed metal containers like aluminum more so when it is covered with an aluminum strip that has sharp edges.It will not of course make your oven explode but it could pose potential dangers such as fire. So, it may be a good idea to stick to other non-metal materials.
On the other hand, it may be safe to use aluminum in microwave ovens if the instruction on its use is followed. There are some food packages like aluminum foils that is safe to use in microwave provided that recommendation in its proper use as indicated by the manufacturer is strictly observed. Just be mindful not to cover your food entirely with aluminum foil or material with metal because the microwaves will not be absorbed by the food.Consequently, this will actually damage your microwave oven or even burn it. Aluminum foil can still, however, be used to cover areas of food to prevent overcooking as long as it does not cover the food entirely.
What Can I Use in the Microwave?
While the use of aluminum products is not recommended in microwave, there are numerous products or containers that you can use instead which are safe and convenient.
Per research, people are reminded to only use cookware that are specifically manufactured for use in microwave oven.
The following are the list of containers and wraps that are safe to use in the microwave oven:
• Utensils that are specifically made to be used in microwave ovens;
• Glass and ceramic that are heatproof like Pyrex;
• Baskets that are made of straps and woods used for quick warming of rolls or bread. If you will use this, make sure to place napkins that will absorb the moisture of the food;
• For safety, unprinted paper plates, towels, and baking bags; and
• Only parchment and wax paper, and heavy plastic wrap. But for plastic wrap, do not let it touch the food.
These non-metal containers are highly recommended as they are considered as microwave safe containers. If you do not want to worry over the effect of metal containers of any serious fire break out, potential explosion, or damage to your oven, best to stick with containers that are safe for microwaving. You bought the microwave for its convenient and easy use, so you might want to think twice using a container that will make it difficult for you to achieve its purpose.
Is It Safe To Microwave Aluminum Foil?
Aluminum foil which is popularly known as those thin sheets of silvery metal at the grocery store, can come in handy for many purposes like leftover storage, cover of dishes containing hot food to keep them warm, and be used for baking and cooking.
This may be safe to microwave if used right. In an article, theU.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), reiterated that food cannot be completely covered by aluminum foil or in a covered metal pan in a microwave oven. As microwaves only bounces off metals, food covered with aluminum foil cannot be heated and it can cause damage to the oven. Aluminum foil can still, however, be used to cover areas of food to prevent overcooking as long as it does not cover the food entirely.
What then is not allowed is for you to totally cover your food with aluminum foil or with thin pieces of its which has sharp edges and is wrinkled, the electrical current running through its edges will cause overheating and sparking. Above all, the best thing to do is to check the recommendations of the manufacturer or the manual that comes with the microwave oven on the use of aluminum foil.
Thus, as long as you use it properly, you can best be assured not to encounter overheating, sparking, or worse catching a fire.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
Here are some FAQs to help you be clarified on some issues of using aluminum foil in microwave ovens:
What happens if you microwave aluminum foil?
If you microwave aluminum foil that is wrinkled and with sharp edges, overheating and sparking will definitely happen. You can use aluminum foil in microwaving only if it is done per the recommendation of the manufacturer, but you can never put food that is entirely covered with aluminum foil in the microwave oven. This is because microwaves do not pass-through metal like that of aluminum foil thereby affecting the oven’s operation. Plus, if it is wrinkled and there are sharp edges, it will not be able to contain the electric currents running through resulting to overheating and sparking.
Is microwave-safe plastic really safe?
Microwave safe plastic may really be safe as it is labeled as “microwave safe,” but this guarantee only means that it will not melt or that it can withstand the heat of the microwave. It does not guarantee that the plastic containers will not transfer or leak chemicals into food.
Does foil damage the microwave?
Foil does not directly damage the microwave. What damages the microwave is when you cover the food totally with aluminum foil plus it is wrinkled and it has sharp edges. Microwave oven can usually tolerate thick metals with its walls as the microwaves only bounces back and forth. However, as to think aluminum or metal like aluminum foil they will not be able to contain the running electricity, which will cause overheating. Additionally, if the foil has sharp edges or wrinkles it can form sparks, which eventually can start a fire.
Aluminum products are widely used specially in cookware industry as food containers for cooking or grilling. When it comes, however, to microwave ovens you have to step back a little. While you can use it in microwave ovens, when not properly done, it can lead to not only damage to the oven but to your home.
To avoid any untoward incidents in using aluminum foil for microwaving, you should always check the manufacturer’s recommendation or the manual that comes with the oven when purchasing it. Doing some research on the proper use of this will also help you out.