Aluminum foil is a kitchen staple that you can use for cooking, covering leftovers, or as a baking sheet liner. The whole world has been utilizing aluminum foil in the kitchen since around 1920, so you could say that it is a major and principal part of the cooking process!
However, is it safe to use aluminum foil in this way? Aluminum foil is great at retaining heat, and is an excellent insulator when used properly. So, does this make it a fire hazard, and is it flammable?
This is what this guide is all about. We are here to tell you whether aluminum foil will burn or melt, and if you should be using it in your oven.
What is aluminum foil?
Aluminum foil, or tin foil is aluminum prepared into thin metal leaves, with a very small thickness of 0.2 mm, making it extremely pliable, and able to be bent and wrapped around objects.
It is for this reason that aluminum foil is often used in the kitchen, as it can be used to cover food, leftovers, plates, and bowls to keep food stored safely for longer.
Aluminum foil is created by rolling out aluminum slabs that are cast from molten aluminum, with a rolling mill.
This can then be rolled to the desired shape, and a very thin thickness. As a result, this aluminum is paper thin, yet still strong and pliable. It can also be used for insulation, packaging, and is typically made for either grocery store or household use.
The aluminum foil that we are used to using in our homes, actually tends to be around 0.016mm thick, whereas heavy duty aluminum foil tends to be about 0.024mm, which is still very thin. This makes them easy to wrap and contort into shapes that are useful for us.
For the most part, aluminum foil will be used to cover meats to keep the juices and moisture in when cooking, or to line baking sheets and trays for oven use. Over 75% of the world’s aluminum foil is used for the food industry, whereas only 25% is used for electrics and electronics.
Will aluminum foil catch fire?
As aluminum foil is often used for food and cooking purposes, you may be wondering if this metal alloy is suitable for use in the oven, or microwaves.
Due to the high temperatures in these cooking appliances, you may be fearful that there is a risk of this foil catching fire, burning or becoming flammable.
Luckily, we have the answers. No, aluminum foil will not catch fire unless exposed to very high temperatures. Aluminum foil is therefore not considered flammable, as it will only catch fire if it surpasses a temperature of approximately 1,220 degrees fahrenheit, or 660 degrees celsius.
If you do try to burn aluminum foil, you may mistake the discoloration for the substance burning, but this is not the case.
The smoke that comes off the aluminum when heated can make you believe that it is burning, but if you wiped it clean, you would see that the aluminum is intact. Therefore, aluminum foil is not at all considered to be flammable.
That being said, most things will melt when the temperature is high enough, and aluminum foil is no exception.
However, the heat would have to be extremely high, and it would need these temperatures in order to ignite.
For instance, a butane torch can reach up to 2600 degrees fahrenheit, and therefore will melt and burn aluminum foil, but it is only in these extreme conditions that it would burn. This is why it is not considered flammable in most applications.
Does aluminum foil burn in the oven?
Aluminum foil is actually very safe for use in the oven, and this is typically what it is intended for. Aluminum foil will not burn in the oven as the typical oven does not reach temperatures higher than 500-600 degrees fahrenheit.
This is just under half the amount of heat that it would take to ignite aluminum foil, so there is no risk in using it in your cooking!
In addition, even if you have an electric oven, there will be no source of ignition that would cause the aluminum foil to burn.
Is aluminum foil safe to use in the oven?
In terms of fire safety, aluminum foil is very safe to use in the oven, as it will not burn or ignite. However, there is actually much debate around whether you should be using aluminum foil in your cooking, as this can raise some concerns around health and wellbeing.
Research has shown that cooking with aluminum foil increases the amount of aluminum in your food and subsequently your body. However, these amounts of aluminum will be traces, and are deemed insignificant and safe in small doses by scientists and researchers.
Some studies have suggested that high levels of aluminum in the diet are a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
However, it is rather unlikely that the small amount of aluminum exposure from cooking with it will significantly increase your risk of developing one of these diseases.
That being said, if you are concerned about using aluminum foil in your cooking due to health concerns, then try to limit the amount you are using, do not cook with aluminum utensils, do not mix aluminum foil with acidic foods, and we also recommend cooking at a lower temperature to reduce the risk.
What temperature does aluminum foil catch on fire?
The reason that we consider aluminum foil to be safe in the kitchen is because there are few appliances or cooking methods that would allow you to turn the temperature up so high that it would burn the aluminum.
Aluminum foil can only be burned at a temperature of around 1,220 degrees fahrenheit, and only then would it be able to ignite.
However, this temperature is far higher than any household circumstances, and so there is very little chance if no chance of you setting your aluminum foil on fire!
What happens when you burn aluminum foil?
If you were by some chance able to produce hot enough temperatures to burn aluminum foil, then you would create aluminum oxide. This is simply a combination of oxygen ions from the air, and the metal ions from the aluminum foil.
Does aluminum foil burn in the microwave?
This is where the gray area comes into play. For the most part, no aluminum foil does not burn in the microwave, however it is still unsafe to use aluminum foil in the microwave.
This is largely due to the fact that aluminum foil can spark in the microwave, which can cause a fire or destroy your microwave oven.
Can you use aluminum foil in the microwave?
No, do not use aluminum foil in the microwave! The first reason is because your food will not even cook properly, and the second reason is that the foil could be reflected back into the source, which in this case is the microwave, which will cause it to catch fire.
This is highly dangerous, and can even cause a house fire as a result, so please do not use aluminum foil in the microwave.
To summarize, aluminum foil is utilized for a range of kitchen uses. It is not considered flammable, and is therefore safe for use in the oven, as it only burns at a temperature of 1,220 degrees fahrenheit or more.
Despite its high ignition and burning point, you should never use aluminum foil in the microwave as this can spark, causing the microwave oven to catch fire.