Aluminium foil, since being created in the early 19th century, has been a product stored and used in our kitchen for almost a hundred years.
It seems insane to imagine our great-great-grandparents incorporating a roll of foil in their cooking plans… although, it didn’t look the same as it does in our day and age, packaged in a thin cardboard box with those sharp little teeth that help slice the pieces off (anyone who has cut their fingers on those things knows the pain I’m talking about).
Today, we use it for a number of different uses: it can be used to preserve foods, to keep food heated for a longer period of time, and to line oven trays while cooking food, preventing excess mess. It is an extremely useful tool to have in the kitchen, and best of all, it is recyclable!
It would be assumed that an item that is used for cooking wouldn’t be flammable, as if this were the case, you would not be able to use it around high temperatures.
However, you can never be too careful. If you are reading this article, perhaps the thought has crossed your mind: is aluminium foil flammable? Can it burn? Can it melt?
Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Continue reading to find out whether aluminium foil really is flammable, and if so, how you can protect yourself against these dangers while working hard in the kitchen.
What Is Aluminium Foil?
So, let’s start with the basics: what is aluminium foil, exactly?
Aluminium foil is a long, thin sheet of aluminium which is rolled up into a cylinder shape. It can be easily torn into smaller pieces, and can be used for multiple purposes, such as storing and cooking food.
It is also a useful tool that can be used for arts and crafts projects. It’s versatile nature makes it an essential for pretty much anyone and everyone.
Up until the 1910s, people would use tin foil until the more suitable substance was brought to light. Following the discovery of aluminum foil, it gained popularity fairly quickly, being bought and used by many satisfied customers.
It also became a favorite of many manufacturing companies when they realised that this product could be used to safely preserve food and protect it against bacteria, as well as preventing moisture and light from damaging their consumable goods.
Aluminium foil was also becoming more and more used for lining thermal bags, and other products, due to its ability to contain heat.
Time has passed since we first discovered this versatile substance, and since then we have learnt to use aluminium foil for so much more than simply cooking: it can be used for wrapping gift boxes, lining takeaway packages, and can even be used to wrap sections of hair while it's being bleached, holding the heat in order to lift the original hair color faster.
Of course, we have also heard about the theories of how hats made from tin or aluminium foil can protect your thoughts from being read by alien specieses… come on, what other materials are you aware of that can hide your thoughts from extra terrestrial beings?
It’s pretty much a miracle worker.
Aluminium Foil Vs Tin Foil
As we mentioned in the last section, before we had aluminum foil to work with, we would use tin foil. Some people still confuse the two, and you may be guilty of this: so many people will still call aluminum foil ‘tin foil’ and believe that they are the same thing.
However, there is a distinct difference between the two materials.
So, as we said before, there was a time before aluminium foil was readily available on the market. Before this time - before the year 1926, to be exact - tin was the main material that was used for foil.
This foil was generally used by manufacturers rather than the general public, however, being used to line cigarette packets and as used for insulation and packing materials.
If you were to compare a sheet of tin foil and a sheet of aluminium foil, you probably would not be able to tell the difference.
Both are extremely similar to look at, although you may be able to work out which is which by touching and folding them: aluminium foil is a lot sturdier and manipulative, whereas tin foil can be quite stiff to maneuver.
Also, tin foil is known to leave an almost bitter taste when used with food, so it is no surprise that aluminium foil was chosen as the new favorite. Tin is also a great deal more expensive than aluminium.
None of this really matters when it comes to buying foil, however, as it is pretty rare to find tin foil in supermarkets anymore due to it barely being used. It is still used by manufacturing companies, but for electrical companies rather than food.
Is Aluminium Foil Safe To Use?
You may have heard horror stories about aluminium foil and its toxicity. This may sound strange, seeing as it is widely known to be used for wrapping food before, during and after cooking.
So, is aluminium foil really toxic?
The answer, surprisingly, is ‘yes’. In fact, we should actually avoid wrapping our food in aluminium foil. This is because some of the foil will fiterate into your meal in small amounts, and while this may be fine in portions, it is extremely dangerous to consume a high intake of aluminium.
We, as human beings, are able to consume small amounts of aluminium. You may be wondering why we would ever want to eat this material, but we actually consume more of it than you would realise: small quantities of aluminium are found in tea, salt, herbs and spices, and yellow cheese.
Aluminium is also present in drinking water, as aluminium sulfate is used during the purifying process.
In small amounts, it is okay for us to ingest this material. However, it becomes dangerous when it becomes heated: this is why we should avoid using it to wrap or hold our food before placing it in the oven.
So, what are the risks? Firstly, high amounts ingested have been known to reduce the growth rate of brain cells.
Scientists have discovered a link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease: high volumes of aluminium have been found in the brains of patients suffering from the illness, and come to the conclusion that this is due to the older generation having been more exposed to aluminium than the younger generations.
High intakes of the material have also been linked to causing harm to those who already suffer from bone disease and kidney problems.
Aluminium is able to seep into any kind of food, but it can leech more easily into acidic foods such as lemons and tomatoes, or any types of food that contain a lot of alcohol, spice, or salt.
So, Will Aluminium Foil Burn Or Melt?
So, let’s return to the original question: is aluminium flammable?
You may be surprised to discover that the answer is ‘yes’, aluminium can catch on fire. However, it can only reach its flammability point at extremely high temperatures, ones that probably cannot be reached by your oven at home. The temperature needed is, roughly, at around 1220°F.
However, it can conduct heat very easily, and this can cause a fire, depending on how the material is heated. It is very good at containing heat, and this is why it is often used within thermal materials.
It can also spark flames fairly easily if even slightly heated through certain cooking appliances.
I’m sure many of you reading this article have, at some point, tried cooking food in the microwave while it is still covered in foil, and in turn, has almost blown the entire kitchen up.
This is because electromagnetic waves cannot pass through aluminium, or other kinds of metals, as it can with other materials, such as paper or glass. Do not try this at home.
Aluminium foil can melt and burn, but it takes extremely high temperatures to be able to do so. This is why you can use it while cooking meals in the oven, and it generally remains intact. It is best not to test this out yourself as the fumes that burning aluminium is extremely toxic.
As we mentioned previously in this article, it is best to avoid heating aluminum foil altogether: this means no more using it while preparing food, even if this is something you have been doing for years.
The long term effects may catch up with you in the future, and you will have wished you had listened to us. It is for your own safety!