Using a microwave saves time and energy when reheating food. It eliminates the need to wait for the oven to heat up while getting you back to your daily routine in minutes. One idea to make food tastier and reduce cleanup is to wrap it with aluminum foil. While this works in ovens, it doesn’t work in microwaves.
You cannot microwave aluminum foil. Aluminum foil can warp or melt when exposed to microwaves. It will immediately begin to spark and can cause a fire. Microwaving aluminum foil is highly unsafe.
This article will discuss why aluminum foil is unsafe for microwaves and the best alternative for getting the same result.
What Is Aluminum?
Aluminum is a silvery-white, soft and ductile metal. Its chemical identifier is Al, and its atomic number is 13. The melting point of aluminum is relatively low at 660 degrees Celsius.
Aluminum can be alloyed with other metals such as copper to produce brass, bronze, or die casting alloys that are harder than pure aluminum. Aluminum is the third most abundant element in Earth’s crust. It constitutes 8% of the planet’s mass.
What Happens If You Microwave Aluminum Foil?
The heating element of the microwave oven emits radio waves that are absorbed by food, converting electric energy into heat. The metal in the aluminum foil acts as an antenna that absorbs the microwave’s heat enough to remit it. The heat doesn’t flow through the foil. In other words, it reflects the microwave’s heat.
The foil heats up atoms in the food to absorb this radiation, causing their charges to oscillate rapidly. This produces heat much faster than conventional ovens, where the air is heated by convection currents caused by hot gasses rising from a heating element.
Aluminum foil cannot absorb enough energy from the microwaves, so it can’t heat as effectively as other materials such as a cooking pan. Also, the metal in the aluminum foil may start arcing. Arcing often results when there is a sudden temperature change.
Aluminum foil cannot tolerate the electrical currents as they heat up. Unfortunately, it heats up so fast that it causes sparks, fires, and even explosions.
Using Foil in an Oven vs. the Microwave
You can put foil in the oven but not in the microwave because the aluminum foil heats up in the microwave, which could be very dangerous. Aluminum foil can’t absorb enough energy from the microwaves, so it doesn’t heat as effectively as other materials such as a cooking pan.
Using aluminum foil in the oven, on the other hand, is fine. Its high heat conductivity and thinness make the aluminum foil oven safe. No matter how long you heat it in the oven, it will remain cool to touch.
How Do You Know if Aluminum Foil Is Microwave-Safe or Not?
The FDA rules against putting aluminum foil in the microwave. They are aware of the electromagnetic response that happens when it is heated in the microwave that not only unevenly cooks food but can ruin the microwave as well.
A Guide to Microwaving Without Foil
Now that we understand that it is not safe to use aluminum foil in the microwave, let’s look at the steps to reheat your food and get the same results.
Replace aluminum foil with parchment paper. Parchment paper is a cotton fiber and wood pulp alternative that does not pose the risk of arcing or sparking. It is heat and grease resistant and has non-stick properties. It makes cleaning up a breeze and prevents your food from drying out.
How to warm up your food in the microwave:
- Heat and time vary for all microwaves and will be different depending on wattage, so be sure to check your manual.
- Place the food on parchment paper on a microwave-safe plate. You can also cover your food with paper if you choose.
- Heat for 30 seconds to one minute or until your food is warm
Before placing utensils in the microwave, it is essential to ensure they are microwave safe. Most utensils won’t have a label that says they are microwave safe in many cases. Ensuring that the utensils’ materials and design will not cause a problem can save you from running into issues later on.
The best way to determine this is to place the utensil in a cup of water and microwave it for one minute. If it does not heat or melt, you can use the utensil in the microwave. If your utensils heat up, they do not microwave.
Make sure to read the frequently asked questions below before you try to use foil in your microwave.
Can you microwave an aluminum foil tray?
You cannot microwave an aluminum foil tray. The content in this article applies to aluminum foil trays or even containers with aluminum and metal handles. Beware that some takeout containers contain aluminum and should not be used in the microwave.
How do you heat food in aluminum foil in the microwave?
You cannot heat food in aluminum foil because it will begin to arc. Instead, reheat food in the oven with foil or in the microwave with parchment paper.
Why can you put foil in the oven but not the microwave?
You can put aluminum foil in the oven but not in the microwave because it creates an electromagnetic reaction in the microwave that reflects heat. The reflection creates arcing.
Is aluminum foil safe to put in the microwave?
The FDA forbids the microwaving of aluminum foil because it can cause arcing and sparks. If you want to warm up something in the microwave, use parchment paper instead.
Why is aluminum foil bad for microwaves?
Aluminum foil cannot handle the current and heat of the microwave. The arcing that occurs can ruin your microwave.
It is not safe to heat aluminum foil in the microwave. The microwave and aluminum electromagnetic reaction will create sparks and can cause a fire.
It is safe to place aluminum foil on a pan or tray as long as there are no holes in the foil and it is oven-safe. It might take longer for food to heat up because of the length of time it takes the oven to preheat.
The best alternative to aluminum foil is parchment paper. It will give you the same results without burning or arcing.