If you’re like me, you probably grew up with your parents telling you to never put anything metal in the microwave. Whether it was a fork, a can, or a piece of foil, you just didn’t do it. But, what would happen if you did? Can you put aluminum foil in the microwave?
The short answer, surprisingly, is yes, you can put aluminum foil in the microwave. However, there are a lot of conditions to follow around safe usage.
I’ll dive more into depth about those stipulations so you can better understand when it might be alright to let a piece of foil in your microwave.
Is It Safe to Put Aluminum Foil in a Microwave?
Yes, it is technically safe to put aluminum foil in a microwave. However, it must be new, flat foil without wrinkles. It must not contact any other metal, and the foil should not cover the entire dish that you are heating.
With those things in mind, you can use foil in the microwave. The only other concern would be the temperature, but microwaves do not get hot enough to pose a risk.
Even appliance powerhouse GE notes that foil is safe to use in the microwave, as long as you follow these precautions. You know, in case you don’t believe me!
What Happens If You Accidentally Microwave Foil?
If you accidentally microwave foil, the likely outcome is that it will catch on fire. This is because in an accidental scenario, you are likely to have wrinkles in the foil. These wrinkles cause energy to build up, generating heat, which in turn may cause a fire.
That said, if you catch it quickly, you can remove the foil before it causes any true damage to the oven similar to what happens if you put a fork in the microwave.
How to Use Aluminum Foil in the Microwave
To use aluminum foil in the microwave, use a clean, flat sheet. Cover only the portion of food you want to shield, leaving the rest exposed. Make sure the foil does not contact any other metal, including the walls of the microwave. Then, microwave as desired.
The use of foil generally is simply to shield a portion of the food being cooked or reheated. Foil will repel the microwave energy where it is placed.
So, if you needed to heat two different foods for two different times, but wanted them on the same plate, you could shield one, then remove the shield for the lower required portion of the cooking time.
That said, even the FDA warns that improper use and fully covering food will cause heat build up that can, at the minimum, not heat your food. In the worst case, it will start a fire and damage your microwave.
This is because by blocking all the food, the energy rays have nowhere to go and will superheat. Thus, that is why it’s important to only use foil in a small portion for safety.
Is Aluminum Foil Toxic When Heated?
No, aluminum foil is not considered to be toxic when heated.
In fact, a German study showed no evidence of food toxicity or damage to the microwave oven when various aluminum-based containers were heated in the microwave.
Can Tin Foil Go in the Microwave?
Tin foil can technically go in the microwave. However, you would be hard pressed to find tin foil in modern times. Aluminum foil is the most prevalent foil type available today.
That’s because tin tends to impart a “tinny” taste to foods, so companies swapped to aluminum. Yes, there is actually a difference between aluminum and tin foil!
However, many folks still call aluminum foil tin foil (myself included at times) because that’s just what they were accustomed to. No worries, either way, your foil can go in the microwave (with the proper precautions and usage of course).
How Long Can Aluminum Foil Be in the Microwave?
Generally, how long aluminum foil can be in the microwave is 30 seconds at a time. That said, as long as you follow proper safety protocols, it is acceptable to use it for additional 30 second bursts until your food is to a level where you will remove it.
The break in between cooking cycles will also allow the microwave rays to disperse and reduce any heat build up that is occurring. Though, again, if you’re using the foil properly this should be minimal.
Always pay attention to your foil when microwave cooking – don’t “set it and forget it”. It’s definitely possible for it to blow off the food, or for the turntable to knock it loose and into the side of the microwave, which can cause a spark.
If something goes awry, you want to be there to shut things off quickly.
Now you know that you can put aluminum foil in the microwave. However, there are a number of restrictions on this usage you need to follow in order to keep your microwave and yourself safe.
Do I generally recommend using foil in the microwave? No. I think it’s one of those things that’s overly complicated for what you’re trying to achieve. Just heat up two different plates separately and call it a day!
That said, if you do need to use it, or you accidentally get a piece of foil in there for some reason, you now know what to expect.
I should also note that this guide around safe microwave foil usage does not apply to microwave convection ovens. Unlike traditional microwaves, a microwave convection oven is specifically designed to function more like a traditional range oven and commonly uses foil.
Check out some of the best microwave convection oven recipes you can make if you have one of those!
Other Helpful Microwave Guides to Check Out
- Why Cover Food in the Microwave?
- Ideas For What to Do With an Old Microwave
- Why Does the Microwave Turntable Spin?
- What Happens if You Microwave Nothing?
- How to Get Burnt Popcorn Smell Out of a Microwave
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