Quick Answer: Yes, you can microwave aluminum foil, but only when you follow certain safety precautions.
Generally, it's true that putting metal in the microwave is a big no-no, but aluminum foil gets a pass with certain safeguards in place. We're going to explain these in detail below.
But first, let's learn more about what aluminum is...
What Is Aluminum?
If you look for it, you'll see that aluminum is everywhere. It's in bakeware, picture frames, automobiles and even airplanes. So what exactly is this ubiquitous stuff?
Aluminum is a type of metal in the boron group on the periodic table of elements. It's strong yet lightweight and malleable, an excellent material for all kinds of applications.
Aluminum foil, typically known as those thin sheets of silvery metal by the plastic wrap at the grocery store, can come in handy for many different purposes. It can store leftovers, cover dishes of hot food to keep them warm, and be used for cooking and baking.
Many people know that you can put aluminum foil sheets in the oven. As it turns out, it's fine to put them in the microwave, too, but only if you follow certain precautions (they are metal, after all).
Sticking with these rules from the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is recommended:
- Use only smooth foil. Using wrinkled foil can cause sparks inside your microwave.
- Don't use a ton of aluminum foil, and only cover up to 25 percent of the food you're heating with the foil.
- Make sure the foil is closely covering the food. No foil bits jutting out.
- Keep the foil at least one inch away from the ceiling and walls of the microwave.
- DON'T use aluminum foil in a microwave with a metal turntable or metal shelving.
It may be a little strange to only cover up part of your food with aluminum foil sheets. However, they don't conduct microwave heating energy, so something totally covered in aluminum foil wouldn't heat up, anyway.
If you use your microwave pretty often, you may want to check out: 5 Best Microwave Toaster Oven Combo Options to Buy.
Different Types of Aluminum Foil Cookware
You've probably seen at least one or two types of aluminum cookware products either at the supermarket, at a buffet or in a bakery.
Here are some of the most typical aluminum foil cooking and baking items, which are usually considered disposable:
- Pie plates
- Roasting pans
- Bread loaf tins
- Cake pans
- Steam table pans
So can you microwave these? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
If you choose to save them rather than throw them away after one use (you certainly can), you may not be able to microwave them if they become bent and warped, even if they were microwavable when you bought them. This goes along with not microwaving crinkled aluminum foil sheets.
How Do You Know If Aluminum Foil Is Microwave Safe or Not?
There are a few ways to find out whether you can microwave an aluminum foil product or not.
First, read your microwave owner's manual to see if there are any statements about not being able to heat aluminum foil. Some microwaves (like those with metal turntables) cannot be used in this capacity.
Next, read the box the aluminum foil product comes in, or check on the bottom of the actual product. If you don't see any statements about microwave safety, it might be best not to put it in the microwave.
(Even if you don't see any statements about microwaving the foil sheets, they should be fine if you follow the above instructions).
Lastly, contact manufacturers directly. You can ask whether any aluminum product is microwave-safe, and you can even double-check with the company that made your microwave.
Labels on Aluminum Foil to Be Aware Of
Look for a label on the aluminum product that says "microwave safe." Another thing to look for is a label that says that the item is not microwave-safe.
You may not find either type of label, which doesn't necessarily mean anything one way or the other. In these cases, it's usually a good idea to ask the companies.
Bonus Safety Tips
- Don't use recycled aluminum foil in the microwave. To ensure that it's smooth, only use new foil sheets.
- Since you're only supposed to cover small areas of your food with the foil in the microwave, save it for when you need to protect only certain parts of the plate from overheating.
- Don't put large food plates in the microwave with aluminum foil as you'll run a greater risk of the foil getting too close to the interior walls.