Is it safe to use aluminum foil in a microwave oven?

In general, for microwave cooking or heating, it’s better to use a ceramic plate or glassware and, to cover, paper toweling or another ceramic plate. However, some plastics are microwave safe, and aluminum foil can be used in some ways if you follow the USDA instructions given below:


“Always consult the owner's manual of your microwave oven and heed the manufacturer's recommendations for the use of aluminum foil. It can be safe to use small amounts of foil in a microwave oven, but you must be careful.  It’s possible to get sparks and even cause a fire with aluminum foil in the microwave.


“Microwaves cannot pass through metal but are absorbed by food. No food completely covered by aluminum foil or in a covered metal pan should be put in a microwave oven because food wouldn't be able to absorb the microwaves. Operating the oven empty or when the food is completely wrapped in aluminum foil can also cause damage to the oven.


“However, small pieces of aluminum foil can be used to "shield" areas of foods, such as poultry drumsticks and wings, to prevent overcooking.


“Some food packaged in foil containers can be safe to microwave. Read the package heating instructions to see if the food manufacturer has specific recommendations for microwaving the product. Because food in these containers will heat from the top, it's best to microwave foods only 1-2 inches in depth so that food near the bottom will be heated thoroughly before food on the top dries and overcooks.


“General Rules for Safe Use of Aluminum Foil:

  • Use new, smooth foil only. Wrinkled foil can cause arcing (sparks).
  • Cover no more than 1/4 of the food with foil.
  • Shape the foil smoothly to the food so no edges stick out.
  • Do not place the foil closer than one inch from the oven walls.
    • If the microwave oven has metal shelves OR a metal turntable, don't microwave food in foil containers or metal pans, and don't let foil used for shielding touch or be close to the shelves or turntable.
      • If you see arcing (sparks), immediately remove the foil shielding; transfer frozen food from foil container to a microwave-safe utensil.”


One final warning:  Don’t heat a baby bottle (plastic or glass) in the microwave. The contents heats unevenly, so parts could be hot enough to burn the baby’s mouth.  And to be sure you avoid any leaching of chemicals, don’t heat baby food in plastic jars or on plastic plates. 




USDA Fact Sheets: “Microwave ovens and food safety”


General Guidelines for Wrapping Foods


What’s better for wrapping food—plastic or aluminum foil?

What produce needs to be wrapped before refrigerating?

Should I wrap raw vegetables loosely or tightly before refrigerating?

How should fruits be wrapped before refrigeration?

Can I refrigerate meat and poultry in its store wrapping?

How should food be handled and wrapped for freezing?


Using Plastic Wraps, Bags, and Containers


Are some plastic wraps more effective than others?

Can chemicals leach unto food from plastic wrap or containers?

Are any plastic wraps or containers really “microwave safe”?

Can I use plastic freezer bags to store produce in the fridge?

Do coated plastic bags really help produce last longer?


Using Aluminum Foil Properly


What are some advantages and disadvantages of aluminum foil?

Does exposure to aluminum cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Does aluminum foil give foods a metallic taste?

Why does foil sometimes darken, discolor, and leave black specks on food?

Will a foil cover help keep foods on the table hot or cold?





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