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Is It Unhealthy to Cook Using Foil?

by Angela Tague

When your preteen is ready to start cooking and using the kitchen, make safety a priority. While it isn't unhealthy to cook using foil according to the manufacturers instructions, burning foil can release toxic metals and gas into the air. Know how to use foil correctly to keep you, your home and your child safe.

Foil and the Microwave

Don't allow your child to use foil in the microwave if the appliance has a metal shelf, metal rack or metal turntable, advises the United States Department of Agriculture. Aluminum foil can spark, causing it to release unhealthy toxins. If your microwave doesn't have any metal interior components, you may use small pieces of foil to shield areas of food that may burn, such as the delicate tips of chicken wings. Teach your child to cover food with a paper towel, plastic wrap or microwave safe lid. If a frozen meal comes in a foil-lined container, follow specific microwave instructions on the food package or show the preteen how to move the food to a microwave-safe plate before cooking.

Cooking With Foil

Aluminum foil conducts heat and provides a solid barrier to keep food moist and bacteria away. Teens can remove aluminum foil wrapped leftovers from the refrigerator or freezer and warm them in the oven. Leaving the food wrapped in foil maintains the food's moisture and keeps the oven clean. As long as the foil doesn't char and turn black, the food is safe to eat. If your child enjoys baking, show her how to line a cookie sheet with foil to create a non-stick surface for the treats. Or, turn your next dinner prep into a learning moment. Prepare a packet meal by sealing a chicken breast, carrots and potatoes in a foil pouch with butter and seasonings such as dry ranch dressing mix to create a simple oven-cooked meal. If the foil burns from a high oven cooking temperature or cooking over a campfire, do not eat the food. Incinerated foil releases toxic metals and gases. Lower the oven temperature or move foil-wrapped food higher above an open cooking flame and try again -- with a new packet of food.

Foil Clean Up

When used correctly, foil serves as an economical, handy, safe and recyclable kitchen tool. After cooking with foil, have the teen hand-wash the recyclable material. If you can include aluminum soda cans in your recycling program, aluminum foil will also be accepted. It takes foil approximately 400 years to biodegrade in landfills, according to Earth911, making it even more important to teach your children how to keep the environment healthy by recycling aluminum foil.

Foil Alternatives

To completely avoid burning foil and inhaling toxic fumes, use an alternative. Parchment paper works well when lining a baking sheet or pan for use in the oven. The paper also provides a non-stick surface. Check the package label for compatibility before using parchment paper in the microwave or on a grill. When not heating food, try using plastic wrap or a plastic storage bag labeled for food use to provide a moisture and bacteria barrier.

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