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Is there a replacement that can be used for aluminum foil in the oven?

I believe that aluminum in the diet has adverse effect on health, so I don't want to use it in my kitchen. Is there an alternative which can be used in the same way as aluminum foil, but has no risk of transferring aluminum to the food?

For example, what can I use to cover a meatloaf when baking it in the oven? Or in a slow cooker?

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Dear Shirley, welcome to the site. We do not discuss health topics here (see our faq), so the question as you had written it would have likely been closed. I edited it heavily, but I think I could preserve the actual culinary question here: what can you use instead of alu foil. Whatever alternatives we can offer, it is up to your own views on health to decide if they count as a "good healthy alternative" or not. (For example, to my knowledge no study has ever linked dietary aluminum to Alzheimer, although journalists have misinterpreted studies measuring alu deposits in the body that way). –  rumtscho Oct 13 '11 at 12:23
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Why aren't you using the lid on your slow cooker? –  baka Oct 13 '11 at 13:08
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With regard to the purported health risks, they have been discussed (and debunked) previously over on Skeptics.SE. –  ESultanik Oct 13 '11 at 13:55
    
I've seen actual tin foil available for sale a few times. It's not nearly as easy to find as aluminum foil, and may not be available at all in some locations. I believe it's also thicker than aluminum foil, and tears/breaks more easily. It can also add a tinny taste to food. So the answers provided below are likely better solutions anyway. :) –  Flimzy Oct 13 '11 at 19:45

4 Answers 4

I have started to use a layer of baking paper on the food side and put a layer of aluminum foil over that to protect the paper from burning and help holding it in place. That way you have the radiation barrier and avoid contact between your food and the foil.

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The reason you put aluminum foil on something you bake is to block some of the heat. More specifically, you want to block the heat transfer by radiation. This is, you only want some kind of infrared-opaque shield between the heating elements and the food. Of course, it has to be also non-flammable at oven temperatures and either washable or environmentally friendly and cheap, making it one-use.

The best solution is to bake like generations of people did before there was freshly milled aluminum foil available in the supermarket: Get a clay bräter, or a tagine, or a dutch oven. Anything with a lid that is big enough to fit in your oven. Bake your food in it. It is slower, but gives you a much better taste due to slower, more even heating.

The second best solution would be to get some other stuff intended for baking, and use it as a cover. The problem is that baking paper as per Rikon's suggestion is probably not opaque enough in the infrared range - at least it is translucent in the visible spectrum. Maybe two layers of it will do, but it will get hard to work with, because it doesn't hold shape as well as aluminum foil. You could try it if you think it will help. I think that a silicone mat is more promising. It is preferable to use a light colored one of the light glossy platinum silicone - I have a black matte one which is great for rolling dough, but it will probably absorb and re-radiate too much heat.

Both solutions can't beat aluminum in one application: targeted charring protection. For a cake baked in an oven which overheats one corner there is still a chance - if your mat can be cut, you can cover half the cake with the piece (some mats shouldn't be cut because they are internally reinforced with something which shouldn't come into contact with food - if in doubt, contact the manufacturer). But if you are baking a whole bird and the protruding wings are getting overcooked, I don't see a good way to pack them in silicone or baking paper and get it to stay on them while the rest of the bird cooks. There, you will probably have to pack them in bread dough and then just break off the dough when the bird is ready.

I have never made meatloaf in a slow cooker - I didn't even know that you can bake in one - so I won't comment on that part.

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Just use a Carbon steel or stainless cookie sheet it works great, if you need to wrap the food in the oven then you can get the parchment paper as well.

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In almost all cases, you can't use a cookie sheet. The parchment suggestion doesn't add anything to the existing answers. –  rumtscho Jan 8 '13 at 15:39

I would go with parchment paper... Here's the wikipedia article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parchment_paper_(baking)

I would experiment with it and make sure it fits for your specific scenarios... For instance I typically use it with baking, but I have never tried (and don't think it would work) in a slow cooker.

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Parchment paper will smoke and burn eventually; it's not good for long or high oven heat. –  KatieK Jan 8 '13 at 16:57

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