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What is Aluminum Foil?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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Useful for storing food, or for lining hats to keep the alien brainwaves at bay, aluminum foil is a fixture around the world. It is a paper-thin sheet of rolled aluminum that tears easily and can be used to wrap and store food, in art, as decoration, as insulation and in heat exchangers.

First developed in 1910 as a replacement for tin foil, aluminum foil gained popularity quickly. It is not merely seen in home use, but also has many commercial uses. Manufacturers quickly found that it preserved food from bacterial growth, prevented light from spoiling the food, and helped stop moisture from collecting in it. It also does not impart any flavor to food wrapped in it. Many manufacturers use this foil to line drink boxes, thermal bags and other foods.

Most people are familiar with aluminum foil for its many kitchen uses. It can be used to wrap foods for cooking, to retain their moisture, for grilling and for covering food going into the refrigerator or freezer. It is also useful to inhibit browning, and one popular use for it is to put it around the crust of a baking pie so the crust does not burn as the pie cooks. The foil is often used in takeout food delivery packaging.

Aluminum foil can also be used for arts and crafts, especially foil that comes in different colors. In this form, it is also used for wrapping gift boxes and other gifts. Regular kitchen foil has many uses outside the kitchen. It can be used over the mouth of a bottle and the cap placed on it, so the liquid will not leak. It can be an impromptu palette for paint. Cosmetologists even use foil when coloring or highlighting a client's hair. They may also mix up the hair color in a makeshift bowl of aluminum foil.

Few industrial products have as many in-home applications as aluminum foil. The inventors surely never dreamed it would serve so many uses, not the least of which is keeping those aliens from reading your mind.

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Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick , Former Writer
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at HomeQuestionsAnswered. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.

Discussion Comments

By DylanB — On Oct 28, 2012

My husband has an job that never lets him come home at the same time every day, so I often have to find ways to keep dinner warm until he arrives. I have found that putting aluminum foil over a container of food really locks in flavor, moisture, and heat.

It locks the moisture in meat like chicken, which has a tendency to get very dry. It also keeps bread moist, even if you have toasted it. This sometimes borders on soggy, though, so you may have to stick it back in the oven for a couple of minutes before serving to crisp it back up.

Also, aluminum foil can reintroduce moisture into food by trapping the heat and causing condensation. I once made a pan of brownies that turned out too dry, so immediately after removing them from the oven, I wrapped the pan in aluminum foil and left it there for an hour. When I removed it and bit into a brownie, it was very moist!

By Oceana — On Oct 28, 2012

I sometimes wrap presents in aluminum foil when I run out of regular wrapping paper. It makes a pretty silver package.

You have to be really careful not to wrinkle it, though. Once you make a wrinkle, you can never fully straighten it back out.

By healthy4life — On Oct 27, 2012

@giddion – Have you ever used parchment paper for baking that is lined with aluminum foil on the bottom? This paper is also great for keeping your cookies from sticking to the pan.

The only thing is that the parchment lined side will burn if you have to have the oven above a certain temperature. So, if you are baking something that requires high heat, you would probably do better just to use aluminum foil.

It's also great for lining the pan before baking sweet potato fries. I think it helps them cook faster, and when it's time to flip them over, they give way very easily.

By giddion — On Oct 26, 2012

I put aluminum foil on pans before baking items that might stick. It is great stuff, because it will make a pan nonstick in an instant.

I also put aluminum foil down in a pan before pouring fudge into it. I boiled the fudge in a pot on the stove, and then I pour it into the pan and refrigerate it so that the fudge will become one solid block.

By John57 — On Oct 26, 2012

When I am baking a roast or a turkey aluminum foil works great. I shape the foil into a tent over the meat instead of wrapping up the meat in the foil. Something about doing it this way keeps the meat really tender and juicy.

My aunt may have been ahead of her time because she always washed and re-used many pieces of aluminum foil. She couldn't stand to throw anything away that she could still get some use from. There are many times when you use pieces of foil where it makes a lot of sense to rinse it off and use it again, as long as it isn't too dirty or sticky.

By LisaLou — On Oct 26, 2012

@bagley79 -- Have you ever tried the aluminum foil packaging made especially for grilling? These are wonderful and you can just put your food in the bags, place them on the grill and they taste great. This also makes clean-up really easy.

I used to cut off a thin strip of aluminum foil to put around my pie crust when it was baking in the oven. I always got frustrated by this as the aluminum foil never stayed on very well and it was just a pain to do every time.

I finally bought a metal ring that goes around the outside of the crust while it is in the oven. This is much easier than using the aluminum foil, but I must say, if you don't have anything else to use, the foil will get the job done.

By andee — On Oct 25, 2012

I remember my mom using aluminum foil to heat up leftovers on the stove. This was before we had microwaves and this was the easiest and quickest way to heat up food. She would get a little bit of water boiling in a pan, and then place the food wrapped in aluminum foil in the water until it was warmed up. I don't think anybody really likes to eat cold leftovers, so this was a great way to do it. Now we just stick everything in the microwave, although I never put aluminum foil in the microwave.

By bagley79 — On Oct 24, 2012

Aluminum foil is a staple in my kitchen. I especially like the heavy duty aluminum foil and don't mind paying extra for it. I usually have a box of this and a box of the regular foil in one of my drawers in the kitchen.

There are some situations where the heavy duty aluminum foil is much better. If I am wrapping up potatoes to put on the grill this always works better. Otherwise, I will have to wrap them twice, so it is just easier to use the heavy duty.

By akon — On Apr 13, 2010

Actually, i am the one who is in this line of business from China.

Amy Pollick

Amy Pollick

Former Writer

Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at...
Learn more
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