Grilling on aluminum foil: Everything you should know

Only a few things scream summer louder than ‘manning’ up the grill and wafting dry smoke with a drizzle of olive oil.

But while you’re busy printing attractive grill marks on your tender salmons and summer peaches, have you ever considered using aluminum foil as an additional twist? Perhaps you have, but retracted the idea because you heard “aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s disease”.

Truth is, there’s really nothing to fear because that’s actually far from the truth, and in this article, i’ll give more than enough reasons why you should start using foil with some of your grilling projects.

You’ll also learn how to properly do so using everyday food items, and also how to use it with popular grill varieties.

Before that, lets tackle some real issues.

Is grilling on aluminum foil actually safe?

You might have heard rumors linking aluminum foil to certain chronic illnesses including the Alzheimer’s disease: which is basically the intense sickness of the mental health, but the general consensus in the scientific community (as of this day) is that aluminum foil is totally safe to grill, bake or roast with.

Not just aluminum foil, but other aluminum cookware’s as well. Even aluminum materials such as juice can and  bottles are safe to drink from.

The linking is merely a speculation as there are far too many factors to consider before aluminum can actually be singled out as the main culprit.

Many research are still under way and whether or not aluminum foil and cookware is a thing we must learn to live without is something we can find out soon. Perhaps!

The fear of cooking with aluminum foil is often that it leaches aluminum elements into whatever we’re cooking. But this happens in trace amounts which constitutes only a negligible fraction of the total daily limit for a healthy adult; slightly more than 50 mg per day according to the World Health Organization, and of the total daily amount that we normally ingest into our bodies from all sources other than leaching i.e. processed foods, tea, air and water.

Further, the Agency for toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) also estimated that people only absorb 0.01 to 5 percent of the total aluminum they ingest, and the cookware contribution to this amount is usually less than 2 milligrams.

Often, the leaching is done at a much higher percentage when acidic food items such as tomatoes, rhubarb, leafy vegetables, vinegar, and lemon juice are present; alert! these are culprits sighted far too often during grilling exercises, so you may want to use them less on your next grilling project. Or, when the cooking is done at a much higher temperature or for an extended period of time.

Regardless, what leading experts are saying is that the amounts of aluminum that ends up on our plate from grilling or cooking (plus the inevitable aluminum that we normally soak up from natural sources other than home cooking) is simply too small to cause any side effects in the body.

The only time when cooking with aluminum foil and materials might be a cause for concern is when the individual in question battles with a poorly functioning kidney in which case their system can find it hard to prevent accumulation of aluminum in the body.

This can increase the levels of aluminum in the body and make little absorption form things like cooking with aluminum cookware and storing food items in them easily add up.

For now, and to the uneasy guys, the best advice would be to limit the frequency of cooking with aluminum materials. Use them less, or opt for anodized cookwares that leach far less that what the regular does.

Even though research has shown that they leach only trace amounts, we still don’t know exclusively how much aluminum we’re exposing ourselves through different sources on a daily basis.

So better to err on the side of caution to stay safe!

Is aluminum even safe to put on the grill?

So now that the health effects of cooking with aluminum foil is buy the side, you might also be interested in how well the pantry foil fares under high heat situations?

Well, aluminum foil both the standard, heavy duty, and extra heavy duty variety can easily tolerate extreme situations like that. It’s actually made for that kind of environment.

Foil can easily tolerate hours on end tossed in red hot coal or in a 500°F ‘boiling’ oven, so the prospect of it charring on the grill under a black hot smoke is easily dismissed! Just go ahead and place it on the grid. If it chaps and chars, come back to thewisebaker and we’ll take full responsibility!

What are the advantages of using aluminum foil for grilling?

With all the safety matters aside, it’s time to dive into what really inspired this write up! How to grill articles with aluminum foil. But before we learn just that, let us understand how an additional wrapper made of rolled aluminum ingot can change the entire grilling experience. (And no! I don’t advocate grilling steaks in foil, but there’s actually nothing wrong in doing so).

  1. First, it’s the flavor. Wrapping articles like fish, steak, lamb, and other sea food and can help lock in moisture and force steam cooking, This significantly adds to flavor, especially for items drizzled with healthy oil and sprinkled with spice such as the Himalayan sea salt (my favorite), and most importantly, it just gives the final menu an extra edge when it comes to tenderness.
  2. Second, aluminum foil can ensure that you cook your items neatly in parks and public places where grills are commonly shared. If you don’t know exactly what was previously grilled and don’t have time for burning and scraping remnants, placing a layer on aluminum foil can always be decent option. I think people that relate most to this experience are vegetarians or those that don’t eat certain type of food especially meat.
  3. The third advantage to using aluminum foil on a grill is the additional ease it brings when it comes to transporting food from the grill to the serving site. I don’t know for you but I hate picking my whole grilled salmon in piece when it’s time to plate. And I’ve figured out exactly how to work the magic without breaking the fish’s aesthetics. It’s aluminum foil. Place it underneath a piece of fragile salmon or large shrimp and you’ll have the best experience transporting the menu to the table!
  4. Fourth advantage of using foil as opposed to not is the most obvious of all. Easy clean up. Foil under your cooked articles means no more annoying scrubbing and scraping when next you want to use the grill. It saves you all the trouble at the expense of nothing, (really), and the benefit of a juicer menu!
  5. Fifth is easy storage. Let me explain what I mean. When you grill on aluminum foil, and serve from or in it, it’s only a matter of wrapping up the remaining item and popping it into the freezer until further notice! No need to re-package or waste additional roll of (fairly expensive foil).
  6. Sixth, aluminum foil may actually be the healthier option for high heat grilling. The reason why is because grilling food on high heat and directly on the grill can generate cancer causing chemicals that stick to the surface of the food. This is especially true for items with fat and juice i.e. beef, poultry and fish that drip directly into the flame and cause these chemicals to develop. With aluminum foil containing all these elements however, such formation is hindered, and besides, articles turn out so much softer and juicer, except that they may lack that distinctive roast aroma and flavor from Millard reaction caused by direct heat grilling. If you’re using perforated foil, you may still be exposed to some quantities, and in that case, there are numerous ways you can use to mitigate their effects i.e. marinating when appropriate or precooking in the microwave to reduce exposure time.

The disadvantages of grilling with aluminum foil

  1. You may get a metallic taste in marinated food items.
  2. You may also get this taste in foods with acidic ingredients such as tomato sauce and lemon curd.
  3. You get aluminum leaching which is totally safe, but just makes the mind uneasy.
  4. You don’t get that crisp looking grill marks or browning unless you finish up directly on the grates.

How to grill with aluminum foil

Grilling with aluminum foil is very easy. Here’s how to do it.


Cut a large piece of foil sufficient to contain items in the middle without overcrowding. Fold one long sides of foil towards the other and crimp edges to seal. Fold the bottom and top edges and crimp to seal. You now have a packet. Toss on the grill and cook as directed. You can always bring out the vegetables to roast directly on the grill to give then that extra browning.

This is perfect for tenderness and building flavor. You can use this method for vegetables, steak, lamb, fruits, and sea food. For big menus like whole turkey, the wrapping should be done loosely. Only cover the top and exposed sides (for even heating and cooking) and then rotate half way and do the same thing to finish up.

Lining grill with foil:

Cut large pieces of foil and lay it directly on the grill grate. Cook directly on it when you need to preserve juice. Perforate manually or use perforated foil if you prefer drier foods. If you wish to get grill marks, make sure to press the foil against the grill grate until the edges begins to show. You can always finish up quickly using direct heat for that distinctive roast flavor and sharper marks.

Final thoughts

Aluminum foil is a versatile tool in households. And it’s companionship on the grill which has been subject to many ill hearsay is actually pretty safe and should be welcomed.

While not all food items would fare well wrapped around a layer of foil, a huge majority especially the juciy and fat studded items would develop better tasting tissues than their “directly grilled counterparts”

When next you’re having the grill all to yourself, don’t forget the roll of foil sitting somewhere at the pantry.

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