How To: 12 Brilliant Kitchen Hacks Made Possible with Aluminum Foil

12 Brilliant Kitchen Hacks Made Possible with Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is one of those things that every cook, experienced or just starting out, has in their kitchen. And while we may think we know how useful this handy material can be, there are hundreds of ways we could be utilizing tinfoil to make our lives a whole lot easier.

1. Use the Box Tabs for Easier Dispensing

Did you know that boxes of aluminum foil and plastic wrap come with built-in tabs to make dispensing easier? I've been cooking for decades and I didn't know this until now.

Just look for the perforated triangles on the side of each box and punch them inwards so they hold each end of the roll in place. This prevents the tin foil from falling out of the box and bouncing all over the place when you try and unravel a large sheet.

Once you know that these tabs exist, unfurling the right size of tin foil becomes so much easier. Image via Stacy Snacks

2. Create Mini Trays for Grilling Delicate Foods

If you've read our guide on how to make the ultimate grilled cheese, then you've seen the tip from Alton Brown where he grills the cheese itself for extra flavor. In order to do so, he creates mini grill trays out of long-handled spatulas and heavy-duty aluminum foil.

These mini-trays would be great for any small, delicate, or hard-to-cook item that would benefit from an open flame, but might otherwise slip through the cracks.

Alton holding his ingenious little grill trays. Image via Alton Brown

3. Make a DIY Roasting Rack for Tastier, Healthier Bacon

Cooking bacon in the oven is a no-brainer. It's even better if you can cook it on something elevated so it can get crispier and doesn't soak up its own grease. However, if you don't have a roasting rack handy, you can simply create one by crimping a folded-over sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. This tip, which originated from America's Test Kitchen, also works with other light foods like French fries.

Bake on top crimped foil at 400 degrees (10 to 15 minutes) for crunchy perfection. Image via America's Test Kitchen

4. Clean Your Dirty Grill in a Pinch

It's a sad thing to realize you forgot to clean your grill right when you want to use it again. Fortunately, there's a quick way to get rid of all the old soot, grease, and food refuse so you can make a tasty meal over some hot coals.

Spread a sheet of aluminum foil across the grill and let the grill heat up enough to loosen the leftover crud and get the foil warm. Then quickly ball up the foil (be careful: it's hot) and use it to scrub down the grates. It's not something you should do regularly, but it'll definitely work in a pinch.

5. Make Custom-Sized Pans

Sometimes a recipe will call for a certain size of pan that I just don't have. Since I have limited space, I hate to run out and buy a pan, especially if it's for something I don't make that often. The answer? Use aluminum foil to resize that sucker. Check out the video from Amanda Hesser of Food52 (via Lifehacker).

6. Make Cookie Cutters & Custom-Shaped Cake Pans

Occasionally you may want to make cookies or cakes in special or unique shapes, but you didn't have the forethought to order the pans or cookie cutters beforehand. Never fear. Heavy-duty aluminum foil can meet all your needs.

Cookie cutters are quite simple. All you need to do is draw a pattern, fold over aluminum foil until it's the proper thickness, shape the foil, and staple it. Eureka—you have unique cookie cutters that you can reuse!

Cute, unique, and edible. Who could ask for anything more? Image via My Paper Crane

Making a custom-shaped cake pan is a little more labor-intensive, but easily accompanlished if you have a lot of heavy-duty tin foil, cardboard, measuring tape, and good scissors. Once you know how, you can create beautiful cakes like the shield-shaped one below. Check out Realistic Idealist's step-by-step tutorial for more info.

This one-of-a-kind cake is something your loved ones will adore. Image via Realistic Idealist

7. Create an Emergency Ice Tray

I'm such a lazy bastard that I keep putting off buying ice trays. Then I decided to make chicken stock, which I like to freeze in single-serving cube portions, forgetting I didn't have said ice trays. Instead of panicking, as I am wont to do, I called an ingenious friend of mine who's a cooking whiz.

"Oh, that's easy," she said. "Do you have an empty egg carton? How about some tinfoil?" She recommended using just the bottom half of the carton (which holds the eggs), and smoothing a sheet of foil into all the egg-shaped pockets. You really want to get it smooth—more wrinkles means it's harder to get the frozen stuff out of there once it's done.

Line the bottom portions smoothly with foil. You can use the tops for lids if you want. Image via Dainty Cate

Keep in mind that this is an emergency measure—an egg carton and tinfoil ice tray is not a sturdy tool that you can keep reusing. However, it worked well for the two days I needed to make chicken stock cubes. Sadly, it's six months later and I still haven't bought new ice trays.

8. Clean Old, Tarnished Silverware

If you have sterling silver flatware or jewelry that you've been using for a while, chances are you have some tarnish on those pieces. Well, aluminum foil (plus hot water and baking soda) will get rid of that unsightly brownish hue discoloring your beloved heirlooms.

As we said in our guide to cleaning scuffed up plates, silverware, and stainless steel flatware: "Real silver discolors when it reacts with sulfur compounds that are present in the air. After several years, this builds up and produces that thin black layer of discoloration, which is called silver sulfide.

"Aluminum helps convert the silver sulfide back into actual silver because it has a stronger attraction to sulfur than silver does. Helped along by the heat of the baking soda-water solution, sulfur atoms switch their allegiance from silver to the aluminum foil, creating aluminum sulfide and freeing up the silver from its discoloration in the process."

Aluminum foil is essential to the process to clean off the tarnish. Image via Dressed with Strength

9. Make Ice Cream Cone Drip Catchers

You know the way some prepackaged ice cream comes wrapped in paper to catch drips? Well, you can make your own with tinfoil, which is actually a lot more waterproof. This works great with kids and other messy types, especially if they're eating ice cream cones on a hot day.

(1) No-mess ice cream cone!, (2) Okay, so this is really a cupcake in a cone, but same idea. Images via Carolynn's Recipe Box, Craftsy

10. Use as a Makeshift Flame Tamer

Way before the slow cooker took over the world, a cook's best friend was a flame tamer. This raised disk diffused heat on gas and electric ranges to make sure your dishes didn't overcook or burn in one spot. The slightly more irresponsible among us (ahem) might even have left the house to run an errand or two, leaving the heat under the flame tamer very low of course.

Using aluminum foil, you can create a makeshift flame tamer that will stop food from getting burned on the bottom of a pan. Take a large sheet of foil and fold it over into a thick rope. Then form it into a coil that sits an inch or two above your range to diffuse the heat. There's no way you should leave the house when you're using this version, though.

Make sure that aluminum foil is really dense and compact, since it has to hold the weight of a full pan. Image via Bailey's Executive Catering

11. Make Wrong Size Battery the Right Size

If you've got a junk drawer full of batteries and yet never seem to have the right one on hand for your kitchen timer or handheld frother, never fear: aluminum foil comes to the rescue yet again. Simply fold up/wad enough aluminum foil to make up the difference between the end of the battery and where the negative terminal connects.

However, the users at Reddit and Lifehacker point out that this is not a long-term solution and for emergencies only, since smaller-than-required batteries + tin foil = potential for sparks and fire. Use with caution and only when necessary. This can also be used to fix loose connections, but take foil out when not in use.

(1) AAA to AA conversion. (2) Another AAA to AA conversion. (3) Fixing a loose connection. Images by Its738RPM/Reddit, Jjose18/Instructables, Laura Moss/This Old House

12. Easy Wrapping Paper for Food Gifts

Are you the kind of person who never has the appropriate kind of wrapping paper on hand? (Me, too.) Well, guess what? Aluminum foil makes a cheap, easy solution to creating a really snazzy-looking gift, which will be perfect for all of those homemade holiday cookies you give out.

The nice thing about using aluminum foil is that even if it's wrinkled, it can look "artistic." If you want to get some good how-tos on how to keep that foil nice and smooth (hint: use chopsticks to iron out wrinkles), check out this video. You can also learn some other neat tricks, like embellishing your aluminum foil-wrapped gift at The Gift Wrap Blog.

It's great for holidays and other festive occasions and widely available. What's not to love? Image via Frugalicious Marie

Want to learn even more ways that you can use aluminum foil around the house? Then check out Yumi's guide on extraordinary uses for aluminum foil, which includes tips on sharpening kitchen shears, ironing out grilled cheese, and more.

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