Aluminum foil is the duct tape of the kitchen. From cleaning to baking and freezing, foil can handle the job. Costing just $10 per 250 square feet, it's also an affordable household item to have handy.
If you're on a budget and plan to host a holiday dinner this season, you'll love scouring this list for new, thrifty ways to use your aluminum foil.
Make Your Own Scouring Pad
Metal scouring pads are a godsend when you're cleaning pans ravaged by baked-in fat and hardened sauces and cheese. If you don't have a scouring pad handy — or it's just too gross to handle — use a crumpled piece of aluminum foil instead. The malleable foil can reach into tight corners. Afterward, toss the foil in the bin.
Cook Meats Faster
Grill weights, sometimes called steak weights, serve several purposes. High-volume steakhouses, for example, use them to shorten cooking times and prevent steaks from curling. When you've found the perfect steak, you can do the same with aluminum foil and a brick.
Rinse a brick under running water, and then pat it dry. Wrap the brick in a layer or two of heavy-duty aluminum foil and lay it on top of grilling food. Since your food will cook faster under the brick, check it a little earlier than usual to prevent overcooking.
Grill Spherical Foods
Grilling adds a smoky char and complex mix of flavors to just about any food. If you haven't tried it yet, the taste of a slow-grilled onion, smoked apple or grilled potato might surprise you with its depth and richness. But how do you evenly cook round fruits and vegetables? With aluminum foil, of course.
Make an aluminum-foil ring by twisting your foil into a "rope" and place it on the grill. Place your produce on top of the foil, ensuring it is suspended above the grate. You can also wrap your produce in foil for an even cook.
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Make a Smoker Box
You have a few options for turning your barbecue into a makeshift smoker. You can scatter hardwood chips over the coals when you lay the food down, set a dedicated smoker box on the grill grates or make a wood chip packet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. If you only smoke meats occasionally and don't want to invest in a box, go with the latter.
Take a 12-by-12-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil and lay it flat. Pile a handful, or about one cup, of your favorite hardwood chips in the center of the foil. Fold together the sides of the foil over the wood chips to enclose them and make four to eight vents in the top of the packet using a fork or knife. Lay the packet on the coals or directly on the grate when you heat the grill.
Make a Drip Pan
Instead of paying 10 dollars or more for a drip pan, make your own. Simply tear off a piece of heavy-duty foil and fold the sides to make a border. Pinch the corners to seal the pan. Place it directly under food to catch any drippings.
Clean the Grill
To clean a grill effectively, you have to attack it while it's hot. Once those clinging bits of protein carbonize and cool, it takes a lot of elbow grease to remove them. You can use a caustic grill cleaner, or just use the grill's heat to your advantage.
After you've served the last bit of food but before the coals go out, lay a couple pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the cooking grid. Turn the heat up, close the lid and enjoy your barbecue. By the time you finish, the trapped heat will have loosened up the leftover bits of food stuck to your grill. You can then use coffee grounds to reset the grill.
Soften Brown Sugar
If your brown sugar has hardened into a brick, you can use aluminum foil to soften it. Set your clumped brown sugar in an airtight container and cover it with a layer of aluminum foil. Next, place a moist paper towel on top of the foil and seal the container. The sugar will soften within a few hours.
Keep Celery Crisp
Limp celery does nothing for your veggie dip. But if you've been stocking up on produce this season, you might be looking for ways to make it last longer in your refrigerator. That's where aluminum foil comes in. Wrap unused celery in aluminum foil and store it in the refrigerator to keep it crisp longer.
Cook Food Evenly
Some foods don't brown uniformly. Take pie crusts, for example. The top tends to cook faster than the bottom of the crust. Use aluminum foil to help your food cook more evenly.
If you notice a pie crust reaches the desired golden brown color, but the filling needs 15 more minutes of cooking, cover the crust with foil. If you see a piece of chicken or roast browning before it finishes cooking inside, cover it with aluminum foil.
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Soften Hard Bread Crusts
Not everyone raves about crispy-crusted bread. Sure, a crispy crust has its place — pizza and focaccia make good examples — but there's something good to say about a loaf of country-style bread, namely its dense, moist interior and chewy crust. You can get this effect with aluminum foil.
Simply wrap the bread in aluminum foil after you take it out of the oven and let it stand until the crust softens. Check the crust after about one minute by pressing it with your finger. Take the foil off when the bread reaches the desired softness. Then, after you finish digging in, save any leftovers and use them for later.
Craft a Custom-Shaped Baking Pan
Specialty baking pans cost as much as $10 or more, which doesn't amount to much if you use them on a regular basis. But if you only need, say, a heart-shaped pan for a special occasion or a round pan when you only have a square, you can manage with aluminum foil.
Sharpen Kitchen Shears
Cutting through chicken bones and connective tissue on a regular basis dulls kitchen shears fast. And while nothing beats tools made specifically to sharpen your shears, you can get by in the short term with aluminum foil, especially if you have inexpensive scissors that sharpen easily but don't hold an edge long.
To sharpen kitchen sears, fold a piece of aluminum foil several times and cut through it until you reach the desired edge. Note that using aluminum foil on scissors is more akin to honing than sharpening, but the technique will get you through a task until you get the chance to sharpen them properly.
Make a Chicken Stock Ice-Cube Tray
If you don't have an ice-cube tray handy to freeze chicken stock, you can make one with aluminum foil. Cut an egg carton in half and line each groove with a couple layers of aluminum foil. Let the stock cool to room temperature, pour in the stock and freeze. After freezing, transfer the stock cubes to a heavy-duty freezer bag for storage.
Improvise a Steamer
You don't need a fancy gadget to steam vegetables — just something to suspend them above boiling water. Follow these steps to make a homemade steamer setup:
1. Add about one-half to one inch of water to a pot.
2. Drop in three large crumbled balls of aluminum foil. Make the balls thick and sturdy, about four inches wide.
3. Bring your water to a boil, then set a plate on top of the aluminum balls. Add your food and cover with a lid to steam.
Clean Your Jewelry
Take the nuisance — and cost — of having your jewelry cleaned professionally with a few household items. Line a bowl with aluminum foil and sprinkle one tablespoon each of salt and baking soda. Next, add one teaspoon of mild dish soap and one cup of boiling water. Add the jewelry to the bowl and let it stand for 10 minutes. Scrub the jewelry with a nylon brush — an old toothbrush works just as well — and rinse. Dry the jewelry with a paper towel to finish.
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Prevent Static Cling
Prevent static cling and save a little cash by making your own "dryer sheets" with aluminum foil. For a full load of laundry, tear away three large pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Crumple the foil into tight balls, smoothing them as much as possible to prevent them from opening in the dryer. Add the balls to the dryer with the clothes and dry the clothes as usual.
Iron Both Sides of Clothes
If you hate ironing, here's a life hack that lets you iron both sides of your clothes at once.
Remove the cover from your ironing board and wrap it in a piece of heavy-duty foil. Replace the cover and iron as usual. The heat reflection from the foil makes ironing both sides simultaneously possible.
Cook Bacon Like a Boss
Are you crazy about bacon? Then you know the best kind has a crispy bite and a lot of meatiness. To get that perfect crunch, you need to keep the bacon out of its fat as it cooks. That can be tough if you're working with a frying pan. The answer? Aluminum foil, of course.
Tear away a couple of pieces of aluminum foil and lay them on top of each other. Fold the ends tight to seal them, and then fold the foil in two-inch intervals, so you have an accordion-like shape. Lay the bacon strips crosswise across the peaks of the foil. Roast to perfection at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook En Papillote
En papillote refers to a classic method of cooking food, usually fish, in an intricately folded piece of parchment paper that traps most of the steam and liquids released during cooking. Making an en papillote package is similar to origami — it involves a lot of cutting and folding and is used mainly for presentation. A rarely practiced technique in modern restaurants, the server takes the en papillote to the table and opens it in front of guests with a flourish of steam and aroma. But you can get the same cooking effect with aluminum foil.
Tear a piece of foil large enough to wrap the food in and lay it on a work surface. In the center of the foil, lay down a couple layers of aromatics — like shallots, thinly sliced garlic, chives and julienned carrots. Lay the fish on top of the aromatics and fold the edges together tightly to seal. Bake fish at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes and chicken for around 20 minutes.
Blind-Bake With Ease
Blind-baking — or precooking a pie crust without the filling — is one way to ensure you have a cohesive but crumbly crust. Crusts form steam pockets during cooking, so you need to weigh them down during blind-baking.
To blind-bake a pie crust with aluminum foil, press the pie dough into the pie dish. Next, place one layer of aluminum foil over the dough and pour one-and-a-half pounds of dry beans onto the foil. To partially cook the crust, bake it until the bottom appears barely golden. To fully blind-bake a crust, bake it until the edges are golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
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Create a Chicken Roasting Rack
Whole chickens roast more evenly when slightly elevated above the roasting pan. The air circulates under the bird and allows it to cook and brown at the same rate as the top. Dedicated wire roasting racks work great for this, but so does aluminum foil.
To make a foil roasting "rack," tear away a few feet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and twist them into a rope. A three-fourth-inch thick rope of foil works. Coil the foil into a figure-eight and set it in the roasting pan. Place the chicken on the foil and roast as usual. This hack also works with turkey, whole fish and any large cut of meat.
Make a Grill Tray
Grilling small, irregular items on the grill often prove cumbersome, as they have a tendency to fall through or get lodged between the grates. You can buy slotted grilled sauté pans for this, or you can make your own.
Tear a two-foot long piece of aluminum foil in half and set a metal grill spatula in the center of it. Fold the aluminum foil to create a wall around your spatula. Add a little olive or vegetable oil to the "tray" and place it on the grill to heat. Add food like sliced onions, mushrooms and garlic, and cook just as you would in a sauté pan on the stove.
Scare Off Birds
Birds love fruit trees — peach, citrus and apple attract a host of fowl. But they dislike foil's reflective properties as much as they like to perch and peck away at your produce.
To make a no-fly zone around your fruit trees, tear three-foot-long pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil and fold it lengthwise four times to form a long strip. Attach the strips to your tree's crown and branches with twist ties.
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